The six essential birding tips you need to make the most of the spring migration – The Advocate


Bird watchers fan out on a trip to Grand Isle.
Birders head to the beach at Grand Isle hoping for a memorable sighting.
Bird watchers fan out on a trip to Grand Isle.
It’s time to brush up on your birding skills — or at least acquire some if you don’t want to miss out on spring migration this year.
Billions of birds move north from Central and South America each spring, making April and May the best months to be a birdwatcher in Louisiana. Birdwatching is one of the fastest growing hobbies for all ages in North America, and it’s heavily promoted for ecotourism.
Jane Patterson, president of the Baton Rouge Audubon Society, has led classes in introductory bird watching for years, setting hundreds of beginning birders off to a great start. She offers some tips for anyone wanting to catch a glimpse of these flying miracles.
Binoculars: “One of the single most important tools for a beginning birdwatcher, you’ll be extremely limited on what you can see without binoculars,” Patterson said.
A good pair gets you a sharp view of each bird so you can figure out what you’re really seeing, she added. The best dimension for birding is 8×42 — 8 feet is the magnification and 42 is the lens size. Any higher magnification will limit your field of view, making it difficult to spot a bird. In a forest setting, this can be a really important factor. A good introductory pair can range from $150 to $300, with many choices available, but Patterson advises whichever you choose, make sure they come with a lifetime warranty so you can secure future repairs.
Birders head to the beach at Grand Isle hoping for a memorable sighting.
Field guides: Patterson said paper field guidebooks are still valuable tools for birders. “Make sure to familiarize yourself with your guide before you take it with you in the field to help save time when you are trying to ID what you saw,” she said.
Most field guides will classify birds by habitats, show migratory patterns and show plumages in different stages of life or seasons, she added. Electronic field guides are also good to use, but can sometimes frustrate beginners, she said. Better to use them after a bit of practice in the field, she advised.
Be quiet, stay still: Birding is a spectator sport, but it involves sight and sound. “Birds chirping are telling us where they are all the time, so it’s important to hear where we should be looking for them,” Patterson said.
The same is true for sudden movements, which can startle a bird to fly off before you can set eyes on it.
Visit habitats: Birds can be found everywhere, even Walmart parking lots, she said, so the more habitats you can visit, the better variety of birds you will see. “I am forever shocked at how many birds you start to see once you start looking,” she said.
Patience: Persistence is the key when searching for birds, Patterson said, even if you are just watching for birds at your backyard bird feeder. “Mindfulness is a common buzzword right now, and with birding you are in the same zone as the practices of meditation or yoga. Tune everything out and try to be present in the moment while you listen for birds in nature,” she advised.
“It’s truly a soul-feeding activity,” she said.
Flock together: Go birding with others who are interested in birds, Patterson suggests. “The best way to be a good birder is to stand at the elbow of someone who knows more than you do and listen to them,” she said.
Participating in local guided bird walks are an ideal way to find like-minded folks. For bird questions, birding clubs, organizations, field trips, programs, classes and workshops events and festivals statewide, visit www.BirdLouisiana.org.
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