Back to Nature (Published on TBNWeekly.com - Oct. 14, 2005)
Becoming a birder back to basics
Visitors to Florida have long been captivated by the beauty and abundance of bird
species that exist within the states 58,560 square miles. Floridians have
discovered bird watching and bird feeding.
|Photo by Karen Mitchell Tremmel
|A little blue heron searches
Florida is graced with a great diversity of habitats, location on migration
routes, wildlands and a geographic span of both temperate and subtropical climates.
Its possible to see 200 to 300 species in Florida. The question youre
asking about right now is, Where do I start?
Begin at your local book or nature store. They offer plenty of information,
birding equipment and gadgets to get you started. Also, your areas
Cooperative Extension Office has a wealth of publications on just about everything
from sparrows to ibis.
Feeders: You will want a feeder that is impervious to squirrels and vermin.
Weve tried many, but have only found one that really measures up: The
Heritage Farms Birds Choice Squirrel Proof Feeder. We purchased it after
observing a frustrated squirrel fall to the ground in aggravation from a Heritage
feeder mounted upon a pole in a North Carolina State Park. Weve never
observed a squirrel gaining access to our feeder. The rats also are unable to gnaw
their way through the metal exterior.
Bird bath: Even the simplest offering of daily fresh water will bring a multitude
of birds to your backyard. I believe at times, the bird bath may be more enticing
than the bird feeder.
Guide books: Walking into a book store can be overwhelming. The shelves are lined
with field guide books. Which one should you choose? If I could only purchase one
Florida guide book I would choose The National Audubon Society Field Guide to
Florida. It has a little bit of everything in it, from habitats to star
gazing, insects, trees, wildflowers, reptiles and of course birds.
Second book: Birds of Florida Field Guide by Stan Tekiela. This little
book, perfect for a backpack, contains 140 species only Florida birds with
large photographs. Its extremely handy. I wouldnt go anywhere without
it. If you are building a birding reference guide library then I suggest: All
the Birds of North America American Bird Conservancys Field
Guide, by Jack Griggs; A Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern and
Central North America by Roger Tory Peterson; The Sibley Guide to
Birds by David Allen Sibley.
Binoculars: Every birder needs a good pair of binoculars. It will be necessary to
conduct research to ascertain your personal needs. A good place to start is:
Birding Optics: www.birdwatching.com/optics.html. This Web site has reviews,
testimonials and guides on purchasing a wide variety of binoculars. Michael and
Diane Porter are avid birdwatchers. Theyve been reviewing binoculars and
spotting scopes for Bird Watchers Digest since 1993, with their
most recent review in January 2005. My own equipment includes a large and small set
of binoculars, but the pair I religiously use is a full-sized, Olympus 10x50 DPS R.
Theyre rubberized, non-slip, central focus knob and dioptric correction,
field of view: 342 feet (at 1,000 yards).
Theyre bright, but also heavy, so I use a suspender shoulder harness
binocular strap that goes over the shoulders, crisscrosses across the back and
relieves the stress and weight on shoulders and neck. Theyre not Bruntons,
Leicas or Swarovskis which cost on average, over a thousand dollars,
but they have served me well and fit my modest budget.
Accessories: If you plan on broadening your horizons for birding away from home,
youll need additional equipment such as: A comfortable pair of shoes that
stabilize and protect your feet, padded hiking socks such as Thorlo, hat or cap
with brim, sunscreen and insect repellent. (The total number of West Nile Virus
cases in Pinellas County is up to 18 since the first human case was confirmed on
July 29, 2005. This is serious. Someone close to me is just now recovering from
this disease, months after being infected.)
Youll also need a comfortable back pack with padded shoulder straps. It
should be designed with a place to carry water, a snack and lightweight rain gear.
Often Ive been out Florida birding with a group when one of Floridas
torrential rain clouds floats overhead and dumps its payload upon the unsuspecting.
Im continually surprised at how many people didnt consider this
circumstance and are completely unprepared. That is just no fun.
One reason bird watching has become one of the worlds leading sports and
hobbies is it doesnt require a lot of specialize equipment to get started.
With a guide book, a good pair of shoes and binoculars, youre on your way. No
matter where you go from this day forward youll be able to joyfully occupy
yourself with your new found skills.
Open your eyes and ears, look and listen to what the great outdoors has to offer
such beauty back to nature.
Karen can be reached at MyMuddyPawsStudio@gmail.com.