My last few nature walks were not very fruitful, so I figured I might document some birding basics, some interesting thoughts to anyone who is new to birding.
First off, what is birding? Its a wonderful hobby that encompasses so many more things than just birds themselves. To me its:
-A sources of exercise and mental relaxation.
-A way to really open up your senses and perception. You have to be focused and observant to bird.
-Intellectual, you have to consider bird physiology, shape, habitat, size, colour, season, behavior there are so many variables.
-Beautiful and exciting, seeing birds in their natural habitat can be so beautiful. Seeing a new bird that you knew about but have never seen is breathtaking.
-Inexpensive, fun, challenging... I personally add photography into the mix, sometimes kayaking and that just compounds the enjoyment of birding.
-Its applied biology. You get to see first hand the way birds mate in seasons, male and female dimorphism, behavior, (males usually arrive first in spring and prepare suitable nests for females, bird singing is a way for male birds to attract females birds, they fight for good territory, native vs exotic (introduced species), habitat, habitat loss, habitat restoration and native foliage. Birds even have alpha male birds.
If you are new to birding, I would say the #1 website to learn about birds would be: http://www.allaboutbirds.org.
Birding Ethics is very basic. You want to keep the welfare of the birds in mind when you are viewing them. Observe them, don't interact with them.
An example of this is last year in May 2009, I watched a magnificent mating dance of two Great Blue Herons at Holiday Beach in Amherstburg Ontario. It was one of the coolest things Ive ever seen. This one Heron was *goose stepping* back and forth in this dyke pathway next to Big Creek. I walked closer to get a better look and one of the Herons flew away. The other stayed. Later on, I read that certain birds are very sensitive to human presence. Some will stray from a nesting site when they see humans. So, I felt bad later about this. I promised to do the ethical thing and just appreciate from afar next time.
Do not litter-obviously... avoid the temptation to throw anything on the ground. Place refuse in pocket until you walk by a garbage can.
Leave no tracks or trace of your presence- In West Windsor, there is a small piece of land called Ojibway Shores. It is a rare, remaining natural beach along the Detroit river. It is bordered by the Brighton Beach Power Generation station and Morton Terminal. Anyway, this habitat has been absolutely destroyed by off road enthusiasts. People take their Jeeps and motorbikes out here and really scar up the land. Birders would really want to do the opposite. For example, a birder would be conscious of walking near the edge of an erosion sensitive ledge of earth.
Be quiet- obvious
Stay on specified paths at parks- You could trample rare vegetation
Safety - One thing about birding safety that I will talk more about is TICKS. They are often found in nature preserves and they can seriously harm you. You must become aware of the dangers of ticks and take measures to eliminate them as a potential danger to your health.
Flash photography - Personally, most of my photographs are not shot with a flash. I have read that some people will fire many photographs of a perched Owl at dusk and this could hurt its eyes.
More on this issue can be found at: http://birding.about.com/od/birdingbasics/a/ethics.htm