The following message is something that I got from a book written
in 1889, by Florence A. Merriam. I found these hints VERY helpful and
I highly recommend them, especially for watching warblers and other
passerines. Enjoy, and good birding!
When you begin
to study the birds in the fields and woods, to guard against scaring
the wary, you should make yourself as much as possible a part of
the landscape. Most birds are not afraid of man as a figure, but
as an aggressive object. The observance of a few simple rules will
help you to be unobtrusive.
First -- Avoid
light or bright-colored clothing. A dull-colored jacket and an
old leaf-colored hat that you can pull over the eyes or push back
from the face as the light requires, will do excellent service
if you do not wish a complete suit.
Second -- Walk slowly and noiselessly. Among the crisp rattling leaves
of the woods, a bit of moss or an old log will often deaden your step at
the critical moment. If possible, avoid stepping on dead twigs.
Third -- Avoid
all quick, jerky motions. How many birds I have scared away by
raising my glass too suddenly!
Fourth -- Avoid
all talking, or speak only in an undertone -- a most obnoxious
but important rule to young observers.
Fifth -- If the
bird was singing, but stops on your approach, stand still a moment
and encourage him by answering his call. If he gets interested
he will often let you creep up within viewing distance. Some of
the most charming snatches of friendly talk will come at such times.
Sixth -- Make
a practice of stopping often and standing perfectly still. In that
way you hear voices that would be lost if you were walking, and
the birds come to the spot without noticing you when they would
fly away in advance if they were to see or hear you coming toward
Seventh -- Conceal
yourself by leaning against a tree, or pulling a branch down in
front of you. The best way of all is to select a good place and
sit there quietly for several hours, to see what will come. Then
you get at the home life of the birds, not merely seeing them when
they are on their guard. A low stump in a raspberry patch and a
log in an alder swamp prove most profitable seats.
In going to look
for birds it is important to consider the time of day, and the
weather. Birds usually follow the sun. In spring and fall you will
find them in the fields and orchards early in the morning, but
when the sun has warmed the south side of the woods they go there;
and in the afternoon they follow it across to the north side. During
heavy winds and storms your are most likely to find birds well
under cover of the woods, no matter at what time of day; and then,
often on the side opposite that from which the wind comes.
For careful observation
in general, three rules may be given.
1) In clear weather be sure to get between the sun and your bird. In the
wrong light a Scarlet Tanager or Bluebird will look as black as a Crow.
2) Gaze. Let your eyes rest on the trees before you, and if a leaf stirs,
or a twig sways, you will soon discover your bird. At a little distance,
it is well to gaze through your glass.
3) Beware of the besetting sin of observers. Never jump to conclusions.
Prove all your conjectures
Over Dutchess, September