As a new birder, often that’s all that strikes me. They call it beginner’s luck in birding because it seems like you are always seeing new things but in my opinion it’s because you have no idea what you are seeing most of the time so every new sound or shape you see registers as “different”. If you are me, you snap a photo just in case and so by luck of the draw interesting things get mixed in there.
Twice in a week in two different locations I’ve photographed Lincoln’s Sparrows mixed in with large groups of Song Sparrows. At the time I didn’t even know I was viewing Lincoln’s but what registered in my mind was that something about it was different and I should snap a photo of that one. I wish both times I had called it out to the birders I was with who would have loved to have seen one of those birds, but at the time I didn’t even know it was there. Lincoln’s are uncommon (or just really shy) so you don’t expect to see them and from a distance it would be very hard to tell what they are, but a 50 zoom camera snapping “different” things will pick up a lot and make you look like a much more experienced birder then you are sometimes. And my camera’s birding abilities currently far exceed my own.
And so it goes that there is a lot to know and a lot to see and it takes a lot of knowledge to see all that is there. After being exposed to a particular bird many times eventually you will actually know without having to confirm with photos and without a doubt most of the time. But even the experts can’t always agree so don’t beat yourself up for not knowing everything and arm yourself with as much field experience as possible.
On another note, it’s amazing I’m ever right about IDs with how often I’m wrong. In fact just the other day I was thrilled to see 40 Cackling Geese which turned out to be small Canada Geese. Hey what do I know? But from spending time with more experienced birders its clear there is no other way to learn. You have to put in your 10,000 hours I guess. And with so many birds you might have to put in 10,000 per bird really. I mean to really know something you have to give it more than a glance in a field guide or match up a photo. In the end whatever birds you watch the most you will know the most about, and you can learn as much about them all or a few of them as you choose in as many settings as you fancy. It is limitless and provides a lifetime of learning and for that I am grateful to be on-board.
I recently started reading the Kaufman Field Guide to Advanced Birding and it starts more or less by saying this (which was a huge aha moment for me) and an immense amount of in depth birding info I’m just starting to sort through. So clearly I am not the first person who thought any of these things. They are just the stepping stone to the world behind the bird that matches the picture on the internet or in the book. It’s a realm I truly look forward to.
Honestly I will probably not recognize the next Lincoln’s Sparrow I see in the field unless it is alone and stays put for an extended period of time and clearly matches the example in my field guide. Although I have had 3 sightings of 3 different specimens in 3 different locations that nowhere near classifies being an expert on Lincoln’s Sparrows. But I might be able to master Robins or Starlings or those tricky little Song Sparrows. And someday will master that Lincoln’s too.
I don’t expect to be bored by birding anytime soon.
My favorite shots of new to me birds from my past couple of birding adventures in Halifax, Nova Scotia.