Somewhere in the inner workings of migratory birds, a signal goes off that tells them it’s time to head north. Is it just our imagination, or do birders get the same kind of inkling as the migration comes within reach? Either way, it’s time to get ready for the best part of the year as the early birds are making their moves.
Here’s the best advice for how new birders can get started, drawing on experts from all the leading bird institutions — Audubon, Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology, and the American Bird Conservancy.
If you want to be a birder, they all say, there’s no better time than spring. About half of the 650 species in the Western Hemisphere are on the move. From mid-February to mid-June, between 4 and 5 billion birds will fly thousands of miles to reach their breeding grounds.
“The birds are singing, and they have their spring plumage,’’ said Bruce Beehler, a Smithsonian research associate at the National Museum of Natural History’s Division of Birds and author of encyclopedic book, Birds of Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia. “In the spring, the birds are going to come to you, you don’t need to go to them. They’re going to pass right through your backyard, whether you know it or not. That can be pretty darn exciting.’’
We’ve boiled all of the advice we collected down to six short suggestions for how to get started — as well as how to make the most of the spring migration no matter what level of birder you are: