Birding 101

A quick lesson in Birding for Beginners, by a Beginner.

Any time you look outside you see them. Flitting about from tree to tree, zipping in front of your car as you drive down the road, pooping on your window or splattering on the paint, waking you up in the morning with their cacophony, some with a sweet voice, some with a raucous call. Some you recognize, like the Robin, or the Red Wing Blackbird, or even the dreaded Pigeon.

But we have found out that there are many that fly by, and show off their pretty colours, and we have no knowledge of who they are. Sadly many of us don’t even care to find out.

I used to be one of those people who looked out the window and saw all the pretty birds, but then, they were just birds.

Until we got a backyard bird feeder. Suddenly it was “Wow that was pretty, I wonder what it was?”. They actually looked so nice I started to photograph them. Soon, there was another, then another, and more types came to see us, and fatten up on our food. Eventually, we had to ask at a store, what was the best food for these guys (showing the pictures), and of course, each one liked something different. Oh, and a different feeder.

Be careful, (heavy sigh) backyard bird feeding can get kind of expensive.

Once you have that little interest tugging at your mind, it’s time to go someplace where you might find more exotic birds. A zoo is a good start. Or the Bird Kingdom in Niagara Falls Ontario. Bring your camera and try to get your best shots.

Of course, you can always go to a nearby park and see what comes out there. It’s cheaper too.

So who knew Birding was a thing? Surprisingly, it is something enjoyed by millions of people around the world, and every year thousands of people make their way to Point Pelee in Southwestern Ontario during the Festival of Birds in May, just to see the birds.

I feel there are 5 steps to becoming a true Birder.

1 – Go out to see the pretty birds, just for the hell of it.

2 – See the birds and take pictures home because they are pretty.

3 – Get serious enough to tag along a few extra kilograms of camera equipment, including but not limited to – multiple zoom lenses or multiple cameras with different lenses, tripods / monopods, flash heads with modifiers, video cameras and sound equipment, and so on.

For some reason, my wife thinks I fall into the 3rd type.

 4 – Study the birds, know their calls, know how they fly, where they will rest, if they are resident or just migrating through. Get up before the crack of dawn to be sure you are where the birds should be, wait in blinds so the birds will come close to you, for that perfect photo to submit to magazines, or online, or just to fill your computer with another bird photo.

5 – You don’t need to take photos anymore. You have all the best shots, and can identify any bird you see. Sometimes you would have a scope with a nice long viewing reach so you can see miles away. Other times you might just be out to record which bird you saw at what time and where. Here, a pad of paper and pen is enough.

These are the real pros. If you want to learn about what bird you are seeing, hang out near them. Especially the nice ones who don’t mind the newbie hanging around (thanks to all who have let us hang out).

Yes, I still consider myself a beginner. I hang around people that know their birds, and I try to sponge as much information from them as possible. Will I ever be good enough to get to step 5? Maybe over time, but I’m not in a hurry. Once I can’t carry the extra weight of cameras, tripods, binoculars, thermos of tea, pockets full of snacks, and an extra sweater or jacket, well, we will see.

Now it’s your turn. Go outside, forget about the Alfred Hitchcock movie, and check out the birds. It can be pretty Cheep, at least in step 1 and 2.

Till next time, and don’t forget to Follow me so you can get updates automatically.

Thanks for reading.

Screech Owl being harassed by birds during the Festival of Birds at Point Pelee

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