Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tips on Getting Started in Birding

I was inspired by this post from Lowie about birding tips. I just stumbled upon her blog through ChirpTracker and for a 22 year-old she's quite accomplished! Check out the picture of her 300th life bird cake!

I haven't even started my life list. I suppose by mining my Blogger tags I could do it pretty easily. It's just a matter of doing it... I've noticed some nice blog widgets for life lists. Anyone have a favorite?

Definitely check out Lowie's post, which is very well-written and clearly outlines how and why you should be doing certain things to get started in birding.

Here's my own list of tips I put together for Stephanie, one of my readers from the Cape.

1. Find your motivation: Start a blog and/or join a bird list site like
http://ebird.org/content/ebird/, http://massbird.org/, or http://birdstack.com/. Having a specific goal like adding to your life list or getting great pictures for your blog will really get you motivated to keep up with the hobby and get out in the field during your spare time. I know it's certainly worked for me.

2. Get a pair of binoculars: My friend Larry at the
Brownstone Birding Blog was really helpful in giving me some advice about buying my first pair of binoculars. I think it really depends on what you can afford though. I hope he doesn't mind my sharing his advice (but at least I'm giving him credit!): "If you can spend $200-$300 check out vortex roof prism binoculars or Nikon Monarchs (both 8x42 I think). If you are looking to get out cheaper try Nikon action 7x35 Porro (about $100) Swift is also good to try. Swift Ultralite Porros are supposed to be really good. I have the Swift Ultralite Roofs which are pretty decent too."

3. Join a conservation group: What better way to secure your long-term commitment to birding than to support conservation of habitat for birds? Join your local Audubon chapter and participate in birding/informational events hosted by your local chapter. Beware that when you join the National Audubon Society that does not include membership in Mass Audubon since it is separate. I encourage you to do both if you want to support as many groups as possible (and National Audubon membership includes subscription to their magazine which is very good), but I wanted to share this insight so you don't make the same mistake. The National site is very misleading. Also consider supporting
Ducks Unlimited and Mass Wildlife (for those of you outside Massachusetts seek out your local fish and game agency), which often co-sponsor events with Audubon and also provide helpful bird identification resources.

4. Join local birding groups: You'd be surprised how many birding groups there are right in your own neighborhood! Here is Mass, there is
The Brookline Birding Club, which offers many trips throughout the state that are easy to join. Most of the trips are free so check them out.

5. Read birding listservs: Join and monitor MassBird.org, BirdStack.com and other listservs that will alert you to what birds to look out for and where. I find this really helps.

6. Join social networking sites for birders: I highly recommend
ChirpTracker, which populates your Twitter account for you. There's also a very active birding community on Facebook. These groups will help you learn about what birds are being sighted in your area and also help you pick up on birding terminology and maintain your interest and motivation in the hobby.


Dan Huber said...

I just started tracking my bird list through birds.im a facebook app, even though i dont use facebook, place to post pics of birds you need help with and those you know. Thanks for the link too, very interesting

Dawn Fine said...

Great advise..I did see Lowies post..good advise there as well.
I am using Birdstack for my recent observations I put on my blog.


I use birdpost for my lifelist

I use ebird to submit unusual observations..

I have to say I don't think there is any one that suits all my needs

Birdinggirl said...

@Dan- thanks for the tip. It took some searching but I finally found it on Facebook. I'm in the process of setting it up.

@Dawn- thanks for the tips. I'll check out all of those options and see which one's right for me.

Flowing Desert Photography said...

Great advice. As a newbie birder (I didn't realize I was one until I got a bird book for Christmas -- I thought I just liked taking pictures) I didn't even know what a life list was until a few months ago. Now I need to figure out where to start one. I guess my Twitter Icon Archive is as good a place as any for now.(http://flowingdesert.com/twitter_icon_archive.html)

Larry said...

Sure-I don't mind but the binoculars were just examples off the top of my head.-Nice post.