I admit. I got way off standard ornithological detail last month. I promise not to do it again anytime in the next five seconds.This month I’ll give some pointers on how to see more birds, and enjoy your bird watching more as a result.
- Make no sudden, quick movements. If you are watching an interesting bird and it flies off, do not run after it. Instead, follow it quietly until it lands, trying to keep it in sight at all times. If you run wildly after it, the bird will undoubtedly have sudden, urgent business in the next county. After it has finally disappeared over the horizon, and you turn around, you will likely find the area completely devoid of other birds, and birders, (please take note that there are some aggressive birders out there, who may, by this time, be ready to throw you in the creek). If you lose sight of the bird, move quietly toward the general direction in which it flew and search the most likely shrubbery, trees, etc. while listening for calls or motion.
- Don’t make a lot of noise, especially if you are with a group. If you are birding with a group, try to alert the rest of the group with as little noise as possible. If you are spread out, alert the person next to you, so that he can tell the next, and so on and so forth. If there is a techno-birder in the group, he will probably have a couple handheld radios or walkie-talkies, which can be very useful if the group is spread out. If you are birding by yourself, walk quietly, trying not to stomp or walk noisily through dead leaves.
- Do not wear white clothes. These will make you glaringly conspicuous and are not conducive to stalking a good bird. Instead, wear earth tones like khaki or dark greens. Make sure to wear something that doesn’t make noise. Nylon pants that make a swishing noise are not a good choice. Wear long-legged pants. After wearing shorts a few times while chasing sparrows in the thistles and brambles, I decided not to wear shorts again. Above all, make sure you are wearing comfortable clothes. A pair of jeans that rub and chafe can ruin a morning’s birding.
- Be smart while you’re birding. Do not trespass and have respect for others’ property and time. Don’t hold up traffic. Don’t tramp across lawns and fields. There are plenty of people out there who would do anything to see a rare bird. Keep it in perspective; it’s just a bird. As a recent book warned, “Do not stand in the middle of the road while birding. Being hit can ruin a day’s birding, not to mention a pair of binoculars.” I would encourage new birders to go to www.americanbirding.org and read the American Birding Association’s Code of Ethics to understand how to respect both people and birds.
- Last, have a good time. Don’t get competitive or obnoxious about your skills around other birders. Remember, they and you are just out there to enjoy the birds. Keep it relaxed and fun.