Birds of a Feather
The best times of day to watch birds are early in the morning and late in the day, when they are most active. Most birders get out early―often before dawn―to take advantage of the height of activity and to be in good birding habitat when the sun rises. Carrying binoculars and a field guide, you can watch and listen for birds. When one is seen, it’s observed carefully using binoculars so that unique plumage and other features can be noted. Then the birder looks to the field guide for a matching image and description. Many watchers keep notes of their sightings―a journal of their birding experiences―as well as a checklist of species seen.
To learn about bird-watching, it’s easiest to do it with others. Join a local club or nature center bird walk; the social aspect is as enjoyable as seeing the birds. When you are with other birders, don’t be afraid to identify yourself as a beginner. Bird-watchers are always eager to share their enthusiasm and willing to answer questions.
Clubs offer lectures and identification advice that help hone your skills and give you new ideas for places to go birding or new equipment to try. Most clubs offer field trips year-round, locally and farther afield. Visiting a birding festival will put you in contact with dozens or even hundreds of other bird-watchers with whom you can share stories and swap information on sightings, experiences, places, and equipment. These events also are a good opportunity to test and purchase products to enhance your enjoyment of the hobby. And the field trips, seminars, and programs offered by festivals are a great way to expand your birding knowledge and experience.
On the recommendation of her friend, Wilson purchased binoculars and a field guide―the two must-have tools for any beginner. Starting out is really that simple.
Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology (800-843-2473) runs a variety of conservational science projects, monitors seasonal bird populations, and is a clearinghouse of information for beginners.
American Birding Association (800-850-2473) is North America’s leading organization for active bird-watchers, with more than 20,000 members. Their Web site lists the latest birding field trips, trails, and festivals around the country.
The Christophers, Ltd. (800-422-7876) Web site provides expert advice on purchasing binoculars, spotting scopes, and other birding gear. They also offer deals on closeout and demo items.