We are a group of amateur birdwatchers passionate about enjoying the incredible variety and beauty of birdlife in Arizona and beyond. We come from different backgrounds and experience levels, and our group is open to all who share this interest or want to learn more about it. We will try to meet monthly or more frequently, especially during the spring and early summer when birding is most productive. Most of our meet-ups will be weekend mornings, but we will also plan several overnight trips each year to birding hot spots like SE Arizona or the California coast. A good outing will always be followed by lunch or snacks, and the camaraderie of sharing our experiences over our favorite brew, whether that be coffee, tea, or something stronger!
A good guide is an essential part of learning bird identification and behavior. The printed guides below are all excellent, very portable, and are widely available in bookstores and online.
--Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America. For Western north America, the 4th edition is the most current (about $23); however they now publish a full North American version that covers both the previous Eastern and Western guides ($25).
--Sibley Guide to Birds, Second Edition ($35 for North America, or $18 for Western north America birds only).
--National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, Sixth Edition (about $13 in paperback).
There are several good birding apps for Android and iPhone. I use the ones below. Both should be available for Android and Apple phones. The Merlin app is from the Cornell Ornithology Lab, and is free. It has regional databases to download, or you can download the database for all of North America as well as other regions of the world. IBirdPro covers all of North America, and it is about $15. Be sure to download the entire database if you have room on your phone so you won't need to have cell phone coverage to use it. Both apps contain range maps, photos, and recordings of bird calls and songs.
There are many online resources, but perhaps the most comprehensive and useful is run by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. It's free, easy to use, and covers all regions of the world. Thru the "explore" tab, you can find birding hot spots in all areas of the city, county, state, and country. Birders post their list of sightings for each posted hot spot, and you can search lists by month or year to see what's been seen there. You can also post your sightings and even photos as you become a more proficient birder. Cornell uses your inputs to track the health and status of all bird species.
Binoculars are another essential tool for birding, and as in many things, you get what you pay for! Quality optics is what gives you sharp images and good color rendering, so buy the best ones you can afford. Look for ones that advertise "ED" or extra-low dispersion glass lenses. Binos are described as "7 x 40" or "8 x 50", where the first number is the magnification and the second is the size of the objective lenses. Magnifications of 7 or 8 are most common and provide a fairly wide field of view. Larger magnifications have narrower fields of view and are more sensitive to small movements. The second number is the diameter of the front lens in millimeters; bigger lenses let more light in and work better in dimmer conditions, but are more expensive.
--Nikon Monarch 5 or 7 are two good choices in 8 x 42 power or 10 x 42. Not cheap, but good optics and well made.
Spotting scopes are where you get into the big money. For good views of distant targets, especially waterfowl on lakes or the ocean, a tripod-mounted scope really is essential. Good scopes will have a variable 25-60 power zoom eyepiece, and objective lenses of 65-100mm. Top of the line scopes from Kowa or Swarovski cost $2500-4000; a good intermediate scope like the Nikon Monarch ED is around $1600. Less expensive scopes with reasonable performance are available from Vortex, Meade, Celestron, Zeiss, Bushnell, and others. See Audubon.org or other on-line reviews for recommendations.
"Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" Matt 6:26