How to become a birdwatcher in the 21st century!

You have to embrace technology, to make someone into a birder!

Birders, how do you promote your hobby among non-birders? Do you tell them: “It is very easy. All you need are three things. Binoculars, notebook and field-guide”?

WRONG!  That is sooo 1900s!

You have not understood the power of technology! As of this day and age – the 21st century – all a non-birder needs to become a birdwatcher are two things.

  1. A 10-20x optical zoom “point and shoot” camera. Forget about binoculars, at least for the time being. Of course anyone sees the birds better with binoculars, but bring nothing home at the end of the day if only binocs are used. A camera is what makes the difference
  2. Internet connection. To share with friends on Facebook, post the pictures on blogs and direct more experienced birders to these pictures for a positive ID.

A superzoom point and shoot cost between 100-400 dollars. With the free google picassa program the “new birders” can edit the pictures. And with a good photo editing software like Adobe Photoshop, he/she can even reduce noice and grain, improve the colors and delete features that disturbs the picture.

The best feature with a camera vs binoculars is that the camera can be used also for other things than birds. They usually have decent macro and wideangle that makes them great to document loads of things on the naturewalk. Additionally, they have a film function making quite poor quality film in small format, but which is perfect to upload straight away to You-tube.
Ask your kid or just anyone what he/she prefers. Binoculars or a 15x P&S camera? I think you already know the answer!

Here are some examples to illustrate my points.

  • A series of photographs taken by Donna Basset with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28S. To show what one can do for starters.
  • Steve Ingraham’s blog on the topic is helpful. Steve uses a Sony DSC H9. Also check Steve’s other blogposts, becuase there is much to learn about point and shoot photography. Steve, quite obviously has a lot of knowledge about photography and uses the camera’s many functions with perfection. When it comes to shooting at extreme magnification you need to know what you are doing for best results. Having said this, these cameras are quite inexpensive, so anyone can learn a lot just from trial and error. And in case you missed this: You don’t have to pay for film anymore!!
  • A large number of incipient birders in Peru post pictures on the pics and files ID-section of my web-page project Birding Peru. Many of them don’t even own binoculars. Scroll through the lists and and you will find many Peruvian ringing names.
  • I have the privilage knowing Guto Carvalho, who organizes AVISTAR birding festival in Brazil to almost entirely to a Brazilian public. Birdwatching was practically unknown to most Brazilians just a half a decade ago. During the 3rd year of organizing AVISTAR 2008 in Sao Paolo, there were over thirty thousand visitors to the fair. Last year was the second edition of the bird photo competition and over 7000 photos were submitted by close to 5000 photographers of 650 species.
  • Birders and naturalists must start embracing technology rather than shun it. It is the only way, to get nature’s voice heard and to recruit the new generation of nature lovers in this day and age. Below are some examples of cameras available from Amazon. The cheapest one is only 103 dollars! How much binoculars do you get for that, I wonder? The kid would be stuck with something, with absolutely no use – except for birding!

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