Let’s say you started birding in the pandemic, bought binoculars, and now you’re hooked. You can identify the songbirds and woodpeckers in your neighborhood. So what happens next?
I’ve been thinking a lot about that question while hiking through an Audubon sanctuary in western Massachusetts, peering through bushes looking for fist-sized birds that have no interest in being seen.
Time is of the essence. The American Redstarts, Chestnut-sided Warblers, the Black-and-Whites, the Yellow Warblers and all the other varieties that spend the summer here will start migrating south any day.
Not that long ago, I didn’t know a warbler from a sparrow. So exactly what does it take to become a good birder? Once you’ve moved past the cardinals, blue jays and robins, what’s keeping you from finding the Indigo Bunting or a Rose-breasted Grosbeak?
Becoming a birder is a process, and it could go any number of ways. Some of it depends on your personality, how much time you have and how mobile you are. Do you like to collect things? Do you crave the thrill of the hunt? What’s your frustration tolerance?
Let’s say you’ve spotted a bird you can’t identify. Would you rather use a book to compare diagnostic markings such as eye rings and the color of a bird’s bill and feet? Or would you prefer a phone app designed to help you identify the bird easily and instantly. Perhaps you’d want a fellow human who can guide your way.