|Posted on January 29, 2016 at 2:50 AM|
As the proverb states, “Birds of a feather, flock together.” This is never any truer than with birders. Perhaps because we birders are a different breed, we feel a strong desire to belong to our own battery, choir, banditry, gaggle, or congress. (See what I did there?) For many of us birders, we want to feel like part of a flock, a member of a special group, a family.
From my experience, birders are open to new members joining the “club.” We love to see each other’s photographs, hear tales of seeing a rare bird, share the excitement of our next “lifer” and making plans for our next outing. We give and receive advice on where to see given species, but often keep a few special spots to ourselves.
So, how does one go about becoming a “bird of a feather?” Here are some thoughts…
Join a birding group, whether online or a local club. Or both. Most of us today have a computer and can access the internet. Many also have Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or other social media accounts. Use them to find other birders, within your city, your state, country, or all over the world. I am in three different groups just within Facebook, Facebook Birders, Birding in Utah, and Idaho Birding.
In addition to social media, there are many clubs and organizations that you can join such as Audubon. Google birding groups in your community and join one. They often have scheduled outings, get-togethers, and special events. It is a great place to meet new people and perhaps make life-long friendships. Most “clubs” will have an annual fee, but it’s normally minimal.
Now, let’s say you join a group on social media or local club. What’s next?
First, I recommend reading the group or club’s guidelines and then following them. “Rules” may be very different from one group to another so it’s always important to read and understand them. Guidelines are established so we can share what we love, but respect each other, as well as the birds that bring us together. For example, some sites do not allow pictures of owls during mating and nesting seasons in an effort to protect the owls.
Personally, I think it’s wise to just use common sense. Be kind to others, do not criticize their photographs, stories, or ideas. Someone may misidentify a bird, and it is okay to correct them, as long as it’s done in a kind and professional manner.
While I’ve been birding for 45+ years, I still have a lot to learn. Just recently, I saw someone state they saw a Western Tanager in Ohio. So, I pointed out that they are not normally that far to the east. Well, several others posted that Western Tanagers have been seen more often in the mid-west and even to Pennsylvania. So, my knowledge was expanded about Western Tanagers being vagrants (accidentals).
Second, participate and take an interest in other’s photos, stories, and ideas. Being part of the club entitles you to “Like” other’s posts and to make comments. Your comments should be positive and add to everyone’s enjoyment and knowledge.
In addition to taking an interest in others, share your own photos and experiences. Allow them to “Like” your posts and make comments too.
The trick is to balance how much you share as compared to the interest you give others. Again, use common sense. When sharing photos, be careful not to share too many at once, whether in one post or multiple posts.
Third, ask the group questions, pertinent ones at least. If you saw a bird (photo or not), but cannot identify it, ask the group about it. But, be prepared to provide enough information to help others help you. In this case that would include your location, the size and color of the bird, and the environment (field, woods, backyard, etc.). For many of us, this is a challenge we whole-heartedly accept. If others have already replied, we may not, but it is still fun to play.
Other topics may include birding locations, specs on binoculars or camera gear. Again, the trick is to keep it relevant to birding.
Finally, and closely related to number two, is go birding. Many of the hotspots will have other birders doing the same thing you are. Ask what they’ve seen. Talk and get to know other birders, but be respectful of their space.
Always be safe, know your surroundings, and if you feel uncomfortable, leave the situation.
If you are a member of a club, go on the scheduled outings. If possible, sign up to drive. You may be the one that allows someone else to go.
By attending club activities, asking questions, giving and receiving feedback, participating, and by just being a good birder, you will make many acquaintances and friends. You will become one of the flock, one of the convocation, a family member.