Basic Birding in verrrry Basic Weather

Starting our first Tweetspeak course off, Dr. Duerr made sure that before anything else she wanted us to know that Birders and bird watchers are NOT the same thing! Confusing the two would be a grave mistake indeed. Correct terminology is very important in the study of Ornithology and Birding, but for the time being, we stuck to the very basics.

Image Source: The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

This being said, our creativity was put to the test when we tried to come up with names for our first bird picture of a Northern Parula. Some names included the Sunset Chested Bluebird, Orange Tufted Bluebird, and the Chirper.

Little did we know that, while wrong with the actual name, we were on the right track to the process of naming birds. Many of us described characteristics of plumage, color, or bird sounds. We learned that combined with other characteristics such as size, song, habitat, what a bird eats, migration, and geographic distribution a birder has a much easier time trying to name specific birds when using all these tools.

Putting all of these features together into one place, a Field Guide enables birders to quickly identify birds. In this Tweetspeak course we are specifically using “The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America.” We have much to learn from this book.

Between Screen and Real-Life

23858406533_8133ac6a28_zBefore making our transition from screen to real-life birds out in the open, we had to first explore the basics of using binoculars. Most of us probably hadn’t touched binoculars since we were kids, but we were ready to learn again. While familiar with how to use the Center Focusing Ring, most of us had probably never heard of what a Diopter was. I know I hadn’t. A Diopter is located on one eyepiece of the binocular and is used to make adjustments in finding a happy medium between the vision in your right and left eye. This was done by separately cupping each eye, first using the Center Focusing Ring, then using the Diopter to focus the vision for each eye.

Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 10.56.27 PM

We also learned that it is best for people with glasses to have the eyecups unextended, while for those without glasses to have them fully extended. After some more brief testing, we were finally ready to venture outside and find some birds!!!

It’s time!!!

Finally it was time to go outside! I wasn’t expecting to see too many birds, but much to my surprise, as a class, we were able to find over 10 species. We first scanned the bird feeders. At first we didn’t see anything, but as we moved closer to the parking lot near the back side of Patterson, we noticed a few birds near a bird feeder down the hill between two pine trees. After thinking about it, I noticed that only smaller birds were feeding at that feeder. Larger birds such as crows were nowhere near that bird feeder.


Image Source: The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Curious about this, I did some research and found that people actually try to discourage certain birds from feeding at their bird feeders. Reading from, some birds are supposedly classified as “pest birds.” The Humane Society points out that sometimes it is best to keep aggressive birds such as grackles, cowbirds, sparrows, and crows from bird feeders. This can be done by using specific birdseed that these “pest birds” don’t like. Aside from being aggressive, these birds tend to be messy eaters.

Protecting smaller birds from predators is also important. We noticed that the bird feeder down the hill was positioned between two pine trees. The Humane Society specifically advises this tactic because it can provide cover from predator birds such as sharp-shinned hawks, roadrunners, Coopers hawks, and American kestrels. This could be another reason why we saw more birds at that particular bird feeder compared to the other bird feeders. The other ones did not have the same cover.


What I learned

Aside from learning that I need warmer clothes in this -10 feel weather, I have learned that a lot of thought goes into naming birds. While, it may seem a bit tricky at the moment, I know that I will get the hang of it eventually. As long as I can stick to remembering the four rules of size and shape, color and pattern, behavior and posture, and habitat and distribution, I know that will progress in successfully naming birds.


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