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Bird watching for Beginners


The "spark bird" that jump-started Spark Birding was the odd-looking Chestnut-crowned Antpitta. But that spark would not have happened without the openness, nurturing, and encouragement from expert birders. 

Spark Birding was started with one simple premise: getting into birding can be intimidating. Experienced birders posses such bountiful knowledge, extensive gear, and unbridled passion that it can seem overwhelming. Yet any birder will tell you that a novice is more welcome than anyone and they are eager to help.


So where do you begin? In its purest form, birding begins with a desire to connect with nature, to observe carefully and immerse your mind and senses. The rest will unfold from there. 

The impetus for Spark Birding dates back to October 2016. In his work with National Audubon Society, Chris Bensley attended a conference in Pereira, Colombia. Invited to go birding after the conference, he ventured into the vast Central Andes on a familiarization tour accompanied by several expert birders. As an outsider, he was introduced to a whole new world. The "spark bird" that jump-started his curiosity was the odd-looking Chestnut-crowned Antpitta (see below). But that spark would not have happened without the openness, nurturing, and encouragement from the experts, photographer and writer Dorian Anderson and ABA blog-writer and author Nate Swick.


The spark grew from there. The next connection was to a former colleague, Peter Alden. Chris and Peter had worked together on a series of nature tours in the 1990s, then rekindled that relationship through Mass Audubon events. Peter provided inspiration, humor, and resources. With the creativity and enthusiasm of Chris' wife Christy, the project had a name. Spark Birding was born. 

Bird Species

The Initial Spark Bird

The chestnut-crowned antpitta is found in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela. Its natural habitats are tropical moist montane forest and heavily degraded former forest. It is mid-sized for an antpitta, and has an orange-rufous head and nape. The back is olive brown and the throat is white. Though shy and secretive antpittas, this species hops into the open reasonably often, though rarely far from cover. 
Photo: Dorian Anderson

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