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Nature in it's glory

Nature in it's glory

Sep 2, 2011

Seven rules of birdwatching

When out on bird watch there are seven  rules that I follow that are sensible, and bring both reliable and surprising results.

Bohemian Waxwings

The first rule is to always dress appropriately!  Long sleeves and long pants, sturdy footwear, preferably hiking boots is what I typically wear.  The long sleeves protect against both scratches from the branches of bushes as well as insect bites.  Pant legs are usually slim for the same reason.  I wear a hat to protect against the sun's glare, rain or any insects, such as ticks that can drop down on your head from above.  I also wear a vest with pockets for my cell phone, lighter and other little tools that won't fit into my camera bag.  Accidents do happen, so I like to bring some things to take care of myself in that event.

Bring homemade mosquito repellant!  I don't know about you, but I prefer the home made over the chemical kind which are toxic, even though they are said to be safe.  Sometimes Mosquito populations soar, especially after a lot of rain, and slapping at  Mosquitoes and scratching their bites can ruin a bird watch experience like nothing else can.  This is another reason why, I love Dragonflies and when the city can't spray for mosquitoes I am not concerned.  If the city can't spray it means more Dragonflies will survive.  The more I see the better, because they dine on Mosquitoes, which means their populations decline drastically once the Dragonflies emerge.
Follow that sound!  Unless there is a crashing sound in the forest, one that a large animal might make, I typically follow any unusual sounds.  It just might be coming from the throat of a bird.  This, as I recently learned, can be anything from a cricket like song, to a cat's meow or a bark.  Gray Catbirds meow, and an owl can voice a sound that is remarkably like a dog's bark. 

Gray Catbird
Find new places to explore!  While I do not recommend that you necessarily do this alone, it is a good idea. Otherwise you take the risk of seeing the same species of bird over and over.  Remember that there are a wide variety of habitats in which birds survive.  While some birds prefer to be near water, others prefer leafy trees to pine.  Some prefer mixed forests, others open fields or the edges of them, and some prefer cliff sides.  Not only does exploring new places provide you with new scenery, doing so will provide the adventure of discovering new bird species.

Boat Tailed Grackle Female
Bring the camera equipment!  Taking photos of the birds you see will help you identify the species later.  In the excitement of the moment, when you see a bird that you have never seen before, your mind tends not to take in the necessary details that you need to make the identification.  This is especially true, if you see the bird only briefly.  Identification from such a brief glimpse then becomes frustrating and spoils the experience.  This is never more true than when, for one reason or another, you cannot return to the place where the bird was sighted.  A bird that I once photographed on a vacation does not make it's home here in Alberta, just to give you an example.

Bring extra SD cards and re-chargeable batteries!  Nothing is more frustrating than seeing the card full, or battery low message on the screen of a digital camera.  In my experience, one of these messages tends to come up either when you are in the middle taking photos of a new bird species, getting a close up or when you are not nearly ready to head home because there are many birds all around you.

Leave that camera on! When I first started out bird watching I had a habit of turning the camera off  to conserve the battery when I didn't see any birds.  This turned out to be a very big mistake, as I missed many opportunities for photos.  Many times birds can surprise you by arriving very suddenly and they often don't stick around for very long.  Even very large birds in an open sky.  I now leave my camera on until I am very nearly home.  It was the only solution.


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