Thoughts for Beginning Birders

Barn Owl

Just thought I would post a few thoughts for the ever burgeoning group of people joining the ranks of birdwatching.

Malachite Kingfisher, Perching, Botswana

Malachite Kingfisher, Perching, Botswana Photographic Print

Robles Gil

24 in. x 18 in.

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Framed   Mounted

The foundation for all modern birdwatching is the field mark system originally conceived by the "father of modern birding", Roger Tory Peterson. It revolves around the concept that each bird has unique features that can be used to identify it. Peterson also introduced the idea of shape as a good first indicator of species identity.In his initial version of Field Guide to the Birds of North America he put silhouettes of birds on the inside cover as a means of illustrating this idea. So in summary, field marks form the basis for the identification of birds. But there is more to the story.....

Male Painted Bunting, Everglades National Park, Florida, USA

Male Painted Bunting, Everglades National Park, Florida, USA Premium Photographic Print

Jones, Adam

40 in. x 30 in.

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Once you establish your foundation with field marks, you can begin to add other elements, such as song and habitat to your identification arsenal. When I was a little kid I used to sit for long periods of time just looking through bird books at the pictures of birds. I enjoyed the beauty of birds at an early age and this is what ultimately fueled my identification skills. I wrote about my progress as a birder in a previous article entitled "The Layered Evolution of a Birder" (see 2008 Blog Archive below). Reading this article will give you some insight into the potential transformation to come as you evolve in your birdwatching life. One point I made in that article is that you need to realize that not every bird is a male in breeding plumage - there are females and juveniles as well.

With regard to the important area of birding binoculars, I recommend finding a lightweight, weatherproof 10 power pair. I have used a pair of compact, waterproof, Nikon 10 x 25 binoculars for more than 15 years now. I started with the classic 7 x 35 Bushnells, but the optical goods market has changed substantially since I was a kid. The 10 x 40 binoculars are probably ideal as they give you more light gathering capacity than the 10 x 25 (i.e. 25/10 = 2.5, whereas 40/10 = 4 which translates to more light gathering). So if you can afford it, look for 10 x 40.

The title of this blog embodies the essence of birding for me and hopefully for you as well - passion. Cultivate it and enjoy! Hopefully you will be thrilled and amazed by sights such as the one below of Whooping Cranes intermingling with Sandhill Cranes (Alaska). The beauty and grandeur of nature can take your breath away!


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