I am headed east, Vermont exactly, for a good friend’s wedding and I hope to get a little birding in! To prepare I have pulled up the Vermont bird list on the wonderful Sibley app and am going through each family of birds and categorize them into the environments where I am likely to find them. I have found that if I list the birds I will see in trees or fields or marshes, I have a better chance of narrowing down what they might be.

This reminds me of the number one bird id exercise that David Sibley, internationally renowned bird expert, mentions first when asked “how can I start identifying birds?” His answer is to pick up a guide book and studying the families of birds. Pick out a few birds you see regularly and start identifying! Starting in your own yard is recommended.

The first bird I did this with was a song sparrow and they continue to be one of my favorite birds and a frequent visitor to my back porch. Knowing the shape of a sparrow bill, similar in all sparrows, I was able to get to the right family. Then it was a process of elimination using size, color of feathers, legs and bill and other small details. After that process, I had a few choices and was able to stand strong with my decision that it was a song sparrow. The song sparrow is mostly brown and has these amazing gray stripes on its head and one large brown spot on it’s chest.

With birds I saw in the field, if I was able to take a picture, I would look at it on the computer at home and go through the same process, This helped build the number of birds I am now able to identify on sight. Watching their movements is also a good way to narrow down the choices.

Looking at the list of birds I hope to see in Vermont, I am going to be very busy! Wish me luck!

Please join the First Sunday bird. The next one will be on Sept. 4, so if you’re in town, join us at 9 a.m. at the Lagoon Trail on Second Street. Bring binoculars and wear appropriate clothing. Everyone is welcome!

Susan has spent her life enjoying the great outdoors from the lakes and woods of northern Minnesota, Mount Adams in Washington and now the Oregon beach environs. After spending many pleasurable hours driving her avid birder parents around, she has taken up birding as a passion, to the mixed emotions of her husband Scott. The Boacs reside on Neawanna Creek in Seaside where their backyard is a birder’s paradise (confirmed).

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