When I signed on here at Opossum Creek Retreat I had no idea what I was in store for. Sure, I knew what the job was. I learned Geoff’s techniques. But there was so much more. You know, stuff that would only be revealed as time went on. Jedi stuff.
One of the things that were new to me was the New River Nature and Birding Festival. I had heard of the festival from when I worked with Dave Pollard at the County Courthouse, but I never really got more than an overview.
Since Opossum Creek hosted this festival I found myself smack dab in the middle of it. So the romance began. Aw yeah.
I was amazed at how the birding guides were able to identify birds by their calls. This seemed an almost supernatural ability to me. Lynn Pollard was one of the first to introduce me to the art of birding by ear. She’s able to ID over ninety species by ear- incomprehensible to me!
I was introduced to many top birders from all over the states who showed me birds that I would have never imagined in this area. But the New River Gorge area is a main thoroughfare for Neo Tropical migrant birds looking for work (Ha! I joke.) So this might be the place to see all kinds of North American birds. Birds that come here to nest. Birds that inhabit the area for the summer. Birds that just pass through on their way to their nesting grounds farther north.
Here are the five things that helped me get familiar with birding. But a word of caution: I spend stupid amounts of time outside looking for birds I can’t see, or can’t hear, or both. Now that I know these tips, I can never go back to my pre-birding life. You’ve been warned.
1- Get to know a birding enthusiast. Geoff and most of the people you will meet at the NRB&N festival are very excited to turn new people on to the “sport”. I say sport in parenthesis because, while many of the birds you will encounter will definitely give you a run for your money while trying to get a good look at them, a lot of times you’re not moving much at all. Some of the wood warblers are especially secretive; their thick habitat can be a challenge.
2- Get yourself a decent pair of optics. Some of the birds you will be trying to find are small and elusive or they won’t let you get too close. A good pair of binos are essential.
3- A good field guide is also important. Look for something that’s not too big and that’s well illustrated. You’ll want to carry it with you while out hiking or even in your back yard. Peterson’s and Sibley’s are my favorites. A word of caution; don’t get so into the book that you stop looking at the bird. I’ve learned to watch the bird for as long as it will let me or until I feel I have all the visual information I need to make a proper ID. The book will always be there to look at. The bird will not.
4- Get out there! Birding is a great hobby because you can do it anywhere from your office to the wilds of your area. Whether you’re in the city or way out in the country, birds are there.
5- Get a friend into it. Having someone to bird with is even more fun. Share your newfound activity with a friend or family member that you want to spend inordinate amounts of time with.
Birding also raises awareness of our environment and why we should protect it. It is also another excuse to get outside if you need one. If you haven’t already, give it a try. Checkout Birdwatcher’s Digest. Also, take a look at the Beginning Birdwatchers Book. Perfect for kids, this one’s got 19 pages stickers, too!
Okay, Geoff and I play with the stickers. But it’s a good book, I promise!