If you've read the book or seen the movie The Big Year, you know that birding can become an obsession––an expensive obsession. Most of us don't have the time or money to involve ourselves in a competitive Big Year, but that doesn't mean we can't enjoy birding by having a personal Big Year.
This year I started mine and in the first six weeks I put 127 bird species on my list. Not only have I had a birding blast, but I've learned a lot about birds and how to watch them. Here are five easy things you can do to become a better birder:
- Start Your Own Big Year: It's best to start on January 1st, but you don't have to. The idea is to see how many different species you can spot in 365 days. Buy a journal and keep track of what you see and where.
- Schedule a birding excursion at least once a week. Plan to spend the entire day. You'll see different species at different times. Arrange to explore different habitats: wetlands, forest, shorelines, grassland, and open water.
- Revisit locations so you can learn to recognize birds easily.
- Buy a decent pair of binoculars and a variety of bird identification books. I use David Sibley's Sibley's Field Guide to Birds, Roger Tory Peterson's A Field Guide to the Birds, National Wildlife Foundation Field Guide to the Birds of North America, and National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America. Of course, it's not practical to carry them with you on while trekking the trails, but keep them in your car for later. Instead, carry your iPhone with the following bird ID apps. My two favorites are iBird ($20 fee to download) and the new Cornell Merlin Bird ID app, which is free. It also includes an interactive program to help ID those mystery birds.
- Bird with a friend. Four eyes are better than two.
And if you think birding is an activity only enjoyed by the Miss Hathaways (The Beverly Hillbillies) of the world, you couldn't be more wrong. Birding is the fastest growing outdoor family activity in the country right now, so get outside, enjoy nature, and begin your own Big Year today.
Here's a photo taken by my friend and fellow birder, Wendy McSwain. We discovered this gorgeous pair of white-tailed kites while we were birding on Galveston Island. They seemed delighted to be the center of attention.
|Photograph by Wendy McSwain|
Labels: audubon, Big Year, birding, birds, birdwatching