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Information for New Birders

All birders, and especially new birders, should learn to use eBird, which is an online, real time checklist program.  eBird has revolutionized the way the birding community reports and accesses information about birds.  Launched in 2002 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, eBird provides rich data resources for basic information on bird abundance and distribution.

You can use eBird to find birding hot spots locally and elsewhere, locate specific species in time and place, maintain your own checklists, and a host of other things.  At the same time, you are making a citizen's contribution to science.  eBird has a free online "eBird Essentials" course with everything you need to know to get started eBirding. Click on the button to go to the eBird website.   

The Cornell Lab also has an excellent birding app: Merlin.  You can identify birds you see or hear with Merlin Bird ID.  Sound ID listens to the birds around you and shows real-time suggestions for who’s singing. It's highly recommended for birders of all levels!

"How to Start Birding" is a useful guide for new birders and offers advice on optics, guides, and everything else you need to know to get started. 

Bill Fintel's Top 12 Birding Tips

1. Go birding with groups led by an experienced birder - he will know what species to expect - heʼll know the key field marks and help you hone in on them - heʼll know the bird songs and help you learn them - and heʼll have a spotting scope


2. Buy the best optics you can comfortably afford - many good brands: Nikon, Swarovski, Swift, Leica, Zeiss - avoid compact, zoom and high power binoculars - magnification 7 to 10x, objective lens 30 to 50 mm - mid range and my choice is 8.5x42 - try binoculars first, especially if you wear glasses - when it comes time to purchase a spotting scope, youʼll know


3. Purchase at least one good field guide - Sibley, Kaufman, National Geographic, Peterson - better yet, with 2 different field guides, you can cross check what they say - some come with an Eastern edition which narrows options


4. Learn the common resident birds “like the back of your hand” - when new species arrive during migration, youʼll know you have somebody new - learn the songs of the most common birds


5. Use and trust published literature, such as - range maps, birds do get out of their normal ranges, BUT this is rare - check-list abundance is quite useful and accurate - if the check list says your ID is a rare species, you may wish to recheck your ID


6. Bird year round - 85% of DE birds are migrants, which means only 15% do NOT migrate - when possible spend extra time birding during migration, which is: - spring: April-May, with peak the first 2 weeks in May - fall: Sept-October-November, with peak the last 2 weeks of Sept


7. Learn habitat preferences of the birds you seek - most warblers donʼt hang out on the beaches - most shorebirds donʼt hang out in the woods - “waders” do like to wade in shallow water impoundments


8. If you can, provide food, water, plantings and bird houses for birds in your yard - observing birds in your yard helps hone expertise - it can also provide a great deal of pleasure - and it can help the birds as well


9. Use the Internet as a resource - - go to SBC Links page for lots of additional information on the internet - consider DE-Birds to be notified of rare and noteworthy bird sightings - Google a birdʼs name, or Google-Image a birdʼs picture - also use Google maps to get details on a possible birding location.    


10. Visit the top nearby birding locations as often as you can - Prime Hook NWR - Cape Henlopen State Park - Mispillion, DuPont Nature Center (especially May) - Trap Pond State Park - Bombay Hook NWR - Indian River Inlet (especially winter) - Cape May/Lewes Ferry


11. Travel and Bird - new habitat means new birds - definitely research where you plan to travel - there are many very nice lodges which cater to birders as well as the general public


12. Enjoy what you see! - yes, Cardinals are beautiful, as is the Scarlet Tanager - common birds sometimes do uncommon things - and toucans are really cool as well - enjoying the birds is why you go birding.  

Fintel's top 12
Birding 101: the Who, What, Why, How, Where and When of Birding
Sussex Bird Club members Rob & Carol Blye developed this presentation for beginning birders, but the information is valuable for anyone interested in birding. 
*Sussex County Locations for Bird Watching   *Birding in Cape Henlopen State Park   *Field Guides and Apps for Birding

You're never too old
--or too young--
to start birding!

Looking for woodpeckers

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