Some Tips To Help You Get Started BirdingSo you want to be a birder? Below is a list of tips and hints on how to start birding.
A very subjective list from Mark Lynch who has taught beginning birders for almost 20 years.
1. BINOCULARS: You will absolutely need binos! Do not show up on any birding trip without them. Binocular magnification specifications are given with two numbers. The first number is the MAGNIFICATION, while the second refers to the width of the optics. As the first number gets larger, generally the second number also has to grow. For birding you will minimally need 7 X 35 binos. Serious birders use 10 X 40 or even higher. The rule in optics is that by and large, you get what you pay for. This is a very competitive field and new makes are coming along all the time. Cheap optics can be frustrating to beginning birders who are wondering why they cant see what their fellow field ornithologists are yakking about. Shop around and try out peoples optics on bird trips, if you can get hardcore birders to release their precious binos.. See how easy they are to focus, how sharp the image is, how they feel in your hand, how heavy around your neck. Binoculars are the birders main tool and a good pair will last for decades, so look at it as an investment. Take your time in choosing a brand and buy a pair that you will enjoy using.
2. A SCOPE: Generally this purchase comes within a year after the binos, when you see how close you can study shorebirds and seabirds and ducks with a scope. I find many students start to think about buying a scope after the frustration of trying to identify distant hawks or seabirds using only binos. Kowa is a currently popular (and expensive!) brand of scope, but there are now several other good makes to choose from. Again, try peoples scopes while out on a trip. We rarely need to use scopes on the sanctuary.
3. A FIELD GUIDE. After decades of teaching beginning birders I can still say there are really only two good choices for a field guide: The Peterson Guide to Eastern Birds or the National Geographic Society Field Guide to the Birds of North America. There are several other guides on the market, but none of these others are as useful or easy to use as the two mentioned above. Often times beginning birders buy the newest field guide figuring that it must be the best. Or someone gives you a field guide for your birthday ect. Put them aside and buy the Peterson or the National Geo. Period.
Learning bird songs and calls is also important. I identify most landbirds in Spring and Summer by call first. Luckily there are two sets of recordings that are geared to help you learn to distinguish one call from the other. BIRDING BY EAR, and MORE BIRDING BY EAR (for the Eastern/Central area) by Richard Walton have revolutionized the way bird song is learned. Do yourself a favor and pick up these tapes and listen!
4. TAKE A CLASS AND SOME FIELD TRIPS: The best way to learn birding is with others in a class that includes field trips. Broad Meadow Brook offers several field trips and classes geared for beggining birders. If you are starting out, do not take one of the more advanced classes as you may find yourself frustrated and over your head. Birding is like any other complex body of knowledge, it takes time to learn. Relax!! You will not learn everything ever! Just concentrate on improving your birding skills a little bit at a time. Knowledge only comes in bits and pieces. However, the more time you can spend in the field looking at live birds, especially with a class, the faster the learning process will occur. More time in the field = a better birder.
5. JOIN A CLUB: There are several great biridng clubs in the state. These offer a range of trips with congenial company throughout the year. Please know that club trips are not the same as class trips, and the trip leaderr is not going to spend as much time talking about field marks ect. as you would in a class environment. The largest club in the state is the venerable BROOKLINE BIRD CLUB offering several trips every weekend. Worceseter has its own FORBUSH CLUB. The HAMPSHIRE BIRD CLUB is a very active organization of the Connecticut River Valley. Dues and where to send them changes every few years, so I will include the most current addresses that I have:
A. THE BROOKLINE BIRD CLUB: New member dues: $12.00. Send to: Mr. Steven Arena 3 Kenneth Road, North Easton MA 02356-1004
B. FORBUSH BIRD CLUB: New member dues: $10.00, covers fiscal year from April 1 to the following March 31. Send to: Barton Kamp 42 Zenith Drive, Worcester MA 01602.
C. HAMPSHIRE BIRD CLUB: Contact: Sally Venman 43 Ridgecrest Road, Amherst MA 01002.
If any of these listing need updating, please contact this website with updated info.
6. JOIN THE AMERICAN BIRDING ASSOCIATION: The ABA is the best biriding organization to join. It offers a bi monthly informative glossy publication called BIRDING, a biweekly newsletter called WINGING IT and discounts on optics and books from its store. All for the price of a membership. See membership form at this website.