Getting "out there" is key. But, here are some ways to get more out of that experience and thereby improve your birding skills:

Before going on a field trip, make a list of the birds you are likely to see and check them out in your field guide. Take the list with you and compare that list with the birds that you actually do see. You'll find that your birding skills will improve.

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When out in the field, don't fumble with your field guide, but watch a bird as long as you can, making notes on its appearance and behavior. What is it doing? What size is it? What shape is it? What color? What are its prominent marks? Does it have wingbars, an eyeline, a long tail? Resist the temptation to check the field guide when you can be observing the bird! The bird will eventually fly away, but the bird's picture will remain in the book.

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Three excellent 2011 videos from Cornell depicting the fundemental skills for identifying birds:

Inside Birding: Size and Shape
Inside Birding: Color Pattern
Inside Birding: Behavior
Inside Birding: Habitat

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Bird Watching Basics - An Introduction for Beginning Bird Watchers

Published by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, this has terrific tips for birders at all stages, but is an excellent starting point especially for those new to birding.

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How to ID Birds from Cornell details how to think about the following features when trying to ID a bird: silouette, field marks, posture, size, flight pattern, and habitat.

All About Birds from Cornell is a bit more visually exciting and with similar skill-building advice.

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Video Podcasts related to the new Peterson Field Guide to Birds are educational, free, and FUN. They are divided into four categories: Family Overviews, Species Profiles, Tutorials, and Roger Tory Petersen Biography.

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Join one or more internet mailing lists. They'll keep you apprised of what others are seeing in our area.........or give you a "heads up" as to what birds can soon be expected to migrate through.

Birdbrains: Florida Birds/Natural History
http://listserv.admin.usf.edu/archives/brdbrain.html
FlaBirding: Florida and the Bahamas
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/FlaBirding/
FLORIDABIRDS-L: Statewide list
http://bkpass.tripod.com/floridabirds.htm
SWFLBirdline: Southwest Florida
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SWFLBirdline/

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Join Bird Patrol on our monthly Lakes Park and/or Bunche Beach tours (see Site Tours link for dates and times). Lakes Park is full of woodland birds, as well as waders, especially in the back areas. Bunche Beach is one of the best spots in the county for shorebirds. It's a chance to learn from others.

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Other local groups that have birding field trips that you can hop on to (some charge a fee, others do not).

Sanibel-Captiva Audubon Society

Audubon of Southwest Florida

Caloosa Bird Club

Peace River Audubon

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Buddy-up:  Via email, let the Bird Patrol group know that you would like to visit other sites.........or, let the group know when you are going to YOUR site and invite us to join you.


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Check "Birding Links" on this Bird Patrol web site for other helpful resources

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Google "improve birding skills" from time to time and see what others throughout the world are saying about this.