I have been birding now for over 4 years now, and I feel like I have reached a point where I should be a better birder than I am. So I have decided to make an effort to learn more about the birds that I am seeing. For the past couple of years I have spent my time birding and working on my pictures and posting on a blog, and I have enjoyed it. The problem is that I have not grown as fast as I want to, so I have taken this slower time of the year and started to get organized and set myself up to do a better job of identifying these birds and knowing more about them. This means that I am not going out birding as much, and therefore I am not posting here on the blog. I am sorry about that and will try to get more up in the future. Actually, I have been trying to go on my first pelagic trip, but it has been cancelled twice (Next try is this Sunday). That will be my next post if it goes off.
So what have I been doing? First I decided to make flash cards or index cards for every bird in the ABA check list. I started that and decided to use the list as the basis for organizing everything that I was going to do, so I got a little sidetracked and will get back to the cards later. I made a folder system with numbers so that each family was numbered and each bird had it’s own number within that family so that the computer didn’t reorganize my filing system alphabetically or in any other way. As a result, I have over 1000 folders as the basis for my organization. Each of these folders will have my pictures filed into them as well as a subfolder with information such as identification, habitat and where I have seen or know of these birds if it is a hard to find bird. Seems like a lot of work and maybe it is, but just the act of doing it will help me to learn more about the birds.
I just bought Pete Dunne’s Essential Field Guide Companion, an out of print book that has a lot of the information that I was going to put in this folder, so that will be helpful. If you haven’t seen or heard about this book, it is pretty amazing. No pictures, just packed with information about Status, Distribution, Habitat, Cohabitants, Movement/Migration, Vagrancy Index, Description, Behavior, Flight, and Vocalizations. It is expensive, because of lack of supply, but I would either watch for a deal or buy one online sooner than later, unless they reprint it.
Another out of print book that I bought was Seabirds: an Identification Guide by Peter Harrison, which is THE book for gulls and terns and other birds seen on the seas and oceans of the world. I bought this to learn about the possible birds seen on my pelagic trips. Also, I will try to get a better handle on the gulls and terns that I have such a problem identifying such as the Common Tern vs Forster’s Tern.
Back to my folder system. I have not been filing my pictures, nor have I been deleting the bad ones, so I decided that I would try to keep the good pictures and file them in the correct species folder. By doing that I would need to better learn the species so that I could identify the bird in the picture so that I could file it, and learn from the experience. I probably had over 50,000 pictures to go through and I am almost done moving them to the correct family folders. Next comes taking a family and learning the birds well enough to file the pictures. Once, I have filed the pictures, I will go back and delete the ones that can’t make the second cut and try to just keep good pictures. Right now, with over 65 Gigabytes of pictures in those folders, there are a LOT of pictures that still need to be cut, but that will come.
I have been working harder on learning bird calls and songs by listening to the Peterson’s Bird Songs CDs, and actually bought the western birds CD. I have also bought an app that I have not used much, other than playing around with it, to produce a spectrogram of the calls. This will help me to better understand what I am listening to.
Lastly, I have been reading some of the classic bird books such as Kenn Kaufman’s Kingbird Highway, and Feather Quest by Pete Dunne.
Incedently, while reading Feather Quest, Pete mentioned my high school physics teacher, Bob Smart. on page 16 of his book. I knew that Mr. Smart was a birder, but never knew how big of a birder he was! Here is a quote from a blog by Don Roberson called Creagus:
In the early 1980s, after the death of Bob Smart, an ebullient New Hampshire birder who was a founder of the American Birding Association, an anonymous group decided to honor Bob Smart by awarding “Ticky Tokens” for birding accomplishments.
Another blogger, Karl Overman, knew Mr. Smart before he was at Millbrook and posted a whole page on his blog about him. I wish that I had taken the Ornithology class that he was teaching, but I was taking classes that would help me more in college instead of my middle ages. Asking classmates and teachers that I still talk to from those days, they all talk about what a great guy he could be. I am sorry that I didn’t get a chance to bird with him.
Anyways, sorry that I haven’t posted more, but I will try to be better.