Birder's Guide

MAY 2015

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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14 Birder's Guide to Conservation & Community | May 2015 Young Birders Start-Up oculars. It's great if you can acquire a supply of loaner binoculars that will ft young bird- ers. But even with the binocular orientation at the start of our feld trips, getting a look at a fast-moving bird can be diffcult for many young birders. For many kids, the highlight of the trip may be that eye-popping look through your high-quality spotting scope. Getting a great view of a few birds is more memorable than getting a feeting glimpse at most birds on your trip list. Just don't forget that if you can look com- fortably through your spotting scope, your tripod is probably too high to be comfort- able for shorter birders! Angled spotting scopes that can be rotated work well for observers of different heights. Our Best Advice You've carefully structured your organiza- tion, set up a full calendar, recruited vol- unteers, built your website, and spread the word far and wide. All the planning and attention to detail is critical, but once the feld trip is in motion, pour all of your energy into making this an unforgettable experience for your young birders. Birders often talk about their spark bird—that un- forgettable experience with an individual bird. But for many, there is also a spark per- son who patiently answers your questions, generously shares information, consistently encourages your efforts, and serves as a role model and mentor. If you are involved with a young birder organization, this is your primary goal and most important contri- bution. Facts and identifcation details are great, but these can also be found in a good feld guide. It's your own passion and fun with birds and birding that will have the greatest impression on young people! Many individuals and organizations have played a key role in the launch and develop- ment of Iowa Young Birders, including our vol- unteer board of directors, the American Birding Association; Iowa Ornithologists' Union; Iowa Audubon; volunteer trip leaders; many local or- ganizations and site hosts for feld trips; Eagle Optics; Birdwatching.com; and all the parents, families, friends, and young birders. In addi- tion, numerous other young birder organiza- tions have been unfailingly helpful and willing to share information and ideas. bunches—groups of more than 20 tend to string out, which makes it diffcult for leaders to engage with young birders. • Avoid narrow trails, which inevitably stretch the group into a long line and make it very diffcult to communicate and engage with participants. • Hand out paper checklists or other ma- terials AFTER the feld trip. This encour- ages kids to keep their heads up and to interact more. • Don't use feld guides during the trip; better to encourage young birders to ac- tually look at what they are seeing and try to describe it to you. You can check the feld guides beforehand to prepare for likely species or afterwards to con- frm an identifcation. • Don't have too many adult birders (no matter how experienced or well-inten- tioned): this inevitably shifts the group dynamic away from a focus on young birders. We try to have no more than one trip leader for roughly every fve young birders. • Look for opportunities to connect the birds you encounter with habitat and conservation issues. Talk about what the bird is doing (feeding, nesting, migrating, hiding) and how particular birds are in- teracting with each other and the habitat. • These tips and more are in our Iowa Young Birders Field Trip Protocol on our website. 7 Use Your Spotting Scope, and Adjust the Height Many young birders don't have suitable bin- around Iowa and beyond. Reaching out to other young birder groups in nearby states or regions to plan joint events is a powerful way to build an expanding net- work of friends for your young birders. 5 Require Advance Registration for Events We don't charge a fee for feld trips, but we do require advance online registra- tion. (Note: We do charge fees to cover costs for some of our special events.) It can be time-consuming to track all this information, but it has been incredibly helpful by giving us: • Advance notice of our approximate group size so we can have enough vol- unteer leaders on hand and be ready to divide into smaller feld parties (some of our trips have had over 40 individuals!). • A printed roster of trip participants so we can check off arriving families (many of whom we can greet by name, thanks to our list!). • Ability to send an email reminder in ad- vance with details on exactly where to meet, expected weather conditions, and what to bring. • Ability to cancel a trip due to dangerous weather using text messages or phone calls (we've had to do this twice). • Contact information for sending a post- trip survey or alert that we've posted a trip report and photos on our website. • An email list for sending a monthly e- newsletter with upcoming events and news. Our online registration form includes a liability release and photo permission that can be signed electronically, which elimi- nates paper for everybody. 6 Plan Your Field Trips Here's a quick look at key parts of feld trip planning: • Pick easy-to-fnd locations with ad- equate parking and nearby restrooms. • Have enough equipment for everyone. We bring loaner binoculars and at least one spotting scope. • Plan a walking route that starts and ends at your parking location; change loca- tions by car as little as possible. • Be prepared to break into smaller Eighteen young birders explored Ledges State Park during Iowa Young Birder Day in August 2013. In the afternoon, we visited Iowa State University and learned about college and career opportunities in ornithology. Photo © Carl Bendorf

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