Archive for the 'Frequently Asked Questions' Category

Should I belong to a Bird Club?

This is # 19 in a series of frequently asked questions about birds and birding.

Should I belong to a bird club?

  • Being with like minded people, especially if they have more experience than you, is an excellent way of learning about birds.
  • Many organisations have excellent monthly meetings, often with very experienced speakers.
  • Most organisations also have monthly or quarterly journals or magazines, another excellent way of learning about birds in your area.
  • Most clubs often have monthly, even weekly, outings and excursions to great birding spots.
  • Sometimes the leaders can arrange access to areas where the general public cannot go, so this, of itself, is worth the annual fee.
  • I would highly recommend belonging to at least one local bird group and one national birding organisation, providing you can afford both. I am confident that you will not regret your decision.

How can I learn more about birds?

This is #18 in a series of frequently asked questions about birding.

How can I learn more about birds?

  • Learning about birds can be accomplished in many ways.
  • Studying field guides and other books is essential.
  • Much can be gained by reading bird magazines and on-line web sites, including birding blogs like this one. If you go to the links section of my blog I list some sites I particularly like.
  • I also enjoy learning more from natural history television programmes, videos and DVDs. I have quite a few and wished my budget stretched to the purchase of more.
  • Borrowing from libraries and other birders is another source of information.
  • Joining a birding club and attending their meetings and outings into the field is yet another way to hone one’s skills.
  • Never underestimate how helpful other birders can be.

Do I need CDs featuring bird calls?

This is #17 in a series called frequently asked questions about birding.

Do I need to buy a set of CDs featuring bird calls?

  • No – but they are an excellent learning resource especially if you are just beginning in birding.
  • Another use for them, even for experienced birders, is to get to recognise species by call alone. I can do that with probably about 50 species found near our home. When I move to the Adelaide Hills only 60 kilometres away some species are not as well known to me and I flounder with my identification.
  • I know I am really out of my zone of experience when I go birding in Sydney, for example.
  • Queensland and the Northern Territory are like going to another country. I can recognise them when I see them, but it is useful to also be able to ID a bird by call alone.

Do I need a GPS Unit when I go Birding?

This is part #16 in a series of frequently asked questions about birding.

What is a GPS and how do I use it in birding?

  • GPS stands for Global Positioning System and relies on signals from satellites to give an exact fix as to where you are on the Earth, often accurate to within a metre or so.
  • A GPS unit looks a bit like an older mobile phone or a remote control unit. They can be quite expensive with base models starting at about A$400.
  • A GPS is useful when doing surveys that require latitude and longitude coordinates. When I was sending in reports for the Atlas of Australian birds this was a requirement and I also add this information to the database on my computer.
  • A GPS is not essential unless one is doing some serious research or survey work – or you are a statistical freak tragic like me.

  • They can also be useful if you get lost – if you remember to take a reading of where you left the car!
  • Happy birding – and don’t get lost – or misplace your car!

Why do I need maps when I go birding?

This is #15 in a Series of frequently asked questions about birding.

Why do I need maps when birding?

  • So you don’t get lost, or to find your way home if you do.
  • Seriously, though, maps are an excellent way of finding good birding spots you may have otherwise missed.
  • Look for lakes, rivers, dams and reservoirs; they are often great places to see waterbirds.
  • Look for forested areas, national parks, gorges, and other areas not used for agriculture and where there is a great likelihood of plenty of natural vegetation.
  • Botanic Gardens are another great place to observe birds. The flowers and plants are a bonus.
  • Ocean beaches, estuaries, tidal mudflats and exposed sandbars are other great birding spots.
  • Learn to read the signs on a map that indicate potential good birding areas, and always be prepared to be disappointed because some great spots can let you down from time to time. Sometimes the tide is in and there are few birds. Sometimes the wind is such that the birds have gone elsewhere for shelter.
  • Have a backup plan, a site B and site C.
  • No matter how poor the conditions, you shouldn’t dip completely. In 30 years of birding I have only once recorded zero birds. It was almost dark and raining heavily, but I did see a kangaroo and an echidna. You get that.

Happy birding.