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As your skills progress, you may find certain guides are a better fit. Certain guides might be more compatible with how you intend to use it; a backpacker might need a more lightweight guide, whereas a desk reference might be more appealing for keeping at home. Start with the basics, and work your way up. Binoculars come in all shapes and sizes. Like finding the right bird book, you really need to try them out to find out what fits best for you. The main tradeoff to consider is magnifying power versus weight.

What You Need

Binoculars each have a specification, such as "10x The first number tells you the magnification. For example, a "10x50" binocular will magnify an object 10 times its actual size. The second number tells you the size of the lens at the far end of the binocular, called an objective lens. A "10x50" binocular has a 50 millimeter objective lens. A larger objective lens gathers more light, which can help you see better in low light conditions, and provides more clarity. The main tradeoff to consider is weight.

Larger binoculars with a larger objective lens offer better clarity and a larger field of view, but they will be heavier.

For Beginning Birders

Smaller binoculars with a smaller objective lens can be carried on your belt, saving weight and space. There are other features and factors to consider, but magnifying power is the main criteria to focus on pun! Your retailer can help you choose the right fit for your needs. For stationary viewing, such as in your back yard, a spotting scope can provide more magnification at the expense of significant weight. Curiosity and patience are the final supplies you'll need.

Wherever you go, take note of your surroundings. Feel the air, hear the sounds, and the natural world will reveal itself to you. As John Muir said, "In any walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks. There are a lot of birds to get to know. While you're learning, it will be more challenging to make an identification. But you can do it! By observing and identifying the common birds in your neighborhood, you'll notice when something unusual comes your way. Location, time of day, weather, and time of year can influence what types and numbers of birds you might observe.

Get to know your regulars. Some birds in your neighborhood are common, year-round residents. By learning to identify these birds by sight and sound, and by recognizing their habits How do they move? What do they eat?

Birding For Beginners

What do they sound like? Find a Good Spot. You might go for a drive through a wildlife area, walk on a trail, or sit in one spot and wait for the birds to come to you. One key is to find a place where two habitats meet, such as the edge of a forest and a meadow, or where muddy shorelines meet the water. Finding a spot where birds can find food and water can increase your chances of finding interesting species.

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If the early bird gets the worm, then the early birder needs to be up even earlier. Although birds can be found 24 hours a day, many birds sing at dawn and dusk because the cooler air and lower wind helps their song carry farther. These songs are not only nice to hear, they also announce the presence of a bird you may not yet be able to see. While many familiar birds are active during the day, owls and many others become active in the evening and into the night. With the advantage of flight, birds can go to where the food is. Though you will likely have some year-round residents, some birds in your neighborhood may only appear in the summer, others birds only in the winter, and still others might only be glimpsed during spring and fall migrations.

Camouflage is not required, but by wearing inconspicuous colors, you'll do less to scare birds away before you get the chance to watch them. Moving quietly, or staying still can help you avoid scaring birds away. As long as you're in a good birding spot, the birds should come to you! While some birds sing and announce their presence continually, some birds are quieter and blend in to their environments more than others. They might only become obvious when you stay still for a while, staying alert for motion. Patience also goes for yourself too.

Don't be too frustrated when you can't ID a bird; the challenge is part of the reason the activity is rewarding. Try writing down a list of the birds you see on a particular date. If you keep a logbook, over time, you'll be able to anticipate the movements of birds during migrations. Some birders like to keep a life list, recording every species they've ever IDed in the wild.

You don't have to actively be looking for birds to practice. Take note of the birds you see and hear on your walk to work or school, while you're looking out your kitchen window, or while you're doing other activities outdoors. Being observant and aware of your surroundings can heighten your senses and help you find other surprises in nature, too. You may discover interesting flowers or other animals at the same time.

Take care of yourself. Bring water and snacks.

Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat, and sunscreen on any exposed skin. Wear long, loose fitting sleeves and pants to protect from the sun and biting insects. Take care of your environment. While feeding birds in your back yard is a fun way to see wild birds, remember that feeding any wildlife in national parks is against the law. Do not disturb nesting birds, their eggs, or their nests.


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If you find juvenile birds out of the nest, leave them alone. Nature knows best, and their parents are nearby. Occurrence values are defined below. One or more Occurrence Tags may be associated with each Occurrence value.

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Species occurs in park; current, reliable evidence available. High confidence species occurs in park but current, verified evidence needed. Species is attributed to park but evidence is weak or absent. Species is known to occur in areas near to or contiguous with park boundaries. Species was reported to occur within the park, but current evidence indicates the report was based on misidentification, a taxonomic concept no longer accepted, or other similar problem of error or interpretation.

Species' historical occurrence in park is documented.

Birding Basics & Beyond: Birding Ethics & Etiquette

Assigned based on judgment as opposed to determination based on age of the most recent evidence. Species occurs on park lands as a result of deliberate or accidental human activities. The first number gives you the degree to which they magnify a distant object, for instance - 7x, 8x or 10x. The second number is the diameter of the distant objective lens in millimeters - the greater the number, the more light comes in. Make sure there is one central knob for focusing and that you can focus on objects within 15 feet.

Buy the best you can afford because it will make your experience of birdwatching that much more enjoyable. Some retail and online shops let you try out binoculars before you make a purchase. It's good to see how they feel with your facial structure before purchasing. A spotting telescope might be purchased as well, for observing waterfowl and shorebirds at great distances.