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The value of actively 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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