In the beginning many new species are observed, yet some can be difficult to identify. A new DVD titled "Better Birdwatching in Illinois and Indiana" makes the learning process easier by focusing on about 150 of the most common birds found in the region.
"These are common birds people can see in their back yards," DVD author Joe LaFleur said.
LaFleur, who has been making DVDs for 10 years, has degrees in wildlife biology and communications. Over the past 20 years he has collected hundreds of hours of video and sound recordings that have been edited down to two hours on the new DVD.
After learning about video and sound production, LaFleur was able to combine those skills with his love for birdwatching, hiking and camping.
"Once you get into it, you kind of get hooked and just keep doing it more and more," he said.
LaFleur researched the abundance, distribution and seasonal status of birds to select species that are most common and widespread throughout the region. During the selection process, residents and summer breeders received top priority, followed by wintering species, then migrants that only pass through in the spring and fall.
Searchable indexes on the DVD allow users to quickly locate species of interest. The video content has been carefully edited to display diagnostic field marks and unique behaviors of birds in their natural habitats.
Birds are often secretive and hard to see, so learning their sounds can be critical for identification.
"It's really nice to have something to help beginners," LaFleur said. "There are a lot of people out there who maybe don't even know about the hobby. It makes me feel good when I can get people to discover a new world that they never thought about it before."
The unique collection of songs and calls on the DVD include multiple songs for many species. Within a species, the songs are similar but do vary by geographic region and even among individual birds.
The DVDs cost $19.99 and are available at the Nature Center at Turkey Run State Park in Marshall (765-597-2654). For more information, call 1-888-414-2837 or visit www.betterbirdwatching.com for a list of birds featured on the DVD.