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Thu Oct 1, 2015, 05:46 PM

I'm want to take up birding and don't know where to start.

It's something I've been interested in for ages and haven't really acted on. I'm in a position now to take up a new hobby and would like something peaceful that gets me outside. I have a few books but don't know much about birds. Can anyone give me a first step? Thanks.

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Reply I'm want to take up birding and don't know where to start. (Original post)
Laffy Kat Oct 2015 OP
cpwm17 Oct 2015 #1
Laffy Kat Oct 2015 #2
Curmudgeoness Oct 2015 #3
Laffy Kat Oct 2015 #4
csziggy Oct 2015 #5
Laffy Kat Oct 2015 #6
Phentex Oct 2015 #7
Laffy Kat Oct 2015 #8
XemaSab Oct 2015 #9
Laffy Kat Oct 2015 #10
MH1 Oct 2015 #11
Goblor Nov 2015 #12
XemaSab Nov 2015 #13
Laffy Kat Nov 2015 #14

Response to Laffy Kat (Original post)

Thu Oct 1, 2015, 06:35 PM

1. Start off with a good bird book

 

The most popular book now is The Sibley Guide to Birds:
http://www.amazon.com/Sibley-Guide-Birds-Second/dp/030795790X/ref=sr_1_1/182-3482153-3605147?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1443740338&sr=1-1&keywords=sibley+guide+to+birds

There are also cheaper versions of the Sibley Guide that just cover the western US or the eastern US if you don't plan to travel too far.

Perhaps this is useful. I haven't used anything like this: https://www.audubon.org/

There are maps in the books for bird ranges, plus here are some sites that should give good places to bird in your area (your profile says Colorado) and the birds you might find in your area:

http://coloradobirdingtrail.com/

http://coloradocountybirding.org/

Plus eBird is a good place to see what's in you area: http://ebird.org/ebird/hotspots

You hear many more birds than you see, so a good knowledge of the vocalizations are very helpful, if you are so motivated.

http://www.amazon.com/Stokes-Field-Guide-Bird-Songs/dp/1607887843/ref=pd_sim_14_2?ie=UTF8&refRID=07Z5QW0PKSD0PS3RTJDE&dpID=51mj4fqK2HL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_AC_UL160_SR144%2C160_

Here is also a site the has bird vocalizations from all over the world:
http://www.xeno-canto.org/

There could be an Audubon chapter in your area that goes on regular bird walks. My father used join them and he enjoyed it.

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Response to cpwm17 (Reply #1)

Thu Oct 1, 2015, 06:42 PM

2. Thanks. I do think I'll join a group.

There must be one in Boulder. There is a Wild Birds store there; I'll start there.

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Response to Laffy Kat (Original post)

Thu Oct 1, 2015, 08:59 PM

3. First things, book and binoculars.

The binoculars don't have to be expensive ones, but you will enjoy seeing birds close up.

I started slow, by just putting up some bird feeders and getting to know the local birds. Plus, it helped me to get used to using the binoculars.

It was a good suggestion to join a local birder club. Let the people with knowledge teach you, but I sometimes get discouraged with the people who seem to know all the birds and bird calls...don't let them make you feel overwhelmed.

My favorite bird book is the Golden Field Guide, but it is not the most popular one. You might want to join a bird club before getting a field guide, since you will probably learn to use the guide that they like best.

http://www.amazon.com/Birds-North-America-Identification-Martins/dp/1582380902/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1443750857&sr=1-1&keywords=singer+bird+guide

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Response to Curmudgeoness (Reply #3)

Thu Oct 1, 2015, 09:05 PM

4. Thanks for the link.

I just ordered a used Golden Field Guide. It was inexpensive so I don't care if I end up wanting another one, too. I'm getting excited about this. Don't know why I haven't done it before.

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Response to Laffy Kat (Original post)

Fri Oct 2, 2015, 09:13 AM

5. Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a great bird site

http://www.allaboutbirds.org

The Birding Basics page has resources for getting started. Their Bird ID pages (http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/browse.aspx?shape=6,33) help you learn how to look at the birds so you can figure out what they are - they start with the basic shape of the bird, then color, then other features. As you try to identify the birds the pages for each species give details of habitat, range and similar species. For many species you can listen to the bird calls and watch videos of them.

You can even register and set up a list of the birds you have added to your life list - the list of the birds you have seen and identified.

They have a Merlin Bird ID which can be loaded on smart phones so you can use their resources which in the field. And the newest part is Merlin Photo ID (http://merlin.allaboutbirds.org/photo-id/) - you can upload a photo and it will attempt to ID the bird from the picture. The photo ID is not reliable yet but they are trying to improve it so the more people use it the better it should get.

I like taking pictures of birds for ID purposes - then you can more easily compare the various aspects of the bird you saw to the pictures in the guides. For instance, my husband got a photo of a bird in the woods where it was too dark to see much about its features. He thought it was a bird that should not have been in that area. Once we downloaded the photos and looked on a computer screen the beak was more visible and we were able to identify it as an immature white ibis. Without a photo that bird might have been a mystery to us forever!

As for guides I prefer the Peterson's Field Guides. Roger Tory Peterson's books point out the most important markings and features and gives you similar species to help you narrow your search. The Sibley books are very good and give more information about life cycles and habitat than Peterson. My least favorite of the guides we have is the National Geographic one. While it is nice to see photos of the birds even in the same species individuals can look very different. With a photo it is harder to figure out which features can be variable within a species and which features are definitive for it.

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Response to csziggy (Reply #5)

Fri Oct 2, 2015, 07:46 PM

6. Great information. Thanks so much.

I don't have a Smart Phone--yet, and my phone takes terrible photos. As I get more into it, I can see my technical resources are going to have to improve. Bird calls and songs are a big part of the experience for me and a special interest. So much to learn!!

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Response to Laffy Kat (Original post)

Sun Oct 4, 2015, 10:06 AM

7. Good advice so far...

I have a friend who is really into birds and birding. To me, they were "green ones, blue ones, brown ones."

But we got a feeder and a birdbath. Then added some hummingbird feeders.

My friend gave me a good beginner book for identifying birds and we already had binoculars. I cannot tell you what a difference the binoculars made! Also, she said when you start looking at them, describe them to yourself and you will start to see the differences. What color is the head? The body? Is there a stripe? What's on the wings? etc.

It's fun after that to return to your book and find the bird(s) you just saw.

Have fun!

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Response to Phentex (Reply #7)

Sun Oct 4, 2015, 05:59 PM

8. Thanks. I'm looking for binocs. this week.

Thought I'd stop by the Wild Bird Center in Boulder and see what they have to offer in that department. I've been spending way too much time studying birds online.

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Response to Laffy Kat (Original post)

Tue Oct 6, 2015, 02:35 AM

9. There's a new book out called "Birding for the Curious" by Nathan Swick

It's a good book that tells you how to get started.

Also, when you get a field guide, if you see a bird you don't know, flip through the book until you find it or a similar bird. This seems like a stupid and painful step, but you will learn a lot.

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Response to XemaSab (Reply #9)

Tue Oct 6, 2015, 10:16 AM

10. Thanks. That book sounds perfect. nt

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Response to Laffy Kat (Original post)

Wed Oct 7, 2015, 09:48 PM

11. You mentioned you're in Boulder.

I take it that's the one in Colorado?

You can probably find at least one birding group in the area. Or check out the many parks and natural areas around there and look for scheduled bird walks. You will learn so much from walking in a small group with a guide! There will usually be a small fee but it is worth it.

It was probably mentioned upthread, but also put up a feeder in your backyard. Oops, SCRATCH THAT, you are in bear territory. Best to find that birding group and ask if there are safe ways, or time of year, to have a bird feeder out. Having a backyard bird feeder is a great way to start learning the more friendly local birds.

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Response to Laffy Kat (Original post)

Tue Nov 10, 2015, 01:15 AM

12. ID help

Good things to look for are beak color and shape as well tarsus (leg, generally) color. These things will help with ID when going through your bird guide book ... They are sort of equivalent to flower and seeds when considering plant ID.

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Response to Laffy Kat (Original post)

Tue Nov 24, 2015, 08:31 PM

13. An easy way to narrow down the choices

Go on ebird.com

At the top there's a tab "Explore Data."

Scroll down to "Bar Charts."

Click on your state and then "Counties in...." then select your county.

This will tell you what's been seen locally. You can even break it down by month and year.

Print it out and keep it in your field guide.

It will make your life much easier.

Feel free to PM if you have any questions.

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Response to XemaSab (Reply #13)

Wed Nov 25, 2015, 12:50 AM

14. Thanks, XemaSab.

I will bookmark ebird.com!

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