I’m an excellent wildlife spotter and I owe it all to my parents who must have taught me some keen powers of observation when I was young. My kids are quickly surpassing my abilities with my son spotting desert bighorn and my daughter with her deer and bobcat sightings. You can be good at it, too!
Whether you are on a walk or sitting on a bench, start by scanning your general surroundings.
#1 – Look for color
Most things in your Southern California environment will be brown and green right now. Do you think you could spot a Snowy Egret (black bill and yellow feet) or Great Egret (yellow bill and black feet)?
Easy, huh? Those guys really stand out!
#2 – Look for movement and listen for sounds
As I’m scanning, I’m looking for something that moves and listening in the bushes for sounds. Do you see anything?
Luckily, this guy moved and I spotted him.
It’s a Black-crowned Night Heron.
And you may even see a bird of prey hunting. First they glide over vacant lots, streams and ponds or other open space. Then they do a classic flapping motion before dropping in to get their prey.
#3 – Look for shapes where they don’t belong
Round shapes don’t belong in spiky trees. I can almost always spot nests and “round” birds by scanning trees for some shape that doesn’t fit.
Being excellent at spotting doesn’t mean I’m any good at identification, but there are books and rangers to help me with that! I hope this inspires you to go for a walk or find a bench to see what you can see! We are especially lucky to have this beautiful January weather to go out and explore.
Michele Whiteaker promotes outdoor play on the #1 Unofficial Online Guide to Parks and Playgrounds in Orange County: FunOrangeCountyParks.com.