Monday, April 16, 2012

Start Birding Today: The Few Tools You Need To Be A Birder (by Lee Dusing)

Savannah Sparrow by Ray Barlow
Surprisingly when I put "open" and "eye" into my Bible search with e-Sword to find a verse for this article, I found 49 verses that had both words. The reason for a verse with your eyes being open, is because that is your first tool you need as a birdwatcher when you go birding is your eyes. Here are a few examples:
  • Gen 21:19  And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; ...
  • Num 22:31  Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way...
  • 2 Kings 6:17 And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.
  • 2 Kings 6:20 ... that Elisha said, LORD, open the eyes of these men, that they may see. And the LORD opened their eyes, and they saw; and, behold,
  • Psalm 119:18 Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.
  • Matt 20:33 They say unto him, Lord, that our eyes may be opened.
I know these verses do not apply to birding or birdwatching, but I think they reveal some truths that do apply. The LORD or God opened their eyes. Would it be wrong for us to ask the Lord to open our eyes to see His marvelous creation, especially the birds? Once their eyes were opened, they saw different things. We are going to see different birds on different outings.

Also, Christ said in the Sermon on the Mount: "Look at the birds of the air:..." (Matthew 6:26 ESV)

The second "tool" that is very useful is your ears. Some people cannot see because of blindness or poor sight, but does that keep them from birding? No!  Fanny Crosby was blinded early in life, but in my opinion, she was a fantastic birder. She may not have seen, but she "heard" the birds. When I first started my research for Birds in Hymns, of the first 44 hymns I found 10 were written by Fanny Crosby! Here are two examples:
  • "Happy am I, the bird is singing" - Tried and True
  • "And the bird in the greenwood is singing with glee" - Praise the Giver of All
Listening to the sounds around you can reveal hidden treasures. Birds sing, call, alert other birds of danger, make sounds with their wings, etc. Having our ears open to their sounds can help locate them. After awhile, with a little practice, you will recognize birds just by their calls and songs. Even if you never see the bird, the avian friend can be counted on your "life list," but that is another article.

The first two tools, Eyes and Ears, could be summarized as "Awareness." If you are not aware of the birds, you will miss finding them. Basically, those two tools are all you need.

Yellow-throated Warbler by Bob-Nan
Third: To find the birds and see them closer, a pair of binoculars are very useful. It is not required, but I use mine most of the time to observe better details that help me identify the birds. There are lots of articles in books and on the Internet about which pair to buy, what strength they should be, how much to pay, etc.

So what should you buy? Every birdwatcher will give you different thoughts, but here is what I have. I use a 8 X 42 lens. "The first number is the power of magnification of the binocular. With an 8x42 binocular, the object being viewed appears to be eight times closer than you would see it with the unaided eye." "The second number in the formula (8x42) is the diameter of the objective front lens. The larger the objective lens, the more light that enters the binocular and the brighter the image." (Bushnell) There are things like the kind of lens, coating, field of view, etc. that you can get from their site and others.

My only other advise is not to buy a 10X or larger because it is harder to hold the image steady, at least for birding.

The fourth "tool" would be a small notebook to keep a list of the birds you see. Even if you don't know what they are at first you can still make notes of what they looked like, colors, sounds, beak shape, feet, wings, time and date, and other notes about your observing the bird. Later, that will help to identify the bird. More on "Lists" in another article.

The last main tool would be a Bird Guide to find out which bird you just saw. (Again, another article) You can use the Internet to assist in that also, like What Bird.

There are other tools that are useful, but when you first Start Birdwatching Today, they are not a necessity, but in time, they also become very useful. Here are a few:
  • Camera - helps with ID and enjoyment later
  • Spotting Scope - great for birds far away
  • Audio Tapes of Birds - to learn their songs
  • Handheld Electronic Devices - helps ID in the field
We are trying to keep this series simple, at least at first, so that you realize that you can "Start Birding TODAY"

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