Date: 6/20/20 9:26 am
From: Paul Sullivan <paultsullivan...>
Subject: [obol] Helping others get on a good bird
Recently I was birding with friends who found a good bird. I wanted to see
the bird, but they struggled to help me get on it. It was frustrating.

I have been leading bird walks and trips for nearly 40 years, and I've
developed some techniques for helping others get on a bird quickly. I've
written an article for publication that I hope will come out in the
not-too-distant future. Meanwhile, let me offer a brief summary.


If you find a good bird the first step is to communicate. Don't stammer and
say, "I don't know how to tell you where it is." Communicate all that you
know, not just "hawk!", but 'Hawk flying, on the right side of the road,
going left, below the horizon." Don't make people ask, "Is it flying?
Which side of the road?" Which way is it going?"


If the bird is moving, time is of the essence. Say if the bird is flying,
swimming, or walking and which way it's going.

Divide the scene into quadrants: Which side of the road, above or below the
horizon, ahead of the car or behind, on the fence or in the road.


If the bird is perched and hard to find, look carefully with your
binoculars. Note the branches near it. Lock onto the bird with your eyes,
lock your neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists. Then swivel JUST YOUR SHOULDERS
to lower your binoculars and see the bird with your naked eye. Note the
surroundings, the context. Put your binoculars back up and refind the bird.
Do this a couple times to make sure you have the location. This only takes
a few seconds.

Once you have the "big picture" of where the bird is, DEVELOP A NARRATIVE to
lead others to the spot. Pick out an unambiguous landmark in the area and
lead others from that landmark to the bird.

Example: Across the prairie there are two red barns. Start with the
right-hand barn. In front of it, slightly right, is a lone Ponderosa pine
in a fence row. Count 5 fence posts to the right of that tree and you'll
find the Great Gray Owl.

Example: Out here in the flats there are 3 strips of water. Look at the
farthest strip. In the middle of that strip, on the near shore, next to a
tall brown weed is a shorebird, facing right. That is a Willet.


Before you get down to the detail of where the bird is, describing a branch
with a funny crook, crossing in front of another branch, you need to get
people on the right tree, then on the left side of the trunk, then in the
top 10 feet of the tree, then half-way out from the trunk to the tip of the

Example: Look at this big P. pine right here. Go back to the maple behind
it on the left. The birds are in that tree. Look at the longest branch on
the left side of the maple. Go up one more branch which is just above the
horizon. Half way out on that branch are two Band-tailed Pigeons.


Next, repeat your directions for the person who came late to the narrative.
Say the name of the species again, for the person who asks, "What are we
looking for?"


Finally, help the person who is standing where something is blocking their
view, or who just doesn't get what you're talking about. The person who
says, "Oh, THAT tree. I thought you meant this one."

If the bird goes out of sight, say so. Tell people when it comes back into
view. Tell them it's a female, so they aren't looking for a bright male.

Finally, praise the person who found it first. Acknowledge your mistakes.

Good bird-sharing,

Paul Sullivan

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