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Bird Identification - Tips for newbies

Identify and index birds in Southern Africa

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onewithnature
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Bird Identification - Tips for newbies

Unread postby onewithnature » Sat Mar 28, 2009 1:44 am

I'm very new to LBJ identification, so please be patient with my (seemingly dumb) questions!
What is the best way to begin identifying these little critters? What should I be looking for as a priority, as often they fly by so quickly that I don't have much chance of even knowing to what group they belong. Once I sat for an hour-and-a-half trying to figure out which cisticola I was seeing, and I couldn't resolve it for sure - it sort of looked kind of like that one, but not exactly!
Should I just join a bird club; although I think being able to add a lifer by self-identification must be the most rewarding.
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Re: Bird Identification - Tips for newbies

Unread postby MountainChats » Sat Mar 28, 2009 12:03 pm

Hi, I am new to forms but old hand at birding.
A club is a wonderful idea, some birders are a wonderful source of knowledge. Always first try to see family, you obviously have, you know cisticola, pipit, lark etc. Then try to find a distinctive feature - white outer tail feather (if you are so lucky), beak & leg colour, habits, etc. In cisticola the area (near water, woodland etc) and call are important. But LBJ's stay LBJ's good luck.
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Re: Bird Identification - Tips for newbies

Unread postby Imax » Sat Mar 28, 2009 10:58 pm

One of the old hands (either WTM or JVR) once did an id where they put down a kind of process of elimination, but i just cant find it again.

I do however use it and it basically goes like this (for Cisticolas):
1. Distribution - Eliminate all that are out of the area.
2. bill colour - some have all black bills and some have pale lower bills. - so eliminate all those with the wrong colour bills.
3. Streaking on the head - is it plain or streaked.
4. Tail length and posture - short or long tail, flicked up or not.

By the time you reach 4 you should be left by at most three species, then the colouring of the tail - darker or rufous and wing colouring comes in, and hopefully you can end up with one possibility

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Re: Bird Identification - Tips for newbies

Unread postby onewithnature » Sun Mar 29, 2009 12:04 am

Ohhhhh, so you actually have a flow chart for each species type?
That would certainly help!
However, I don't feel so bad knowing that some birds are really difficult to identify (or so it seems)! I've seen raptors with colours that aren't in any serious book that I could find! So there must be several possible variations not listed with some species, I guess?
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Re: Bird Identification - Tips for newbies

Unread postby JenB » Sun Mar 29, 2009 4:30 am

OWN, raptors and LBJ's are the Achilles' heel for many birders, don't feel alone. Have a look at: A Practical Bird ID System. Please also try your hand at the Bird ID Challenges. Personally I think that is the most helpful thread on the Bird form. :wink:
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Re: Bird Identification - Tips for newbies

Unread postby onewithnature » Sun Mar 29, 2009 4:56 am

Thanks a lot, JenB, for the excellent information. I had a look at your suggestions and can already see the value of it! Great, I'll work on things - maybe one day I'll have some decent LBJs and raptors under my belt!
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Re: Bird Identification - Tips for newbies

Unread postby onewithnature » Sat Apr 11, 2009 3:26 am

Are there any worthwhile birding courses that the bird-lovers could recommend to us green-behind-the-ears birders?
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Re: Bird Identification - Tips for newbies

Unread postby JenB » Sat Apr 11, 2009 3:41 am

Yes OWN, I'll point you back in this direction. Practice makes perfect and what is more, it's right here on this forum! :wink:
JenB wrote: Please also try your hand at the Bird ID Challenges. Personally I think that is the most helpful thread on the Bird form. :wink:
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Re: Bird Identification - Tips for newbies

Unread postby onewithnature » Sat Apr 11, 2009 3:50 am

Pay attention, OWN! That's the thread / course to pay attention to; and I'll be an expert one of these days too ... :pray:

Thanks again Jen! :thumbs_up:
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Re: Bird Identification - Tips for newbies

Unread postby Batmad » Mon Apr 13, 2009 11:25 pm

Im sure you will make a great expert OWN :thumbs_up:

you doing a great job on the quizes aswell!! :wink:
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Re: Bird Identification - Tips for newbies

Unread postby onewithnature » Tue Apr 21, 2009 3:20 am

Thanks Batmad - just trying to emulate you, and Imberbe, and I won't mention all the other wonderful names in case I leave someone out and offend them. Suffice it to say that I think we're all a wonderful group of budding quiz experts! A team magnifique!! But, in all humility, I doubt anyone can truly be an expert on Nature - one small area, yes; but Nature in general ...? We can but gasp in awe and appreciate everything by learning more about it. And then emulating the applicable lessons so that mankind can reach some form of respect and appreciation and harmony with the great world he lives in.

Thanks to you all ...

Now to that LBJ I just saw ... oh noooo!!!! What eeze eet?
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Re: Bird Identification - Tips for newbies

Unread postby onewithnature » Tue Apr 21, 2009 4:10 am

Another question that has dogged me for ages:

When one sees a small bird fly into a tree, how fast or slow should one approach, and how closely?

I mostly find that, if I drive up quickly, it usually stays put and continues on its daily chores, unless I get too close - and how close too close is I'm not sure. If I drive too slowly, then the bird is usually gone before I get time to view it with binocs; small birds are highly active. And reversing (if I have driven past a bird) is a big problem, because virtually every bird simply takes off immediately! In addition, I find that switching off the engine has the effect often of the bird fleeing too.
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Re: Bird Identification - Tips for newbies

Unread postby onewithnature » Mon May 11, 2009 4:12 am

This question is still burning in me:
When one sees a small bird fly into a tree, how fast or slow should one approach, and how closely?
Hey, any stiffneckers with some advice?
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Re: Bird Identification - Tips for newbies

Unread postby Batmad » Sun May 24, 2009 7:00 pm

You should approach fairly slowly and constantly stop to look in the tree with your binos. try not to make any sounds such as stepping onleaves this might draw the attention of the bird and it might fly away.

I once was looking for a Grey headed bush shrike at letaba and it flew out of the tree with a few others so i ran around camp (literally sprinting) looking in each tree it flew to and eventualy it stopped and i had a great sighting of it!
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Re: Bird Identification - Tips for newbies

Unread postby onewithnature » Sun May 24, 2009 11:47 pm

Thanks Batmad! Good advice. I suppose the same applies to cars? I have noticed that driving up to the tree where the bird in seldom causes them to flee, but if one passes the tree and then reverses, for some reason the reversing causes the bird to fly away in almost all cases!
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