|Leading A Bird Walk||Upstream Interpretaion Home|
outline of the presentation Introducing Birds: Tips and Tricks,
presented at Wild Things Feb. 2, 2012 at UIC is posted here. Scroll
down for the bibliography.
||Presented at CW Wild Things, February, 2013
I. So you are about to lead a bird walk
Why are you leading this walk? Every walk should begin with a theme.
Know Your Audience – Know Your Resource – Use Appropriate Technique
Names aren't the message - Enjoyment, understanding, habitat and conservation
What excites YOU? pass it on!
II. Everybody knows some birds.
Learn with and from your participants. but don't let them hijack your theme.
Don't give out check lists at the beginning of the walk – intimidating for beginners
start with what you know and compare
learn what's in your area
sort into categories first
look at the bird, make mental observations first, then look at the book
patience patience patience!
III. Many people will be thrilled with close looks at common birds.
Practice observation skills, note taking, behavior and habitat.
Build a conservation message, but don't overdo it - let people have fun.
IV. Listen! Songs are far more varied and interesting than the standard recordings tell.
V. Demonstrate technique
Quiet, patience, scan, don't search
Careful observation of details, listen and focus. Look at the bird, NOT at the book!
VI. Use props
For children especially, but any audience, use models, diagrams of common behaviors
VII. Use seasons to your advantage.
Start in the winter, feeder watching, start simple
Don't lead your first walk in the peak of fall warbler migration
VIII. When the birds don't cooperate
sparrows, pigeons and starlings exhibit fascinating behavior, conservation message
IX. Focus on getting people to your site, interested and returning.
Its not just about birds, where do birds fit in the larger picture
X. Bad calls happen to good people, don't fake it if you don't know.
don't obsess if you can't figure it out
XI. Ethics - avoid disturbance, including excessive calling, nest interruption, chasing etc.
XII. Get all the information and resources you can, keep learning – have fun and pass it on
Rules for Success
Dress in subdued colors
Listen; speak little and quietly
Walk slowly and quietly
Move slowly into open space
Take your time, wait watch and listen
Go West! - in the early morning head west away from the sun
Use action appropriate to setting
Watch for movement
Use judgment in calling
Stay out of other sight lines
Be specific in helping others locate birds
From Guttman, Burton S. Finding Your Wings: A Workbook for Beginning Bird Watchers
Top 20 Rules of the Bird Identification Game
What to Look For
1. Look at the bird, not at the book
2. Start at the top and work down and back
3. Shape says a lot
4. Size sometimes lies
5. Color can mislead
What to Learn
7. Learn the anatomy
8. Learn the sounds
9. Know what to expect
What to Have
10. Good optics help
11. Good field guides help, too
What To Do First
12. Use memory devices
13. Bird with others
14. Ask questions and take notes
What To Do Next
16. Take your time
17. Trust your instincts
18. Bad calls happen to good people
19. Know when to let go
What To Do Last, and One Bonus Rule
20. Celebrate your victories
21. See more birds, have more fun!
From: Thompson, Bill, Identify Yourself, the 50 Most Common Birding Identification Challenges
Alderfer, Jonathon and Jon L. Dunn. Birding Essentials, National Geographic, 2007
Discovery Travel Adventures, Bird Watching, Insight Guides, 2000
Mostly about locations, includes a "preparation" section
Guttman, Burton S. Finding Your Wings: A Workbook for Beginning Bird Watchers (Peterson Field Guide Series)
Peterson, Roger Tory. How to Know the Birds, Signet, 1957
First published 1949, may have been reissued in the 1980's, still a great introduction
Sibley, David Allen. Sibley's Birding Basics, Knopf, 2002
Song and Behavior:
Elliott, Lang. Stokes Field Guide to Bird Songs (Eastern), Time Warner, 1997
Trumps all other recordings, in my opinion, THREE CD's with a tremendous variety of songs and calls, not just the "standards"
Elphick, Chris, John B. Dunning Jr. & David Allen Sibley, eds. The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior, Alfred A. Knopf, 2001
Lawson, Robert W., Richard K. Walton, and Roger Tory Peterson. Birding by Ear: Eastern and Central North America (Audio CD)
An excellent introduction to learning song, not a complete catalog
Stokes, Donald and Lillian. A Guide to Bird Behavior, 3 volumes, Little Brown, 1979-1989
I am partial to the National Geographic (now in Sixth Edition) and its reference companion, N. G. Complete Birds of North America, but use many others. Computer users will appreciate Thayer Birding Software's Birds of North America, which includes the very handy Birder's Handbook, a classic reference by Ehrlich, Dobkin and Wheye.
Pete Dunne's Essential Field Guide Companion, Houghton Mifflin, 2006
Thompson, Bill. Identify Yourself, the 50 Most Common Birding Identification Challenges, Houghton Mifflin, 2005
Includes a short useful introductory section as well
A very tiny sampling of books I've enjoyed.
Hay, John, Ed. The Great House of Birds, Classic Writings About Birds, Sierra Club Books, 1996
Koeppel, Dan. To See Every Bird on Earth: A Father, a Son, and a Lifelong Obsession, Hudson Street Press, 2005
Nelson, Dylan and Kent, Eds. Bird in the Hand, Fiction and Poetry About Birds, North Point Press, 2004
Rosen, Jonathon. The Life of the Skies, Birding at the End of Nature, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2008
Stap, Don. Bird Song, A Natural History, Scribner, 2005
Titles multiply rapidly; there are lots of books, apps and other resources I am not familiar with. Find what works for you.