I subscribe to a free e-mail list for birders--a place where fanatics like me can post their bird sightings and share information. Recently one person wrote to the group looking for advice. She was a beginning birder who claimed to have seen all the "common" birds in her backyard and neighborhood and wanted to know how to expand her "life list." A birder in Palatine, suggested that she join the local bird clubs and go on all their field trips.” Great answer, I thought.
For me, keeping pace with one birding club is hard enough, and if I attended all of its schedules field trips I'd have to quit work and resign from my family. But there's no doubt that joining a club opens up opportunities to see more birds. The outings focus on local “hot spots,” and the leaders are usually experts who can identify virtually any bird by sight or sound. Plus, you’ll generally see a greater variety of species when birding in a small group, simply because more people are looking and listening.
We are fortunate to have two excellent birdwatching clubs in this area: the DuPage Birding Club and the Kane County Audubon Society. Joining either one would be a great way to take your interest in birds to the next level.
Members of these clubs range from beginners to highly advanced birders. Some watch birds primarily in their backyards; some have birded all over the world. But the wide range of experience and skill levels is not a problem. Most birders, I’ve found, are friendly and helpful--another reason why this hobby is so easy to enter. The expert birders seem to really enjoy the teaching role. In the field, they go out of their way to help beginners see and identify the birds.
When I moved to Glen Ellyn seven years ago, I knew nothing about the local bird scene. The DuPage Birding Club was just what I needed. The club’s meetings, guest speakers, newsletter and field trips brought me up to speed quickly. Without the club, I may have never participated in the Christmas Bird Count, gone on a woodcock watch or “discovered” some of this area’s best birding sites. There’s something very motivating about these clubs--they'll get you out and about, to places you might never go on your own.
The DuPage Birding Club was founded in 1985 and has more than 200 members. Meetings are held at Faith Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn. For more information, visit www.dupagebirding.org. To receive a sample newsletter, call (630) 778-6672.
Kane County Audubon is 38 years old with about 110 members. Most meetings take place at Peck Farm in Geneva. For more information, including a sample newsletter, call (630) 584-8386, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You needn’t be a member to attend a club meeting or field trip. Give one a try and guests are always welcome. Even if you participate in a small fraction of a club’s activities, you’re bound to meet some nice people who share your passion for birds. That’s the greatest club benefit of all.
Copyright 2004 by Jeff Reiter. All rights reserved.