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The value of actively observing birds

observing birds
A question David Sibley has asked in the field: How different is the head-on head shape of different songbirds? (Very different; lots more work to do with this.) Field sketch of Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and Nashville Warbler by David Sibley

Tips for improving birding skills usually include the suggestion to carry a notebook and take notes or draw sketches in the field. Your first thought might be, “I can’t draw, and what could I write?” but this misses the point. It doesn’t matter what you write or what your drawings look like. The value of drawing and note-taking is in the process, not the product.

The reason is simple — these things force you to look at details, to become actively engaged in observation. And it doesn’t have to be writing or sketching; just being an active observer has rewards.

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David Sibley

David Sibley

David Sibley writes the column “ID Toolkit” in every issue of BirdWatching. He published the Sibley Guide to Birds in 2000, the Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior in 2001, and Sibley’s Birding Basics in 2002. He is also the author of the Sibley Guide to Trees (2009), the Sibley Guide to Birds-Second Edition (2014), guides to birds of eastern and western North America (2016), and What It’s Like to Be a Bird (2020). He is the recipient of the American Birding Association’s Roger Tory Peterson Award for lifetime achievement in promoting the cause of birding and a recognition award from the National Wildlife Refuge System for his support of bird conservation.

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