Kevin Grandfield, a Wilmette reader, wondered about finding mentors for birding a couple weeks ago.
I forwarded the question to Alan Anderson, a Des Plaines birder who has done many things in the birding world, including for the Chicago Audubon Society.
Joys, such as catching a hummingbird at the feeder above the petunias, are worth sharing.
Anderson's suggestions were wide-ranging enough that I shortened them greatly for the Sun-Times today, but, as promised, here's his extended answer:
As far as mentors, I only have a bit of advice. I have more info for 'new birders' but finding a mentor might take some luck. It's probably a 'group of mentors' he'd get, but perhaps someone will have more time to spend with him or other new birders.
I'm not sure how many local birders are members of this, but he should check out: http://www.birdingpal.org/. He might find someone near him on this group. New birders should either/or/and:
(The specifics follow.)
1) join a bird club/Audubon chapter closest to their hometo find them, the easiest way is to go to the links on BCN website: http://www.bcnbirds.org/about.html (links at the bottom of this 'page')
2) attend meetings and field trips of their local bird clubs (I joined CAS and COS as soon as I could after getting interested in birds, and went on a number of their trip and meetings - as well as the 'old' Academy of Sciences trips with Bill Beecher, and learned so much by doing so)to find out about those in 'one shot' check out: http://www.illinoisbirds.org/calendar/ By joining a club and attending meetings and trips, new birders can find out where the best birding spots are, how to 'bird them', and meet all sorts of helpful birders, as well as find out how to ID birds, and get all sorts of tips.
By asking around at meetings/trips, they might find someone who lives close to them, who can join them for a smaller group trip/outing, which of course is helpful for mentoring.
Since your reader lives in Wilmette, I would suggest he definite join or attend the Evanston North Shore Bird Club events. he should check out : http://www.ensbc.org/
I would recommend the following weekly fall/spring trips for new birders (where new birders are welcome, and they will get some special attention): - COS sponsored bird walks at North Pond (Geoff Williamson is a very helpful, friendly and knowledgeable birder and will often go out of his way to help newer birders)
Wednesdays in Sept and OCt (see birding calendar above for details) - Wooded Island Wed. and Sat. birdwalks with Doug Anderson of CAS. Soon after I started birding in 1974. I met Doug at a Field Museum program, and he invited me to his walks at Wooded Island (he was leading them four days a week then). He was SO helpful to me as a new birder. And he's still leading walks there 34 years later! He's an amazing man! (and no relation to me) - CAS sponsored bird walks at North Park Village Nature Center on Saturdays in Sept. and October. From the CAS website ( www.chicagoaudubon.org ):September and October. Every Saturday at 8:00 a.m. Chicago Audubon Autumn Birdwalks. North Park Village Nature Center. 5801-D North Pulaski Road.
Chicago Audubon's regular Saturday morning walks for the Fall season. Join us to learn about birds and their habitats while walking with new and seasoned birders through the beautiful woods surrounding the Nature Center. The walks are led by expert birders. For information, call the Chicago Audubon office at (773) 539-6793. All levels of birders are welcome!
Chicago's Jackson Park. Wednesdays at 7:00 a.m. and Saturdays at 8:00 a.m. These wonderful walks will continue through the year, up to New Year's Day. Bring binoculars and field guides and please dress for the weather. Many species of songbirds and water birds are seen. Meet at Clarence Darrow Bridge, just south of the Museum of Science and Industry. Contact Doug Anderson with questions at (773) 493-7058. All levels of birders are welcome!
Tips for Bird Identificaton: http://www.chicagoaudubon.org/pages/2007/vol21_4/tips_for_bird_identification.shtml
Hope this info suffices for now!
Oh, I think it will do.