The Birding List / Link Page
Reviewed & updated 3/1/12
Birding? Wazzat? Do you mean 'bird watching'? Not any more, now it's just 'birding', at least in the US. But anyhow, it's the hobby of wandering around in the woods, or in city parks, or on board ships, trains, and even airplanes always on the lookout for some -usually - insignificant ball of feathers. Then trying to figure out what it was and adding a new bird to your Life List.
I started out in 1952 with the prompting of my Scottish godfather, who gifted me with a pair of 3 x 10 binocs, a yellow bird book (the book was yellow, not a book about yellow birds...boy, how dense can you get!?!) and said - essentially, "There you go."
So I have seen, ID'd and logged some 838 birds as of last count, in some 77 countries. Not really that many birds, when you consider the over 9,200 species on record in the world. But easier than trying to learn the same percentage of languages, of which there are some 6,000. Unfortunately I indulge in both hobbies and am sometimes considered a raving lunatic... but not only for these hobbies!
Imagine the scene: it's 0600 on the upper deck of a cruise ship, some where on the Baltic. Your fearless author is up there, armed with note pad, pencil, 10 x 21 binocs, an Aiwa JS445 autosearch FM radio/recorder, two cups of coffee and a croissant. I am scanning the sea for an early morning water feeder while stepping thru local radio stations, recording snatches of Swedish, Finnish, Estonian and Russian...think I got some Polish on that trip, as well.
Of course the recording days are over, 'cause now we have built-in audio, Audacity to record as much MP3 as your 2TB drive will hold, and a ton of internet radio 'broadcasters' to get any station in the world while I am writing this.
Why put up this page?
I've worked in a hi-tech environment all of my adult life. I have found birding to be both a relaxing and intellectual hobby that gets me away from so much zoomy technical crap. I have also found that there are no rules! Well sure: you can join a group and have somebody pointing out birds for your list, or you can attend classes to learn the current techniques. You can go apeshit and buy a humungous lens for your camera and recording equipment for bird songs. But you can also just strike out on your own and have a good time, working it out for yourself, low tech: notebook, low power field glasses, a pencil and some time is all you need to get started. To keep expenses down you don't even need to buy a bird book. Borrow one from the library.
The most useful books will be in your library. I could list a bunch here but if you live in another part of the world it won't help you. Of course you will want something that has plenty of color plates or - better - pictures on the opposite page of the description. My old book mentioned above (by Hoffmann, 1927) has about four color plates, a bunch of black and white pen sketches and the rest is read and compare. A truly difficult way to get started in birding given the quality of modern field guides.
For trips outside of your area I find it worthwhile to make a trip (via the internet, of course!) to the nearest university of college to find if they have birding books for the area you plan to visit. You may be able to arrange to borrow the books you need, or at least go to their library to study them, and use the information either to buy the book or to help judge books you find in a bookstore. I have also simply taken highly detailed notes and then visited the library after the trip to see what I saw. I would also suggest that you pay particular attention to the notes and suggestions of the author(s) as they usually give you practical getting-started ideas.
I can add this to what to look for in the books: how to ID basic bird types and what to write down in your notes to help in figuring it all out back at your kitchen table as you recover from the early morning hike. Oh, mornings are a good time for bird watching. Birds eat early morning and early evenings - mostly - but late afternoons also bring out more people and I find personally that I have a pattern pretty much set for afternoons while mornings are sort of non-committal...a chance to try new things.
My own sighting lists
...and a list of misc. birding URL's
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Last updated March, 2012. Comments or questions?