How a Bird Watching Forum Helped Me Survive the Winter
(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on February 7. 2009. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)
It's usually sometime in July that I get sad about summer ending. I suffer my husband's relentless teasing about my "glass-half-empty" outlook so early in the year. It's not that I'm a pessimist but I really dislike winter. Winter sports hold no interest for me so each autumn, I dread the upcoming chilly season.
When leaves began to fall in my neighborhood this year, I did not feel the same level of distress as previous years. In fact, I was a little excited that soon the backyard canopy would be gone. While leaves provide lovely summer shade, they also prohibit me from clearly seeing birds and taking pictures of visitors to my feeders. I knew that when all leaves had fallen I would at last have a chance for decent bird-watching.
The Bird Watching forum on Dave's Garden (DG) is what got me through last year's winter. With no warm vacation to look forward to and a herniated cervical disk, DG and the view from my home's windows would need to entertain me all season. And indeed they did.
Your Guide to Bird Watching
If you are new to the Bird Watching forum, there is one major rule. Dave's first sticky post simply and directly states "Under no circumstances are members allowed to promote killing, trapping, poisoning or harming birds of any species." Bird-loving DG members and subscribers gladly abide by this mandate and enthusiastically post pictures and stories of feathered friends.
Bird watcher "pelletory" describes the forum as "a comfortable, friendly place for all levels, beginning birders along with more experienced ones… there are all types of photographers (using) point & shoot to more advanced cameras." Helpful Guides and Tips for Bird Watching is another sticky at the top of the forum's thread list. Here you'll find information and/or links, including:
Several ongoing threads spotlight differing aspects of birdwatching. The major continuing topic is the "Daily Pictures" thread. DG members and subscribers post pictures here until the thread hits about 135 posts, the limit for dial-up users to easily view the page. DG subscriber "pelletory" lines up contributors to start each new thread, fairly distributing the turns amongst participants. In the Bird Watching forum's first two years, 166 Daily Pictures volumes were posted.
"Show us your Feeders" reviews different bird feeders and feeding options. Inspiration is found in homemade solutions while informal reviews of manufactured feeders influence buying decisions.
An eagerly anticipated thread this spring is sure to be "Ruby-throated Hummingbirds." The last Hummingbird thread of 2008 was volume 15. As spring draws closer, a reader from the south will be the likely candidate to start the newest thread with spring migrant sightings. At that point, all DGers hungering for a hummingbird sighting will swiftly clean, fill and hang hummingbird feeders around their yards.
If birds are the first love of Bird Watching forum members, laughing is certainly the second. "Captions: It's a Birds World" shows how forum participants like to laugh. The comical concept came from DG subscriber "linthicum," who drew parallels between bird behavior captured in his photographs and that of humans. The idea was instantly a hit and soon everyone wanted to play. Lack of technical expertise in adding captions did not deter the humorists; member "dellrose" found an online application that easily adds captions.
All you need is a sense of humor and a camera to participate in "The Most Disappointing Photo" thread. Conceived by member "Elphaba," this thread is an amusing look at all the "almost" photos of of birds. No matter what a photographer's skill level or equipment, we all have duds and this thread is where we proudly show them off!
In addition to the regular threads, many participants have started ongoing threads to tell stories or present a number of pictures in one location. "2dCousinDave" took readers on a year-long journey of Bluebirds that nest in his yard. Through his pictures, we enjoyed seeing the daily lives of several clutches and parents.
From Australia, "MargaretK's" photo journal of an Osprey family similarly logs the daily occurences of young "Aussie" Osprey. Having viewed it from egg to young adult, all are quite captivated by and proud of our little one.
When members have a large number of bird pictures (more than six) to post, they often begin their own specific bird threads. "Linthicum" provides the most stunning collection of American Bald Eagles, while "MargaretK" allows us a glimpse of colorful birds from "down under." Cold weather brings the Bohemian Waxwings to Alaska where "Grasmussen" photographs the feeding flocks. These photo diaries allow readers detailed views of birds they otherwise might never see.
The Bird Watching forum turned two years old on January 1, 2009. On the forum's first day in 2007, close to 500 posts were made. The continued popularity of the Bird Watching forum has given rise to another forum, "Bird Identification." Previously, requests to identify birds were placed as individual threads. In 2008, a dedicated ID thread found its way to to the forum, where identification buffs provide a name for inquisitive posters. Not long after, the "Bird Identification" forum was created, allowing queries to be closed after resolution.
On Christmas Day 2008, DG bird watching devotees were presented the gift of "Bird Files." Within four weeks, over 1,500 bird records were added to the database "through the collaborative efforts of 101 (as of this writing) people from around the world." This database helps readers identify birds they see in their backyards and the wild. Like PlantFiles and BugFiles on Dave's Garden, the BirdFiles database allows contributors to add informative notes about the bird.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service reports "Approximately 47.7 million people
If the winter has you singing the blues, look no further than your back yard and Dave's Garden to brighten your days… you'll find great stories, photos, and information. You might also make a few crazy friends along the way. I know I did!
Letter to My Bird Friends
I’m so glad you chose my backyard to have a meal or two and graciously allow me to take your photograph. If it would not be too much trouble, I’d like to make a few requests of your stay here:
1) If you would be so kind, please arrive and depart during the hours of favorable daylight. Many of you Northern Cardinals arrive incredibly late in the winter, making picture taking nearly impossible.
2) Would it be too much to ask… please perch long enough for my temperamental focus to fix upon you? This request is especially made to Mr. Brown Creeper and Mr. Ruby-crowned Kinglet. While you’re at it, please choose those cute branches right here in front of my window.
3) When posing for pictures, please face TOWARDS the camera. Bird bum shots are JUST not as interesting to our forum members.
4) Similarly, all you birds with dark faces, please cock your head “just so” to allow the light to hit your eyes.
5) I know you are hungry every day, but making more appearances on sunny days really would be appreciated.
6) And finally, please tell your rare bird friends about my yard, but keep my yard a secret from your glutinous friends like the Starlings and Grackles. You might think it okay to tell just one or two, but then they’ll bring all of their friends. I’m really not equipped for such a backyard bash!
 Bird Watching Forum first day thread
A comical look at photo blunders… "What's your most disappointing photo of the day?!" (Volume 1 begun by "Elphaba")
Watch Aussie grow by visiting the first volume of Raising Aussie Osprey from "MargaretK"
Birds from Down Under (Volume 1) begun by "MargaretK"
Bald Eagle — Our National Symbol (Volume 1) from "linthicum"
Bluebird Thread (most recent) from "2dCousinDave"