Friday, May 31, 2019

5 Birding Tips for Beginners

Birding can be as relaxing or as adventurous as you want it to be. Watching out the window from the comfort of your recliner at home, a leisurely stroll in the park, or a trip to your local wildlife refuge where you don't know what kind of birds you're going to spot. Every time we go out in search of birds, it's not only fun but an eye-opening learning experience. So, today I thought I'd share a few tips to help you get started in this wonderful, inexpensive, life-enriching hobby.

1. It's easy to get overwhelmed, but don't! Learning to identify the birds you see takes time and is completely worth it. You don't just jump into learning and mastering a new language in one day. Same thing with birding.

Like anything else, birding takes practice. At first, you might not know the difference between a finch and sparrow, but in good time you will. The more you see of different birds (and the same ones, too), you'll learn to identify their differences, no matter how subtle they might be. A little stripe here, a dash of coloring there just might be the difference between two different species.

Wings and Daydreams birding blog
American Kestrel

2. Be patient. Birds don't always like to cooperate with your eyes or your camera. Waterbirds and shorebirds are larger and easier to spot, but they will fly away if you get too close. Imagine how wonderful it must be to be able to spread your wings and fly away at the first sign of trouble! Ah well, that's another post for another day.

Littler birds are even more difficult to pin down. Take warblers, for instance. Yellow-rumped Warblers can be the most frustrating to get photos of (at least for me anyway.) And don't even get me started on Mountain Chickadees. I'm sure every birder has one that continues to elude their eager camera lens.Yellow-rumped Warblers are quite possibly one of the cutest little birds I've ever seen and yet I can't seem to get a decent photo of one to save my life. Maybe that's part of what makes them so special.

There's a lot of luck involved when birding, and more often than not we find ourselves in "right place at the right time" scenarios.

Wings and Daydreams birding blog

3. Go easy on yourself. I've misidentified birds before (and still do!), only to have someone point it out to me here on my blog or on social media. There's always going to be someone better or more experienced than you, but that's all apart of the learning process I mentioned earlier.

Birds' plumage can vary greatly between summer/winter, male/female, and young/adult. Some birds (like Red-tailed Hawks) can even stump experts because there are so many different forms and variations.
American Robin

4. Get ready for an adventure. Not only are you opening yourself up to new knowledge about the wildlife around you, you're giving yourself the opportunity to see and experience the extraordinary. Spotting a Vermilion Flycatcher in a cemetery in Northern California continues to be one of the greatest experiences of my life. (Read more about that particular birding adventure here). Birds can go way off course from their migratory route and end up giving you the thrill of a lifetime!

You truly never know what you're going to see each time you raise those binoculars up to your eyes. Isn't that the reason for watching birds in the first place? The possibility of spotting something rare? You betcha!

Wings and Daydreams California birding blog
Red-tailed Hawk

5. Appreciate each sighting, no matter how common. No matter how many White-crowned Sparrows I encounter, I still love each and every one of them. I enjoy seeing them wherever I go--the mountains, the coast, and especially in my own backyard. They genuinely feel like friends, popping in to say hello, and I take pride in knowing that the ones with brown stripes on their heads instead of white are young juveniles.

Every bird is special and unique in its own way, and it's up to you to never take that fact for granted.

Wings and Daydreams California birding blog
Yellow-billed Magpie

I hope you find these tips helpful for when you're just starting out on birding adventures of your own. May you see flocks that take your breath away and individual birds that remind you that there is indeed an abundant supply of beauty still left in the world.

Happy Birding!
Rachelle Vaughn

Let's go birding!
Follow me on Instagram Book

northern california birdwatching

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The End of Spring ☼ Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge

Beautiful purple calico flowers (Downingia) are what's left of the superbloom at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.

Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge California

Here's a video of the birds we saw on the auto tour route in late May, including Red-winged Blackbird, an American Bittern eating a fish, Western Kingbird, an American Avocet sitting on a nest on the island at the Pool 2 extension, Downy Woodpecker, and Ring-necked Pheasant...

Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge California

Let's go birding!
Follow me on Instagram Follow Book

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Moment of Zen ☼ Western Kingbird

I could have watched this Western Kingbird catch bugs on the Logan Creek Trail of the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge all day long!

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Relaxing Birds in Nature ☼ Videos to Help You Relax ☼ Calm Music

This is the second video in my series of relaxation videos featuring beautiful birds in nature. You can find the first video here.


Let's go birding!
Follow me on Instagram Follow Book

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

He's Back! ☼ Backyard Birding with Mr. Bullock


Every year around this time, our handsome Hooded Oriole makes an appearance with his beautiful lady-friend. I didn't get any postable photos of her, but here's the man himself, making use of the facilities...

Sunday, May 19, 2019

NorCal Birding ☼ Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge

Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge California
You know you've had a good day of birding when you come away with over 500 photos!

We saw so many different birds during our latest drive through the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge that I had to split up all the footage into a few different videos.
Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge California

Today's video includes: Great Blue Heron, Greater Yellowlegs, Red-tailed Hawk, Black-necked Stilt, Prairie Falcon, White-faced Ibis, Marsh Wren, White Pelicans, Double-crested Cormorant, Western Kingbird, Black Phoebe, Western Meadowlark, Snowy Egret, Yellow-rumped Warbler, White-crowned Sparrow, and even some Pond Turtles!

It'd mean a lot to me if you subscribed to my YouTube channel! If YouTube isn't your thing, be sure to follow me on Twitter and Instagram where I'll be posting the best photos from the refuge.

☼ Happy Birding ☼

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Lassen Birding Firsts

Every time we walk around beautiful Manzanita Lake in Lassen Volcanic National Park, we have such a wonderful time! The bird sightings are just a bonus to all the breathtaking scenery and crisp mountain air. Well, this time we spotted some special birds for the first time ever and I'm thrilled to add three new names to our lifelist.

First up, the Evening Grosbeaks around the lake were the stars of the show. Imagine my excitement when this beauty posed for us and ate some forest floor snacks off the ground right in front of us!

 This guy is so cool he's gotta wear shades!
If it weren't for this beauty's lively song, I never would have looked up and spotted its flash of bright yellow in the tree above me. One shiny new Western Tanager sighting...Check.
 And finally, here is my first-ever Red-breasted Sapsucker...
They might not be the greatest bird photos I've ever taken, but hey, they're good enough to allow me to identify him and that's all that matters!

Watch this Evening Grosbeak in action...

Let's go birding!
Follow me on Instagram Follow Book

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Moment of Zen ☼ Black-necked Stilts at Sacramento NWR

Take a moment to enjoy the beautiful Black-necked Stilts of the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge in northern California...

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Birding at Gray Lodge Wildlife Area ☼ Gridley, California

The Gray Lodge Wildlife Area is one of my favorite places to go birding in northern California. Between the wide variety of birds and the picturesque views of the Sutter Buttes, this area definitely makes my short list of birding hotspots.

Birds featured in the video from our recent visit include American White Pelicans, Bewick's Wren, Black Phoebe, Spotted Towhee, Greater Yellowlegs, White-faced Ibis, American Avocet, Black-necked Stilt, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Phainopepla, Brewer's Blackbird, Western Scrub-Jay, Cinnamon Teal, Marsh Wren, Tri-colored Blackbird, Western Kingbird, Killdeer, Golden-crowned Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, and Turkey Vultures. Phew! That's a lot of birds!

You can find all of my posts about Gray Lodge HERE.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

My Backyard Say's Phoebe Returns

This adorable little Say's Phoebe keeps returning to my backyard on a regular basis, so I've decided it's time to give him/her a name. Any suggestions?

Who needs a bug zapper when you've got your own flycatcher?!

Wednesday, May 1, 2019


Boy, oh boy, it's been a long time since I've been able to add a new bird to my lifelist! I'm happy to report that we saw something new (and rare to the area) at the Gray Lodge Wildlife Area. Drumroll please...

May I present Phainopepla!

I didn't even know how to say it and had to look it up! It's pronounced fey-ahy-noh-pep-luh.

We saw a few birds flittering around in the trees and I thought they were probably just blackbirds until one of them flew and we noticed the white on the wings. Never assume anything while you're birding!

The second we heard it's call, we knew it was a bird we hadn't encountered before. We were able to get some decent photos and had no idea what this bird could be. It wasn't even on my radar!

Birding is such a great adventure. You never know what you might find and it might even be a bird with a mowhawk and red eyes!

Stay tuned next week for the video from our visit to the Gray Lodge Wildlife Area...

Let's go birding!
Follow me on Instagram Follow Book