Birding BASICS

by Lin Stone

More than 50,000,000 Americans report that they love to watch birds. Most people start birding for simple reasons. They like having fun and enjoy creating a connection with the wonders of nature. The rewards are enormous. Scientists of today claim the biggest reason for health problems in Euromericans is inactivity. It therefore follows that birding must be beneficial for your health. Watching birds will get you outside and start you walking providing you with an abundance of good health and a cheerful disposition. Studying birds yanks you away from sitting in front of the television or computer screen for hours at a time and thereby condenses your inactive time.

You will soon discover that watching birds is as wholesome mentally as it is physically relaxing. Your mind will sharpen as you ask it to help you find out where the birds are and to observe the birds when you get there.  Your mind settles down when you are spending time with a bird, for you should not ever think that watching birds is a numbers game,, I saw 39 different birds today. The object is not to count the birds, but come to know them as individuals, to love them and share your experiences with others.

When you are watching birds your senses open up and your thinking processes experience an exponential growth. Most people follow birdwatching as a hobby. As a hobby, watching birds is the fastest growing outdoor activity in America. The reason for that is simple; birds are fascinating.

Bird watching (birdwatching) or otherwise known simply as BIRDING is the observation and the study of birds. Birding is more sophisticated, and requires more effort than the aimless musings of those that merely watch the birdies that happen to come by. It includes taking precise notes of the minute details that distinguish one specie from the others. It includes mastering the skills of identifying characteristics for documentation as well. This can be done with the naked eye, an opera glass, or with the use of binoculars.

Either way, birding requires dedication. That might include sitting for hours, frequently crouched and hidden in a true bird watcher stance. Birding also includes a lot of sharp listening, since birds (and animals) can sometimes be more easily and readily detected by using your ear than your eye. As you consider pursuing this status, remember, there is no law against just watching birds and having fun. You can follow as few birding standards, or as many as you wish.

Long before Noah had his eye set on a certain dove, various birds were considered pipers of the future and indicative of fowl omens. Some tribes believed the screech of a night owl indicated death was at hand. Other tribes believed the call of a night owl was signal to great victory.

Ancient Romans believed that soothsayers could mark the flights and call of birds and thus foretell the future. For the tutored mind, flights of birds could tell and verify some future event. That knowledge would come to them certain and sure. In many instances the man below could hear actual words being spoken from spirit to spirit.

In today's world, modern science still uses birds as tellers of the future. One factor is always certain.. birds don't change their flight patterns without a reason. Changes in bird populations can accurately reflect the health of the environment; bob-o-links may become frustrated by a poor crop of mulberries, for example, and cut their time in half of what is usually allotted for that specific area.  Chestnut trees once sustained man and beast alike, from the New York Highlands to the Mississippi's muddy shore. When they were struck by pestilence half of what is now the United States was affected.

The intentional act of watching birds can be traced back to Native Americans training the eyes of their youth with bird spotting games while on a trail. How many different birds did you see? How many animals did you spot? Back then those most observant of nature around them were honored and revered because those skills might well save an entire village. During the Victorian Era in Britain, along with a few Euro-mericans, became fashionable because they were more astute in their study of birds and other natural history.

To prove their observations were valid, they began to bring preserved bodies of birds and samples of their eggs back home. When specimens representing all the birds at home were assembled, it became fashionable for wealthy individuals to visit distant lands and climes for more exotic specimens.

With great skill and care, collectors would collect eggs, skins and feathers. Naturalists, like Audubon, would mount specimens so they could be studied more carefully, and their studies were recorded in words, drawings and paintings. But in the 1800s a groundswell of popular opinion rose, calling for the protection of birds, and this led to a modification of the rules. Photographers began baiting birds (and animals) in for close up shots that never could have been obtained otherwise.

Birdwatchers took up the idea and began baiting birds to their homes and recording the first to come and the last to leave the area. They learned that birds often moved into and out of areas in swarms that could be watched for and predicted, as in the return of the swallows, seeing the first robin of Spring, and so forth. Some of these migrations became cause and purpose for social events. Nearly every community has a birding club with widely documented activities in that area. The same holds true for insects, like the march of the Monarchs is watched for as these beautiful butterflies head south in numbers growing ever greater with every mile.

Birdwatching has generated so much interest for so many consecutive years that it became an activity that could bring families together of one accord. When children discovered that they could speak of birds and be accepted as if they were adults well worth listening to the circle was complete. Today this natural sport unites people across many generations and bands have sprung up across the Internet. By taking up this activity, you could be coupled with your parents, grandparents, cousins, uncles and aunts, sharing your records with them, and taking genuine interest in theirs, if they had them.

There are local bird clubs that are staffed by devoted birdwatchers that would love to help you get started. Getting a bird book or a field guide will also help you learn more about birdwatching. A field guide is a little book with different bird information. The best guides are those that organize birds in various ways, such as coloration, wing shape, choice of food, behaviors, sounds emitted, migration patterns, and so forth for the truth is, not all of us are fascinated with birds for the same reasons or even see birds with eyes attuned to the same particulars.

Florence Bailey was one of America's greatest ornithologists. She started observing bird behavior at a time when most bird study was based on collections and skins. By 1885, she began to write articles, focusing on protecting birds because back then it was the custom to wear bird feathers on hats. One hat, now housed in Stuttgart Arkansas, was made entirely of feathers plucked from Mallard drakes in their most glorious point of iridescence.

Florence was dedicated to telling and showing people about the value of bird life to the human community. A bill was passed by Congress making the interstate shipping of birds illegal. This was a first step in stopping the slaughter and decreasing the number of victims, especially among seabirds such as pelicans and grebes.

At the age of 26 Florence produced a guide entitled Birds Through an Opera Glass that caught the public's attention, particularly those already possessing an opera glass. In the early and mid-20th century, the focus of bird watching in the United States was almost entirely confined to the eastern seaboard region although there were great naturalists roaming the wilds of America even then.

Today the field is diversified. Not only are there birdwatching guides for most localities, there are several global guides. Today one can circle the globe in less than a week and still get sufficient rest to call it a vacation. Travel by jet has enabled hobbyist and serious birdwatchers to travel to distant and exotic regions of the world in order to observe wild birds in their natural habitat.

But let us remember always that some of the best birding action can be done in your own backyard because there you can establish personal contact with individual birds. If you have no backyard, the nearest park can be almost as good.

the end

the author:  Lin Stone can help you straighten out narrative,
turn mere words into powerful quotes and rearrange your
faulty story lines quickly.  He is best known for his rock-solid
grasp of impertinent permutations.

"When you strive for greatness and all the writing courses in
the world don't seem to help, you will find that having a
professional collaborator at your side can turn all the fuzzy
preaching into writing that is smooth as silk and right as rain."