Too often I find myself in a rut that many birders are familiar with—limiting my birding to well-known hotspots. With all the responsibilities of day-to-day life, when I find time to bird, I want to be sure I'm going somewhere birdy. The drawback to this strategy is that one can miss the interesting and potentially rare species that invariably haunt less popular nooks and crannies. A good first step to getting out of the hotspot rut is to learn that exceptional bird diversity may be closer to home than you think.
During your daily commute to work or school, save some time to bird in a new location. You never know where rarities might pop up. Unexplored habitat can provide some of the best birding opportunities in an urbanized setting; this includes small woodlots and even cemeteries!
A birder I know learned this firsthand. A stroll along a sidewalk at a small airport piqued his interest enough that he sought permission to conduct a bird survey there. The habitat was on the short, grass fields near the runway. He was astonished to discover dozens of Bobolinks, Eastern Meadowlarks, and Savannah Sparrows. Other feathered gems included Common Yellowthroats, Grasshopper Sparrows, and Eastern Kingbirds.
Beyond finding new places to bird, you can enhance the enjoyment of a new hotspot by chronicling its inhabitants. Create a checklist of all the species you observe and share your discoveries with fellow bird enthusiasts.
To find binoculars to use at birding hotspots, view our Staff Picks.
Article and Eastern Kingbird photo contributed by Mike McDowell, an avid digiscoper, amateur naturalist, and Eagle Optics employee.