Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What type of birder are you?

Yes, what type of birder are you? Maybe you fit in one of these groups.

1. You are a birdwatcher, or a backyard birdwatcher if you identify with this.
You love birds... and many other things in nature such as wildflowers, plants, animals, trees, butterflies.  And you have more than one bird feeder in your backyard.  Maybe three.  You can identify many of the birds you see.  Except you may not know these are the common birds in your area only.  But you love it! And that's what counts.

You have some nice binoculars for your birdwatching.  You paid around $50.00 for them Walmart, maybe.  Bushnell? Great brand!

You've seen a pretty warbler a month ago with some yellow in it and...yes! some streaks on the sides (flanks).  There is just one problem.  You couldn't find any picture to match that pretty warbler in your bird book.  Don't worry about it.  Keep having fun with birdwatching.  

2. Do you identify yourself with this instead? If yes, you're a birder! You prefer to be referred to as a birder, not a birdwatcher.  Birding is your hobby.

You love birds and you go out in the birds natural habitats to observe them.  You have several field guides and good binoculars.  You spent between $75.00 to $150.00 for those binoculars and they're good.  Maybe $200.00.  A lot clearer than your first set, but you wish they were a little more powerful.  But they serve your purpose. 

You can identify birds even in their molt plumage and you know that this bird is not so rare because he is just a juvenile or ...a hybrid waterfowl.  (I saw a Mallard/Pintail hybrid at the FDR State Park recently and it threw me off for a minute, but I figured it out).

You may belong to a birding group and you go on some of the birding outings with other birders.  You probably subscribe to one or two birding magazines.  And you have a birding "Ap" on your phone.  You're getting better and better at identifying birds by their calls and songs without actually seeing the birds.   

Sure, you're a birder and you love birding.  You even keep a journal and a life list.  But, birding is just one of your hobbies.  And you love it! You have other interests and activities in your life.   You already have a life list of 250 to 300 birds.  That's a lot of bird species if you stop and think about it.

3. Are you a lister or a twitcher?
Do you identify with this? You've been birding for many years now.  You're now trying to see all the new birds you haven't seen yet.  As a result, you rush over to the spot where a rare bird has been spotted.  Oh yes, you get all the alerts for rare or visiting birds on your phone.  You see it, you add it to your list, excited, and wait for the next alert or call.

I'm not talking about birders who love birds and rush over to see a new bird in their area and go "aw, wow, pretty bird".  (I do that too and I'm not ashamed to catch myself going all gaga about a pretty bird I've never seen before, like a Wilson's Warbler in full colors).  I'm writing here about birders who are mainly building their list.  Over time, they may even have gotten away from appreciating the birds.  They see a new bird, they're satisfied.  They twitch over adding to their list instead of actually stopping to appreciate the bird itself. 

Let's not dwell too long on this fascinating category.  Suffice to say that with enough money some of the listers can catch the next plane to see a rare bird across country, just for the thrill of it.  Fine with me.  If that's what serves you.  It's all about having fun.  But maybe you're in this next category instead.

4. The advanced birder!
Is this you? You've been birding for many years.  You probably have 450 or more bird species in your life list.  But you still stop and point your expensive Swarovski binoculars on a NOCA (is that a Northern Cardinal for us mere mortals?).  You use acronyms for birds now instead of the bird's name. You also have a Zeiss scope and a Kodak or Nikkon huge zoom camera.  You do need the zoom lens to take the pic.  Claro que si!

We understand that you didn't go out and bought all these "cool" optics when you started out birding.  It came over time as you became a better birder. (As a side note, better birders tend to have the better optics.  I won't explain that in this blog post, but that's true).  If you still appreciate a common bird like the Cardinal or the familiar song of a Chickadee, then you're my hero.  You are now where I want to be one day.

You're familiar with the different field guides on the market you have a library of bird books and guides. 

The "advanced birder" is usually involved in some format of bird conservancy, preservation, and education. 

This type of birder also knows who's who in the birding community as well as statistics that mean nothing to the backyard birdwatcher.  Such as knowing that this rare vireo or warbler has been spotted only for the 3rd time in Bibb County since 1982.  Well, if they didn't know it already, they look it up and seem interested in those sorts of stats.

Yes, they can identify a bird in flight and before the bird even finishes his song.  And they can differentiate birds by the habitat they're found in.  They go to birding forums and conferences and they don't miss annual bird counts.  They actually participate in organizing them and lead groups for the counts (like the Christmas bird count).

You should have identified yourself by now if you're this type of birder. 

There you have it.  The four types of birders I came up with.  I hope you've enjoyed this...wait a minute! I have one more:

5. The obsessive birder
To qualify for this type of birder, you have to live and breathe birding, like an obsession and not just a passion or hobby.  See if you qualify.

Do you organize all your activities around birding? Do you carry your binoculars everywhere you go, including to family events? Do you talk about birding at family gatherings even when those poor souls have no interest whatsoever in birding? Let's make it simple.  Does your whole life wraps around birding?  Will you be terribly sad if you went to South America for a business conference and you can't go out birding for at least one day?

Well, if you answer yes to some of these questions, then I have a category for you.  An obsessive birder.  And there is nothing wrong with it. You're probably one the best birders around.  You're just obsessive instead of...passionate.  And it's OK if it makes you happy.  Some obsessions are magnificent. 

Please, do me a favor.  If you read the whole post, just make a comment like "I read this whole darn thing" ... That way I'll know if this is too long or boring.  Thanks for your comments.


Debbie said...

Lol, you already know what catagory I'm in but for everyone else I'm somewhere between 1 and 2. Good post!

Andre said...

I like to go birding with the "obsessive birder" because I learn a lot.
I admire the "advanced birder" because that's where I want to be one day. Now, I'm category 2, a birder.

James said...

I think I am all of these. Although I wouldn't consider my birding as a hobby or an obsession. I believe it to be more of a life style. I enjoy not only birds but all things natural. I am a naturalist.

jerry said...

Andre, yes, I read the WHOLE thing! Does this make me "obsessive"? :) Was fun introducing you to the brickyards this morning.

James said...

What did you find that I should be aware of for the count? Did you find and photograph the WIWA?

jerry said...

we missed the WIWA...
we had 2 dowitcher sp at the brickyards and lots and lots of ducks. Andre got started on his American Coot count... although one less that got taken by a juvenile bald eagle!

Anne said...

This is great! I guess I'm somewhere in a mix of categories: an intermediate birder with an interest in citizen science opportunities. Not too much of a "chaser" except occasionally. I enjoy all kinds of birding, but mostly enjoy choosing one place at a time to wander and study instead of driving from place to place for quick looks. And I love to learn from better birders!

Andre said...

To Jerry: you're not in the "obsessive" category. You're "advanced".
To Anne: your comment about mix of categories made me think. Maybe some of us jump from one category to the next.
I can see myself being obsessive one day (birding all day at 3 different locations with a quick lunch break) then reverting to my category 2 and then playing "backyard birdwatcher" on a quiet week end.