Posted by Dan Arndt
As a relatively new “serious” birder, I have a confession to make. Until about a year ago, I couldn’t tell you the difference between a Gadwall and a Northern Shoveler, a Bohemian Waxwing and a Cedar Waxwing, or in most cases, a Red-tailed Hawk and a Swainson’s Hawk. A lot of my job entails a lot of detail oriented work, that can be relatively monotonous, and I found that listening to something helped while away the time. I stumbled across Sharon Stiteler’s Birdchick podcast, and immediately knew that I’d found something great.
It’s not for everyone, and can sometimes get a little “blue”, but I find that it covers a lot of great birding news and information in North America, and it’s incredibly funny too. One of the things that Sharon has been great at promoting is the idea that birders really should just get to know each other better. Whether it be just to chat, share stories and experiences, or just as importantly, to be approachable not only to each other, but to folks who are completely inexperienced and who want to become more “serious” birders.
One of the greatest ideas for this is her “Birds and Beers” meetups, which are held semi-regularly, and generally well attended. I’m involved in a similar sort of meetup here in Calgary, with another group that I am involved with, the Calgary Skeptics, and we’ve run these events solidly for the past three years with good success and good turnout.
I agree with Sharon. Birders, especially those with a ton of experience, can be a little intimidating to talk to. Gulls, flycatchers, warblers, shorebirds, and many, many other groups can be very hard to identify properly, and no one wants to say “Hey, look at that Tennessee Warbler!” when you’re not entirely sure if it’s a Tennessee, a Nashville, an Orange-crowned, or even just a female Wilson’s Warbler. That goes doubly so when you’ve got incredibly experienced birders around who, one might expect, would be quick to chastise you for making an incorrect ID. What I’ve learned though, is that EVERYONE misidentifies birds. Even the most experienced and revered birders in the Calgary community have made mistakes, and will continue to make mistakes in the future. It’s really one of the only ways to get better!
But don’t take it from me. Come out to Calgary’s inaugural Birds and Beers on Thursday, May 10, 2012. We’ll be meeting at the Joyce on Fourth Irish Pub at 7:00 PM, and I definitely hope to see you and many others in Calgary’s birding community out there!