Archive for the 'Hints' Category

What is a bird atlas?

This is #20 in a series of frequently asked questions about birding.

What is a Bird Atlas?

  • A bird atlas is usually in book form and consists of many maps of a given region, state or country, usually one map for every species found in the particular area covered by the atlas.
  • Each map has parts shaded in showing the distribution of that species in that region.
  • Many field guides have simplified maps showing the distribution of each species.
  • A bird atlas may also show other factors, things like areas where each bird is found breeding, how distribution has changed historically, population densities, vegetation distribution, rainfall and topography. All these factors can influence the presence of birds in particular zones.
  • In Australia there have been several atlases of bird distribution published.
  • I have personally contributed over a thousand reports in total to four of them, two in the Adelaide region of South Australia, and two nation-wide atlases of bird distribution.
  • I found this to be a very satisfying pursuit and my contribution towards conserving our wonderful birds.
  • The latest one, the New Atlas of Australian Birds is ongoing in its data collection.
  • More information, including how to be a contributor, can be found at the Birds Australia website. You can even submit your records electronically via the internet.

Relevant links:

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!