Birds

4 Mistakes I Made as a Budding Birder

Experienced birders are incredibly knowledgeable. Some have only been birding for a short while, others are hobby-birders, and there are also ornithologists among us! Thank goodness for all of them. A lot of what I have learned has come from these knowledgeable individuals. Even more has come from all of the resources that they have shared with me.

When I was first getting started with birding, I was indoors, had access to the internet, my Sibley Birds app, and a wonderful birding forum with hundreds of members — it was awesome (still is awesome) because it was like having a team of teachers. It’s a great feeling to know that you can rely on a group of like-minded individuals to help you out with bird IDs and birding questions! In this post, I want to give back to the community by sharing some mistakes that I made as a budding birder.

To half-quote a quote, “errare humanum est…”/”To err is human” and I have definitely made what I consider to be mistakes as a new birder (and I still make mistakes as a more experienced birder). These are what I consider to be my four biggies and what I learned from them.

#1. I didn’t have my gear ready

If I had a dollar for the times my gear was not ready-to-go, I’d have at 15 – 20 bucks. Always have your bag packed, your clothes ready, memory card cleared, and your camera (if you shoot) charged. It’s also a good habit to bring your gear in your car, that way it’s with you wherever you may go. It’s equally important to remember to bring it back into your house.

I cannot stress that enough, especially during the hot summer months. Heat can absolutely ruin your gear, don’t underestimate it and bring your gear inside.

This is what happens when you have your gear ready! I took this while waiting in a parking lot before a doctor’s appointment. Hello Greater Yellowlegs! (Not pictured: the yellow legs.)

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#2. I wasn’t acquainted with habitat or season

Knowing the habitat you’re birding in is helpful when identifying birds. For example, some species of thrasher and owl are specialists and local to very specific habitats — you wouldn’t find a California thrasher in Texas, nor would you find a Northern Spotted owl in Maryland (mmmm, well, never say never).

White-crowned Sparrow. Image Credit: Animal Perspectives

White-crowned Sparrow. Image Credit: Animal Perspectives

Sparrows can be a tricky group of birds to ID, but understanding that some sparrows appear in different seasons, can really help if you’re having a tough time recalling all of the field marks. For example, are you looking at an American tree sparrow, or a chipping sparrow? I’ve made this mistake by not considering the season. (Chipping sparrows don’t hang out in my area during the winter, but American tree sparrows and white-crowned sparrows do.)

Learn what you don’t know!

#3. I bought bird seed at the grocery store

*GASP*

I know that buying bird seed and wild bird products from a local wild bird store isn’t an option for everyone. However, if it is an option for you, start supporting your local wild bird store. It’s not likely that someone at the supermarket is going to chat you up about the rose-breasted grosbeak that visited their feeder while you’re picking up bird seed in the pet aisle — unless of course it’s me!

Visiting your local wild bird store is a great way to get involved with birding, learn something new (I always learn something new when I visit my local store), while buying high quality products. I promise, the higher the quality of bird seed that you put in your feeders, the more diversity in species you will see!

(I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to my local shop for not supporting them more often! Sorry!)

#4. I made birding stressful

Have fun! Sometimes, and I’m being serious, birding can feel stressful. It sounds silly, but it’s true and I know that I am not alone. I have felt a little frustrated (OK. I’m lying, a lot frustrated) when I’ve been out for hours, perhaps even traveled far to get to a certain spot, but haven’t witnessed much action — it’s irritating. I’ve learned from those annoying moments though.

Birding is not about the birder! It’s about the birds!

Those feelings still creep up on me sometimes, especially if I’ve missed a photo opportunity, but now I remind myself that birding is not about the birder! It’s about the birds! When I bird, I’m guest in the house of nature — the house of the wild — I should be grateful for anything that reveals itself to me.

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Savannah Sparrow. Image Credit: Orietta Estrada

There is a lot to observe, a lot to look for, and it’s right in front of me at all times when I’m birding. Whenever the birds aren’t “biting” I use it as an opportunity to look for spiders, photograph insects, and expand my knowledge of trees (which is very poor).

Wow! It felt good to those off my chest. Believe me, I’ve made plenty of mistakes and will make plenty more, but the four I listed above are behind me now. My gear is packed, I know my habitat and season, I support my local wild bird store, and I have fun! Don’t make my mistakes! Thanks to those who helped me get these right!

Bird on!

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Also read…

I’m With Birds: First Steps Towards Birding

5 Ways to Enjoy Birds in the Wild

Quick and Dirty: Steps to Cleaning Your Feeders

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