Heat, golfers and other obstacles to birding success

We asked readers what hurdles you have encountered while birding. Whether you are experienced or new to the activity, have you had any stumbling blocks that made you think twice about continuing? Respond in the comments.

We live in southeastern Arizona where summer temperatures make birding more challenging, especially this year when it’s been over 100 degrees Fahrenheit for the past month. The heat is tough on both birders and the birds they love. Getting an early start to arrive at a favorite spot before 5 a.m. is the best fix. We’re also making sure that the birds in our yard have plenty of water for drinking and cooling off.

—Diane Drobka Pima, Ariz.

“Do you know how much trouble I would be in if I’d hit you?” raged the golfer. And right he was to be incensed — I’d endangered us both. Without sufficiently surveying the scene, including the tee box about 25 yards away, I’d rushed over to the edge of the fairway. Why? To get a better look at the white pelicans blissfully floating on the pond, enjoying the balmy winter weather in Palm Springs, Calif.

—Gayle Smith Padgett, Saint-Remy-de-Provence, France

While sliding down the vertical swamp in Kaua’i’s Alaka’i Wilderness Preserve in search of the island’s six endemic bird species, I encountered a man in camouflage carrying a rifle and accompanied by two Rottweilers. We exchanged a tense greeting; he asked what I was doing there, laughed when I said “birding” and advised me to leave and not return. On my way out I saw his well-tended cannabis crop.

—Eliot Brenowitz, Seattle

Initially, whenever someone more experienced pointed out an overhead bird, I was lucky if I just saw a black speck. With time I trained my eyes to track the bird in flight and focus on spotting characteristics like color, head and chest markings, tail length. Unfortunately, about four months ago I was discovered to have a torn retina; for a while the floaters zoomed in my field of vision like fleeing birds.

—Christopher Sullivan, Akron, Ohio

I read an article on the topic of slow birding, where you spend more time observing closely and worry less about the count. This has improved my enjoyment of birding immensely. I still go birding with groups, but I also go alone, and often stay standing in the same spot for many minutes to let myself appreciate bird behaviors. It’s my meditation.

—Kathy Carson, Fremont, N.H.

The first barrier is safety, which wasn’t really a barrier because I didn’t let it stop me. Some of the best birding is in areas that may be remote or on little-used, uneven trails. As an older person, I worried that I might fall and break an ankle or hit my head and knock myself out (I did fall and severely twist my ankle, but I just wrapped it up and kept birding). Lucky for me, an acquaintance of mine took up birding and is as fanatical about it as I am. She will go anywhere at any time, and we get along marvelously, so now we are each other’s safety.

—Margaret Poethig, Arlington, Va.

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