Fun Stuff
The Laws of Birding

The Universal Laws of Birding Sacrificial Lamb Law - The bird will be seen by others only after you, as the sacrificial lamb, leave. (unknown)

Sitting in the Woods Corollary - The bird will be seen by others only after you have snuck into the woods to take care of biological responsibilities. (Jim Frazier)

Resnick's Variation - The bird will show up only when you go into a snack bar to get some nice hot chocolate on a bitter cold day. (Ian Resnick)

Theorem of Diminishing Returns - The longer you look for a bird, the less likely you will find it.

Hoffman's Corollary - The further you travel to see a particular bird, the less likely you are to find it. (Carolyn Hoffman)

Arie's Nemesis Theory - If you don't see the bird within a certain amount of tries, it becomes insulted and deliberately avoids you from then on. (Arie Gilbert)

Gilbert's Wishful Thinking Hypothesis - This takes place by casually mentioning a bird and then the bird shows up. (Arie Gilbert)

Frazier's Law No. 1 - The bird will only come out after you have begun to leave. Sometimes you can trick the bird into coming out by loudly announcing that you are leaving and starting to move in that direction. Note, at the end of a day of waiting, combining the Sacrificial Lamb
Rule with Frazier's Law No. 1 can overcome the Theorem of Diminishing Returns. (Jim Frazier)

Ann's Assumption - Never assume the bird line has been updated. Just because the bird's not been reported doesn't necessarily mean it's left the country! (Ann Johnson)

Hoffman's Law - You may look for a particular bird for 20 years without finding it, but once you DO find it you find them everywhere. They turn up in your driveway, on your porch, EVERYwhere. They suddenly become robin-like in their numbers. (Carolyn Hoffman)

Bangma's Observation - You will learn more about the variation in Herring Gulls in 30 minutes of looking for a Thayer's than you will in a lifetime of looking at Herrings. (Jim Bangma)

Paulson's First Law - Common species are more common than rare ones.
Paulson's Second Law - Well-known birds appear to vary more than poorly known ones.
(Both of the above comments are courtesy of Jim Bangma who found them in
Dennis Paulson's "Birds of the Pacific Northwest."

Arlis's Technobirder Triangulation Conundrum - The probability of a technobirder finding an important bird is directly proportional to the triangulated distance between subject, human, and camera. (Arlis Abel)

New Birder's Theorem - The probability of an unknown bird possessing a very distinctive identifying field mark is directly proportional to the amount of time he spends posing for you. (Sharon S. Fisher)

Field Mark Tendencies Scenario - Whenever you are out birding without a fieldguide and see a new bird, the fieldmark you think is the important one is never the important one. The bird always flies before you can look at the important one. If there is an important field mark, the
bird never lets you see it. If the bird sits there all day and lets you look at all its field marks, it is not a rare bird. (Carolyn Hoffman)

Rules of Birding Attu Most birding on Attu is done on bicycle on dirt roads, many of which are rutted or nothing but two tire tracks.
Attu Rule No. 1 - The other track always looks smoother until you switch.
Attu Rule No. 2 - If you try to avoid a rock, you will definitely hit it.
Attu Rule No. 3 - When you go out in the morning, the wind will be in your face. When you come back in, however, the wind will still be in your face.
(Gerry Maisel)

Wilson's Law of the Gainfully Employed - Rare birds reported on the tape on Wednesday are usually gone by Saturday. (Gary Wilson)

Arie's Photographic Anomaly - Your best photographic opportunities will occur when you leave the camera behind. (Arie Gilbert)

Bird Watcher's Digest Rules of Hawk Identification:
Rule No. 1 - It's a Red-tailed Hawk.
Rule No. 2 - It's a Red-tailed Hawk.
(Bonnie Simmons)

The Warbler Corollary - It's a Redstart (Ann Johnson)

Ian's Irony - The bird will always be between the birder and the sun. (Ian Resnick)

Bangma's Photographic Absolute - The lens you have with you is never long enough. (Jim Bangma)

Sosensky's Exception - If the lens is long enough, the bird will be too close to focus on. (Steve Sosensky)

Elizabeth's Consideration - The bird that you stuggle through difficult terrain, endure multiple injuries and screw up your schedule for, will be waiting for you above your car in the parking lot. (Elizabeth Miller?)

Norm's Photographic Observations:
If you see a bird you don't recognize and photograph it for later identification, all the key characteristics will be obscure.
All small, nervous, flighty birds have an innate ability to feel photons reflected from their body being focused on a viewing screen and move instantly.
Otherwise outstanding portraits of birds will show the nictitating membrane in use.
(Norm Smith)

Elrick's Hypothesis - If there are two or more birds in a tree and one is a rarity, the only one you can't see is the rarity. (Bill Elrick)

Sosensky's 1st Law - Dull birds with difficult plumage are always seen on overcast days. (Steve Sosensky)

Sosensky's 2nd Law - The active foragers are always in the canopy or the back of the tree. (Steve Sosensky)

Sosensky's 3rd Law - Woodpeckers and creepers spend more time on the far side of the trunk. (Steve Sosensky)

Sosenky's Theory of Optical Availability - Birds are most visible when your binoculars are down.
Field Guide Corollary - The bird is most visible when you look in your field guide and least visible when you go back to look for the next field mark. (Steve Sosensky)

The "YSHBH Syndrome" - Upon arriving at the site of a bird reported on the RBA and finding a group of birders already there you will be told"You Should Have Been Here xx minutes ago. The bird just flew." (Joe DiCostanzo)

The Transubstantiation Phenomenon-The ability of many rare birds to change their appearance into that of a common bird in the amount of time between your spotting them in a tree with your naked eye and raising your binoculars to look at them. An evolutionary holdover from the days
of collecting. (Joe DiCostanzo)

Neil's Corollary-The chance of a rare bird turning into a common bird is directly proportional to the haste with which you get on the phone to tell everyone what a great rarity you've just found. (Neil Faulkner)

The Inverse Distance Waterfowl Law -The rarer the duck or goose, the further from shore it will be. On an enclosed body of water, it will always be on the diametrically opposite shore from you and this shore will always be private land or otherwise inaccessible. (Joe DiCostanzo)

The Weekday Migration Rule - During spring and fall, all major flights will occur on a weekday. (Joe DiCostanzo)

The Weekend Migration Rule - In published analyses of arrival and departure dates for any given migration in bird journals it will be found that nearly all birds arrive in the spring on a weekend and depart in the fall on a weekend. (Joe DiCostanzo)

The Luck of the Uninterested Rule - At any stakeout for a rare bird at which a large number of birders have assembled, one birder will usually have dragged along an uninterested, nonbirding friend or relative. The nonbirder almost inevitably will be the one who looks the other way or
wanders off and finds the sought after bird. (Joe DiCostanzo)

Theory of Canine Disturbance - Nice flock of birds awaiting detailed study and dog.
The Lister's Geographic Difficulty - The best birds are always on the other side of the dividing line for the area you're keeping track of...refuge, park, state, country, continent, etc.
Blinn's Moving Car Observance - If a small brown bird flies across the road, it's a Song Sparrow. (Jerry Blinn)

AJ's Thermodynamic Constant - The number of species seen in winter is proportional to the temperature. The constant varies. (Ann Johnson)

Theory of Birding Locations - There it is - There it goes.
The Scope Location Absolute - If you need the scope, it's in your trunk. If you don't need it, it's on your shoulder.
The Top Gun Defense - Birds can sense "Optics Lock" and take evasive action. (Chris Moellering)

Outhouse Observation - Interesting birds always show up around an outhouse during a field trip. Particularly when you've just entered. (Jim Frazier)

The Western Rules of Hawk Identification:
Rule No. 1 - It's a Raven.
Rule No. 2 - It's a Red-tailed Hawk.
Rule No. 3 - It is NOT a Golden Eagle.
(Jim Frazier)

The Yurchenco Distance Vector - The distance you must drive to see a reported rarity is directly proportional to your interest in seeing it. The likelihood of the bird being there is inversely proportional to the distance you have traveled. (Jim Yurchenco)

The Aircraft Conspiracy - Birds which need to be distinguished by voice only sing when aircraft are overhead. (Jim Yurchenco)

Grant's Law - The apparent size of the bird I am watching is only that of the species which I think it is. (Peter Grant)

The Hologram Rule of Elevation Displacement - The bird you really want is always in the top of a tree, upslope from your current location. (Johnson, Bangma, et al)

Rosenban's Dictum - If you get a really good look at it, it's probably a Redstart. (Thanks to Jim Landing). And if anyone wants to correct Mr. Rosenban's spelling, please let me know.

Field Guide Inaccuracy Absolute - There is always an expert in the group who knows more than the field guide about the finer identification points of a given bird. This applies to every field guide or book ever written and is particularly relevant when the bird is rare. Frequently, the matter involves "gizz", a meaningless method for someone attempting to get a lifer look. It should also be mentioned that the aforementioned expert will have NEVER written a field guide. (Frazier)

The Big Sit Consideration - The good birds show up when you have a bagel with cream cheese in your hand. (Johnson, Frazier and Frazier)

Neil's Law of Seawatching - Seabirds always appear in pairs. One flying left to right, the other flying right to left. Of the two, only one is ultimately identifiable. It's the one you choose not to follow. (Neil Faulkner)

Bob's 1st Law of Identification - If a particular species can only be identified by the markings on its back, then it will move so it is always looking at the viewer. If it can > only be identified from its front markings then it will always have its back to the viewer. (Bob Forsyth)

Bob's 2nd Law of Identification - The bird clearly visible with the naked eye will vanish in the time it takes to bring the binoculars to your eyes. (Bob Forsyth)

The Escapee Rule - If you have seen the bird before, it's an escapee. If it's a lifer, it's wild (Bob Newman)

Cates' Arbor Advisory -- Never look up into a tree with your mouth open. (Bob Cates)

The Ichthyologist Fish Collecting Mud Problem-The most interesting waders always come closest when your binoculars are unavailable - either because your hands are covered with mud or you're stuck in it. (Helen K. Larson)

Point Pelee Postulates: The following are birding rules learned during annual spring migration of birders to Point Pelee National Park (where it can get a little crowded).

Point Pelee Postulate 1 -- Check up on "clumps" of birders only if their binoculars are all raised & pointing in the same direction. When everyone is looking in their books, the bird is already gone.

Point Pelee Postulate 2 -- Clumps of very excited birders invariably speak only French, and the bird in question is hiding and cannot be located without specific instructions. (Try finding someone looking through a spotting scope).

Point Pelee Postulate 3 -- The lifers you're looking for are always on the park's sighting list on the days bracketing your visits.

Point Pelee Postulate 4 -- Rare birds arrive and leave with the rain.

Point Pelee Postulate 5 -- There will always be some dim-wit ambling around the beach at the tip of the point (where the shorebirds are usually best seen) when you arrive at the viewing platform.

Point Pelee Postulate 6 -- Hitting a bird with your car is not a very satisfying way to "collect" a species for your list. Hitting a birder is even less so.

The good ones always seem to get away. The ordinary give you superb looks. (Mike Gochfeld)

Winter Birding Montauk-------the sun is always in your eyes: driving out in the morning, looking south at noon, and driving home in the afternoon. (Mike Gochfeld)

Stuart Keith's --Biscuit birds: good flybys occur just when you have a biscuit in one hand and a drink in the other. (Mike Gochfeld)

In South America the good birds are always "mas adentro" (further into the wilderness). (Mike Gochfeld)

Contributed by Doug Gochfeld
    (who found them posted on the Vermont  listserv by David Mehlman in 2006