A beginner’s guide to birdwatching in Texas
In general, most people have a hobby or two in which they enjoy participating in addition to their daily routines. And psychological research tells us that this is a healthy thing. For some it may be playing or watching sports, for others it may be something like stamp collecting or coin collecting, and for others it may be fishing or hiking. There is one hobby that has really taken hold in the United States in recent decades and that is bird watching, or birding for a short time.
It is estimated that more than 60 million people in the United States participate in birds each year. And this excellent situation of ours is a great area for bird watching due to the favorable weather conditions as well as the geographical location.
As I begin to generalize a brief overview of this hobby, let me just say that the space available for this column is almost not enough to cover the hows, whats, whens, wheres and why of birding . It is literally an overview of a huge opportunity to go out!
If one is interested in birding, there are many types that are considered necessary to obtain before starting. The first is a good bird identification book. There are many quality books to choose from and making that choice largely depends on how serious you find yourself in engaging in the hobby. One of my favorites is Birds of Texas by Fred J. Alsop III. This is one of the various field guides in the Smithsonian Handbook series. The next item you will get will be a good set of binoculars. These are necessary for those indistinguishable species that are too small or too far away to make a positive identity. Another element would be a good digital camera. A few years ago, a digital DSLR with a large telephoto lens was the way to go. Now, there are several “point and shoot” cameras that have zoom capabilities up to 12 times, as well as several megapixels, available for one third of the cost of a DSLR telephoto lens. Digital cameras are best for field use as they allow you to photograph a bird and then zoom in for a closer look at recognition.
When you are in the field of bird watching, there are many questions you need to ask and answer about a bird body to help establish a positive identity. First impressions are the most important for creating this ID. Is the head striped, plume or cap? Are there any marks on the face, such as camouflage, eye rings or earmuffs? Is the body color red, blue or brown? Are the sections localized or ribbed? Is the tail forked, rounded, long or short? Are there any distinctive marks on the tail, such as spots, belts or bars? What about the account? Is it a needle, hooked or cone-shaped?
There are also other things besides physical features that you should notice. How is the environment environment? What kind of voice does the bird use? What is his behavior? Does it jump to the ground, does it fly from bush to bush, or does it climb? What is its flight pattern? Does it show direct flight? Or hovering or even zigzagging?
As you can see, there are many basics to learning how to be a bird watcher. But with the mastery of these elements, then you are ready to become an experienced fermenter. Good bird!
Michael Price is the owner of Wild About Texas, an educational company that specializes in animal poisoning education, environmental advice and ecotourism. Contact him at [email protected]