FROM READERS: How to bird watch

Wednesday, December 25, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CST
Chase Darr watches Canada geese as they fly in January 2011 at Bradford Farms, just east of Columbia.

This article is an installment of the Missourian's new How-To Guide, where members of the community share their skills. Have something you're good at or a skill you wish someone else would share? Visit our How-To page to find out how you can get involved.

Chase Darr is a graduate student in MU's Biological Engineering program and a member of the Columbia Audubon Society

Tips for Birding

1. Patience. Birds are wild, living creatures with their own agenda that includes you not seeing them. Most bird species are in constant motion going through their day-to-day routines and responding to their environment.

2. Awareness. Birds are really everywhere all the time, and most people are so disconnected they miss or take their presence for granted. One of the benefits of getting into birding is gaining awareness of the natural world that is swirling around us. It may only be a Northern Cardinal or Black-Capped Chickadee, but it's also an amazing creature with its own life story that, in viewing, you get to share for a brief moment. Looking for birds as you drive or walk around town often yields some special gems and helps to keep us connected to the world.

3. Respect. Birds view humans as predators and aggressors by their nature, regardless of our intentions. Therefore, when out in field or forest, do your best to stay calm, quiet, understanding, and alert. Don't press into a bird's habitat any more than absolutely necessary. Don't hound or encroach on birds just to get a good look, especially larger birds. Some birds, like Snowy Owls, only reach mid-Missouri when they are crowded out of their normal territory and, despite their still regal appearance, are on death's door when they reach us. Be respectful and give them space.

4. Know your surroundings. Birds are creatures of habit and habitat. It's important to research ahead of time what kinds of birds you may/may not see in a particular area. Otherwise, you will never find what you're looking for.

5. Get good optics. You get what you pay for. Binoculars are an investment. Not everyone needs or has $10,000 binoculars (I don't), but it pays to "bite the bullet" and get the maximum you can afford.

6. Get connected. Birds of a feather flock together ... and so do humans. If you want to improve your birding skills, join the Audubon Society or at least an Audubon-led field trip. We're not scary people, just people who share a passion for nature.

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor is Joy Mayer.

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