the-eldest-woman-on replied to your post: the-eldest-woman-on replied to……

Bartram’s Garden has both! The good bad of being a very urban nature center. They do the bird count every year and if I could tell birds (apart from catbirds, redwing blackbirds, and like, starlings) I would totally do. It’s one of my maturity goals. The end of year bird count. And, I guess, being able to identify birds.

Since I’m in the midst of a series of classes for beginning birdwatchers I’ve been thinking about this. Something I’ve tried to convey is that birdwatching actually is super forgiving of beginners.

I’ve tried to compare it to learning a musical instrument. If you’re learning to play violin or clarinet I imagine there’s this whole initial phase you have to go through where you’re working at it, but the actual thing you’re producing isn’t very close to the intended result. (I could actually be completely wrong about that, by the way. I don’t play anything myself.)

Birdwatching is very much the opposite: From the beginning you are legit doing it. Birdwatching is about, well, watching birds. And even as the most newbish of newbs you will, in fact, be watching birds, and will have access to the same pleasures that experienced birdwatchers get from it.

It’s true that correct identification is part of it, and as a beginner you’re going to be challenged by identifications that will get easier as you gain experience. But the challenges you face as a beginner aren’t fundamentally different from the challenges you’ll face later on. You’re just experiencing them with a different class of birds. Learning to solve those challenges is half the fun, and it’s a challenge you’ll keep facing no matter how far you progress.

The other half of the fun (or more than half, at least for me), is the beauty and wonder I feel from just watching the birds, which is totally available to everyone regardless of their level of experience.

Oh, and about the Christmas Count in particular: Some of the new birders I’ve been talking to have expressed hesitation about doing the Count. “I don’t know anything,” they say. “I won’t be able to help.”

Not true. When we organize the count we make sure that there’s at least one experienced birder in each group to handle the finer points of identification. But in a group of five or six birdwatchers, even the least-experienced person can make a big contribution. It’s all about eyes and ears. When the experienced folks are staring at something through a spotting scope, a group of white pelicans (say) could fly directly overhead and they’d never know it. But if a member of the group is scanning the landscape, they can say, “uh, hey; guys? check this out.” (This exact scenario happened with my group on count day last year.)

So, in summary: Watch birds. It’s awesome, and it’s awesome right from the beginning.

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Tags: birding, birdwatching, the-eldest-woman-on.

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