“To be a good birder, you have to bird a lot.” This grain of wisdom flows straight from the pen (or keyboard, as the case may be) of Pete Dunne in Good Birders Don’t Wear White. As simplistic as this advice may appear, it is entirely true. If you want to be good at birding (or anything, really), you have to do it often—every day, or, even better, twice a day. Or constantly.
That presents a problem for birders, particularly young birders with limited time, transportation, and monetary sources. Birding demands a lot, particularly when your local haunts become boring and you must range farther and farther a field to satisfy your hunger for birds.
Everyone has experienced it. After a year or two of bird accumulation at breakneck speed, you run out of lifers. It is easy to let your binoculars sit on your desk as you become preoccupied with other things in life.
To be a good birder, you have to bird a lot. To be a good birder, you must go birding even when it is boring. Many of the best birders I know visit their favorite spots weekly, even daily. They know when the first migrant Field Sparrow arrives. They know how many pairs of Willow Flycatchers breed in their patch. They know the birds of their patches intimately, and, through this relationship, they know their birds—how to identify them, their status and distribution, and their breeding biology.
So, get yourself a patch and bird it—a lot. It needn’t be a glorified hotspot—your backyard or a park down the street will suffice. Bird it, and keep records! Submit your patch observations to eBird. As the data accumulates, so will your knowledge.
Still need inspiration? Hop over to Don Freiday's blog. This spring, he visited Belleplain State Forest every weekend and published his findings on his blog. The result is impressive.