The Benefits of Trees

     Birding is a fantastic activity, and obviously birds are the most abundant of animals anywhere you go. The habits, songs, challenges of identification and amazingly brilliant colors that have no match are among some reasons why most birders enjoy birding. The abundance and wide variety of birds draws the majority of humans to become birders rather than mammal-watchers or reptile-watchers. Many people (including me to a certain extent) do however  enjoy butterflies because of their natural beauty and grace as they flutter through the air. I am not too big of a butterfly-lover because I do not see them too often, but I have recently taken an interest to identifying trees.

The study of trees is called dendrology and helps birders connect more with birds and nature in general. Trees are a major source of oxygen in the world, so we have them to thank for being alive. Most birds use trees to their advantage daily as they are a source of air, shelter, food and a place to nest or roost. All birders realize that birds benefit from trees, but not as many realize that humans can benefits from trees in other ways than simply breathing in their by-products. The first and greatest benefit is when birding in a group or even with a friend or two, knowing the type or even species of a tree can make all the difference when your comrade(s) cannot spot an important bird. Even if you simply know the general type of tree rather than the species, it can still help out. Another benefit is an obvious one; it brings you closer to nature. The final benefit is that it stimulates the brain and creates challenges of identification. Trees are much harder to tell apart from each other than birds are because of a few reasons. The first being that trees don’t move around or have certain behaviors like birds. The second is that most of them have leaves that look almost exactly the same, and the color of trees do not get more than green, white and brown except for in the fall unlike birds which sport a vast array of hues and shades of different colors. Tree identification can be even harder in the winter when all the leaves have fallen off of the trees. 
Because tree identification is hard, it takes some studying in order to learn them first. I am still in this stage, but I find it helpful to actually gain experience rather than just looking at pictures. Either get an Audubon Society Field Guide or use pictures from a website like this one: http://www.caes.uga.edu/Publications/pubDetail.cfm?pk_id=7763to familiarize yourself before you try any identification. After that, you can identify trees in any bird photos you have or around areas you visit daily. I have tried identifcation at my school already and have identified the trees in my front and backyard already. In my school so far, I have found the following tree species: Big-Leaf Magnolia, Southern Magnolia, Red Maple, Georgia Oak, Laurel Oak, Sweetgum, Yellow Poplar, Black Walnut and Sugarberry. In my front yard, I have identified a Yoshino Cherry Tree, a Red Maple, a Crape Myrtle and a Flowering Dogwood. In my backyard, I have identified Loblolly Pines, Southern Magnolias, Yellow Poplar, Southern Red Oak, Flowering Dogwood and Red Maple trees.
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