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Sketch To Improve Your Bird Watching Skills

Read most guides on bird watching and you will be inundated with information on binoculars and photographing. With birding, sketching is a better way to go.
As you immerse yourself in bird watching, you will slowly but surely improve your observational skills. Different species will start to stand out as you get the hang of viewing bodies, bills, tails and other distinguishing characteristics. Simply viewing them or photographing them, however, only takes you so far. To become a master, you should start sketching your sightings.
Sketching is really one of the pillars of birding. That being said, it has fallen to the side a bit given modern technology and all it offers. Why take the time to sketch when you can use amazingly sophisticated cameras to capture the moment? Many have no answer, and go with cameras. There is nothing wrong with such an approach, but sketching is simply better. You may consider such a statement as a matter of opinion, but it is not.
The act of photographing something is ultimately a point and click situation. I do photographers a disservice with that statement because there is much more to it. It is an art and undeniably so. The art, however, has much more to do with lighting and proper framing than it does the subject itself. Sketching is just the opposite.
Sketching a bird is the single best way to improve your birding skills. Why? Well, think the process through. How do you go about sketching? There are many ways, but all involve one key element - details. To sketch, you must take in the details of your sighting. Lighting and such really does not come into play. Instead, bill curvature, body type, wing shape, feather patters, tail displays and so on are all aspects you must focus on to complete your sketching. Inevitably, this forces you to focus on the finer point of the bird. The more you do this, the better you become at observing and recognizing. It is a simple fact.
So, what if you have never sketched before? As with most birding skills, it does not matter. I am not talking about the quality of your sketches. It is not the final product that matters. Instead, it is the act of focusing on the unique characteristics of your sighting and recognizing them as such. After a surprisingly short while, your sketching will lead you to start distinguishing species with accuracy as well a giving you the ability to note variations.
Sketching may sound like a daunting task at first, but give it a try. You will be surprised at how quickly you pick it up and how fast your observational skills improve.
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