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Walking Club 101: A beginners guide to birding

Walking Club 101: A beginners guide to birding
Posted at 4:02 AM, Apr 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-19 08:00:00-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Sarah Phinney has been showing you parks and trails across the Tampa Bay region since July through her #WalkingClub series. Now, she's getting frequently asked questions in the Walking Club Facebook group answered.

April and May are a great time for birding in the Sunshine State, but it can seem a little intimidating for those who don’t know too much about birds! Jeanne Dubi, President of the Sarasota Audubon Society, is breaking down the basics of birding for us. In fact, she says you may already be birding without even realizing it!

What is birding?

Dubi says birding means different things to different people.

“Birding could be a pastime, a hobby, a science,” she said. “And everybody and anybody can participate at any level that they wish.”

Dubi says even looking at birds outside your window in your backyard is considered birding. People often get hooked after learning to identify just a few species.

Where can I go birding?

Dubi says the answer is simple: everywhere!

“One of the wonderful things about Florida is because there is so much water around, we have a really good healthy population of different wading birds,” said Dubi. “They’re large birds so they’re easier to see.”

It’s a good idea to bring binoculars, but some of the large wading birds can be seen with the naked eye.

More advanced birders should head for the woods.

Dubi says birds are most active in the morning between 8 and 10 a.m.

“They’ve been roosting at night. They wake up hungry like we do,” said Dubi. “On good sunny days, they’re finding all the bugs in the trees and in the ground so that’s a good time. They’re also another feeding just before they roost, just before dark.”

What birds are most common in the Tampa Bay area?

Wading birds are the most common in the Tampa Bay area. But, if you take your eyes off the pond and look up, you’ll likely see turkey vultures and black vultures.

“We call those natures cleaners because they’re out there cleaning up all the dead stuff in the roads and in the woods so they’re performing a really vital function,” she said.

According to Dubi, you’re likely to spot cardinals and blue jays in your backyard.

What rare birds can I look for?

Dubi says Florida is on a migration flyway. Many birds spend the winters in South America and breed in North America.

“So in the spring, we look forward to them coming through,” said Dubi.

Some birds only spend a day or two in Florida. Others spend a few weeks.

“Those birds that are transient, migrant, those are the ones that we really, really love to go and find in the woods,” said Dubi.

How can I identify birds?

Dubi says many people used to carry field guides, but now there’s an app for that. She suggests the Audubon Bird App.

Get involved in Walking Club!

Post photos of your adventures, ask questions and learn about upcoming #WalkingClub stories in Sarah’s Walking Club group on Facebook!

You can also keep up with Sarah on Instagram and Twitter.