Five Myths About Watching Birds

1. You need to get up early

You can absolutely see many birds without ever getting up early. It’s true that birds are often more active in the earliest of mornings, and some species might only be seen then, but there are also hundreds of species that you can see at 11AM as well. As long as you travel around a bit, you can literally find new species for years before having to get up early.

Instead of getting up early, why not go birding in the evening and enjoy the sunset at the same time? Photo by Jason Polak at Casuarina Coastal Reserve, Darwin.

2. You must travel to exotic locations

Definitely false! Of the 219 species we’ve seen in Australia so far, we’ve seen 61 in Melbourne, though Melbourne was not always the first place we saw them. Just check out eBird and see how many cool birds are spotted just around the corner. Birds are everywhere. That’s the cool thing about them.

But don’t expect to see the Night Parrot in Melbourne. Eventually you’ll probably want to travel a bit: we’ve driven almost 5000km just to get up to 219 species (and counting)!

This Little Black Cormorant (Phalacrocorax sulcirostris) was seen right in Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens. No traveling necessary! Photo by Jason Polak.

3. You need to know the difference between scapulars and tertials to be a birder

That is, you need to know about bird anatomy. A little technical knowledge can enhance bird appreciation but it is not at all necessary for the vast majority of bird identification problems. Most birds are easy to identify. All it takes a field guide and some patience.

Can you tell whether this Cape Barren Goose (Cereopsis novaehollandiae) is male or female? Cause I sure can’t! Photo by Jason Polak.

4. Binoculars are an essential piece of equipment

Many birds can be seen quite easily with the unaided eye, especially in Australia which has huge cockatoos and waterbirds. Even smaller birds can often be easily observed without binoculars. For example Australian Magpies have a complex social structure, easy to see just by sitting on a nearby bench.

Binoculars are useful for certain kinds of birds though. I like them especially for shorebirds and other medium-sized birds that walk around a lot. Then it’s really fun to watch their behaviour up close.

These are definitely useful and fun, but by no means necessary to enjoy birds.

5. Birders are fanatics

If you enjoy watching an identifying birds, you can be a birder. It’s true that some birders like to differentiate between birdwatching, birding, and twitching, but those people are too serious for us bad birders. We just like to enjoy the outdoors, see some birds and other creatures, and have some fun. Don’t think you have to be extreme! Though I sometimes wonder if having a blog makes us bad birders fanatics?

At Terrick-Terrick, we were too tired to try and spotlight the Plains Wanderer. Also, we were afraid of running into spiders. So, no Plains Wanderer for us. Photo by Jason Polak.

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