Wednesday, January 5, 2011

I and the Bird #141

I and the Bird

Tips on how to have more birding fun in 2011!

For me, birding is all about having a good time.  People approach birding from many different view points and go about birding in sundry ways.  Whatever interests in you birding, that's great!  No one form of birding is morally superior to another form of birding fun.  Birding certainly comes with all kinds of great side effects, like increased awareness, exploration in terrain and habitats you otherwise would not visit, and meeting other great people who enjoy the same hobby.  However, human nature sometimes creeps up on us and we get into a birding rut and stop having as much fun.  To help prevent any birding blues in 2011, please check out the list of 20 fun birding ideas I have compiled.  Then check out the links to more tips from my bird blogging friends from around the globe in this edition of I and the Bird:

1. Introduce a friend or family member to birding.  Nothing reinvigorates the birder’s enthusiasm more than helping someone else find new birds.

2. Go on a field trip with your local birding club.
I'm an eBirder. Are you?

3. Start tracking your sightings on eBird.  Join me in taking the eBird challenge - to average at least one birding checklist per day.  Then check out the cool eBird data that you helped contribute!

4. Join a friendly competition – not everyone is up a for a Big Year, but why not do a state, county, or yard big year?!

5. Forget lists and competition and just take a couple hours each week to plunk down somewhere birdy and just watch and watch and enjoy!

6. Add bird photography to your birding.

7. Get a subscription to a birding magazine.  I personally enjoy Birder's World, Bird Watcher's Digest, and Wild Bird Magazine.  Most national level birding clubs and societies also have great publications.

8. Read a great book about birding.  May I recommend Kingbird Highway, The Big Year!, and anything by Pete Dunne.

9. Enhance your landscaping to invite birds to your yard.  This is some great long-term fun and satisfaction.

10. Plan to Participate in a Big Sit!, a Christmas Bird Count, Project FeederWatch, NestWatch, or Celebrate Urban Birds.  John with a DC Birding Blog shares his New Year's day CBC experience.

11. Attend a bird festival.  I've wanted to see what this bird festival business is all about for the last few years.  This may be my year to attend The Great Salt Lake Bird Festival in May!

12. Treat yourself to a new field guide –  a birder can never have enough!  There are some new ones out and others about to come out that have unique features to help you be a better birder.

13. Get a new bird feeder or try another type of wild bird food product and see what happens.  My next experiment will be the Julie Zickefoose special, suet crumble.  See video here.

14. Go birding with someone better at birding than you.

15. Save up money and go on a birding vacation to somewhere exotic or take a pelagic trip.  Grant of Birds on the Brain shares his trip to Puerto Rico and the exciting bird sightings he had there.

16. Go ahead and buy that higher-end binocular or spotting scope you’ve been saving up for!

17. Try bare-naked birding.  Keep your clothes on, but go birding without optics or any other gear except your native senses!

18. Keep your field guide in the car or at home, but take lots of notes and draw pictures of birds you see. You will be amazed at how much it improves your birding skills and the depth of your enjoyment of truly "seeing" the bird.

19. Do your best to imitate the bird calls you hear.  See how the birds respond to your silly noises.

20.  Live the mantra: Always be birding!  Bird in different places while you wait and maybe even make a little game of it.  How many birds can you see in 10 minutes in parking lots, airports, bus stops, at funerals and weddings, wherever!

Visit the blogs below and learn from their examples of how to have fun birding:

Wait and wait and wait behind the "fringing tussocks" at the billabongs with Duncan - Out witted by a bird...

Be like Mike! Keep or start a yard list and enjoy adding a new "yard bird" - Wizard in the Woods

Join the Nature Hermit to observe a bird spectacle like the mega-multi-flock of blackbirds - The gleaners

Like I mentioned above, read a good birding related book, like "Ghost Birds".  Here is an interview cyberthrush conducted with author Stephen Bales on the subject of James Tanner and Ivory-billed Woodpeckers.

Enjoy the events of each season with The Greenbelt, like the frost that ripens the Callery Pears which brings in the hungry birds.

Starting a new birding year is exciting as you approach each bird as if it was the first time you ever saw it.  10,000 Birds wants to know what was your first bird of the year?

Ponder on the mysterious cause and perhaps the meaning of the sudden occurrence of Dead Birds like Greg Laden.  

Along the same line of dead birds, though not fun it just as important, is to consider the price of convenience as Wanderin' Weeta brings to our attention the dangers of plastic debris.

Okay, so not all things birding are fun in the tradition sense of the world, but I think are interesting and important, like Grant of The Birder's Library's take on the new book The American Bird Conservancy Guide to Bird Conservation.

Join Connie and her sister in combining two favorite past-times like Urban Birding & Thrift store shopping.  

Speaking of urban birds, how would it be to live with Jan in Panama City, Panama and have these tanagers as common urban birds?!

Visit a nature reserve like the host of Peregrine's Bird Blog to watch and photograph amazing bird species.

Enjoy repeated visits to certain locations watching your favorite species interact with other birds and wildlife like Drew and his Caracara Conflicts.

Birds have personalities.  Just asked Dale about his Scarlet Macaws he helped reintroduce into the wilds of Costa Rica.

Savor the moment a bird will pose for a photograph like an American Kestrel finally did for Larry.

Get carried away in the moment, like Sarala, photographing nesting Storks in Spain...on a crane.

Please add your tips on how to have more fun birding in the comments section!

Happy Birding 2011!!!


  1. This wonderful list is a great way to rethink and retool our relationship to this planet. Yes, birds are our focus, but really it is one of many doors into an awareness of the natural world at large.
    This is a different facet of the butterfly effect. At some distant time we were all children, bent over a cool looking bug, enjoying the pure joy of discovering mother earth. Where has that bliss brought us these many years hence?
    I am proud to be your one hundredeth follower!

  2. I couldn't agree more strongly with your list of ways to have more fun. I would also say these are perfect ways to improve your birding skills, contribute more to your community, science, conservation, etc. at the same time.

    I was going to post my own version of this, but now I'll just point people to your blog!

  3. @Springman and @noflickster - thanks for your comments! Congrats Springman on being my 100th follower. I never thought I'd see the day.

  4. An addition to your list: get a bird job! I have never had a job where I was not paid to look at birds, and its the only way to live.

  5. @Seagull Steve - all I can say is "you're livin' the dream man".

  6. Robert this list you compiled is absolutely magnificent! I love it! Every single one of these ideas will make your life more enjoyable if you enjoy birds, and if you didn't, you wouldn't be here.

    I hope to visit all these great posts by this weekend. Thanks for hosting this most excellent IATB!

  7. excellent list, birding is all about having fun, you're so right!

    I've had good conversations with birds by imitating their calls, though I don't do it in winter or the breeding season

  8. @Larry & @Crafty Green Poet
    Thanks for the very kind comments. CGP, thx for the important tip on when calling birds may be harmful.

  9. Juliet makes a very good point Robert. I never use bird calls during breeding season. I believe this stresses the birds and that is the last thing they need when they are using so much energy for procreation.

    Bird calls usually bring birds out to see what is making the call. Usually a con-specific challenger. It is stressful for breeding birds to have to come out to defend their territory only to satisfy a birder's longing to see the species, especially if it is in a highly birded area.