Saturday, January 5, 2008

One of the Most Important Birding Skills: Patience

My patience was rewarded with some good views and photographs of a Costa's Hummingbird in Morongo.

Have you ever had a day in which no birds seemed to be out? During which you got there just as the bird every other birder had seen had flown the coop? Every place you go, you clear out the bushes and the trees like a bad party guest? A day when you are pishing in the wind?

In his book A Natural History Guide to the Grand Canyon, Jeremy Schmidt make the statement "In birding, patience is everything." And while it may not be everything literally, his point is that in birding, you must wait for the birds. You are on their time table, not yours. They come in their own good time.

Here is the whole quote:

"It is a birding axiom that you can chase some flitting feathery bundle all day and not get a close look at it; but if you sit still and think of other things, that very bird will soon enough come to you. In birding, patience is everything."

My patience gives me a good view as I wait for a Spotted Towhee to turn around and face my way at San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary.

Sometimes the best birding technique is to plant yourself and wait. You go where birds go and stay there. As you quietly sit, they go about their business which is getting food, drinking water, drinking water, singing their hearts out in Spring, and finding a mate, and nesting material. So place yourself where the birds you want to see go in the course of the day.

My patience pays off as I wait to get a shot of a constantly moving Audubon Yellow-Rumped Warbler at San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary.

Places to stake out:


Streams, ponds, puddles, quiet areas in a wetlands area, a fountain, a bird bath, etc.


A tree full of fruit, a blossom-filled tree blooming in Spring, a woodland floor scattered with acorns, an area with lots of bugs flying around, a wetland area full of muddy food, bird feeders.

Edge Areas

The last bushes before a lawn. The last brushy area next to the pond. The reeds next to the stream through the wetlands. The last trees before the meadow.

Vantage Points or Displaying Areas

Hawks love to sit on high places with no obstructions: Lamp Posts, dead trees, fences. So do hummingbirds, and birds displaying or singing in Spring.

So when you are birding in Orange County, think like a bird. Think habitat, food, water, and romance in the Spring. Go where they go and see what turns up. And above all, patience is the most fundamental birding skill. Patience is everything.

My patience gets me some decent shots of Western Bluebirds as I find out where they are and snap shots for an hour in Mason Regional Park .

External Links and Resources

Audubon: Birding Basics

What it takes including patience to succeed in birding.

Birding at Pigeon Point

Description of how to succeed at birding at Pigeon Point north of Monterey California.

Patience a key to bird photography

Photographing birds takes it to a new level.

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