While traveling through Alaska a few years back I met some interesting creatures -- bird watchers. These people were unlike anyone I had ever met, and after observing them I longed to be able to identify winged beasts as well as they could. They could identify birds by sound and sight so simply that I was able to see wonders of the avian world that I would have missed if I were alone. Something as simple as the sound of a squeaky wheel turned out to be a rare bird hiding in the tall grass. If I hadn’t known better, I would have dismissed it and moved along, but my companions ooohd and aaaaahd at the rare sight, making me want their skills at nature watching.
There are many places in Florida to view birds, and you can even get birding trail guides for free if you visit MyFWC.com. There are signs on the streets around Tampa Bay indicating when you are close to one of the Great Florida Birding Trails. I have mapped out some trails I want to visit; it is only a matter of making some time to take time to enjoy the outdoors. But, when I do go, I will be prepared.
To be well prepared for your birdwatching extravaganza, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission makes some suggestions on what to bring. Make sure you have good binoculars because this could make or break your adventure. If the binoculars are too weak or not the correct strength you will be looking at fuzzy, out-of-focus birds and probably end up with a pounding headache and the end of the trip. Once you get a good pair, make sure you practice before you hit the trails. This is due to the fact that both eyes usually don’t focus the same, so you may need to make slight adjustments for a great focus and view of whatever you’re looking at. This is best done before heading out to bird watch so you don’t miss anything while you are trying to focus your peepers.
Make sure you bring a field guide so you know what you are looking for. I do not claim to be a bird aficionado in the least. My bird watching experience has given me the ability to identify birds of prey, wading birds and the occasional crow, cardinal and sparrow. After that, I am completely lost. I have a color guide that fits in my pocket so I can view the bird and then identify and mark the page.
Karey Burek Photos|
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission suggests that inexperienced birders, such as myself, may want to take a birding buddy along to help identify what it is I think I am looking at. A great suggestion is to look at your local chapter of the Audubon Society and see if there are any birding trips in the area. A resource that I am unfamiliar with is the American Birding Association which offers all kinds of birding information and may be your best bet for getting newsletters and finding guided trips. See you on the trails.
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