I was recently on Jekyll Island for the Georgia Ornithological Society annual meeting and I had a blast. What really impressed me was not only the diversity of birders but the mix in ages. I met Evan who runs the Georgia Young Birder Club and he asked me what is the one piece of advice I would give new birders. I had to resist the smart ass part of my brain that wanted to answer, "never drink scotch under 15 years of age" or "avoid the clap" but I managed to retain a modicum of adulthood and gave what I hope is a better answer.
My initial advice is always to try and find a place and do your own informal bird survey. Whether that's picking a spot or a few nearby spots and doing weekly 20 minute point counts or visiting it as much as possible. You learn so much about about the birds that visit, pass through and breed there. That's been my big takeaway doing bird surveys over the years. I've now adopted that with my local patch.
I discovered my patch not long after we moved a year ago. I ran into a fellow eBirder not too long ago and they said, "You're always turning in lists from this spot when you should really do this other spot, the birding is better."
That may be, but I love my patch because it's in easy walking distance from my home. If I find myself with a spare hour, I have time to not only bird my patch but add over 5000 steps to my step tracker app. It's a win/win.
My other advice is that if you do not have children and you have a choice between birding and responsibility...choose birding. Always. I've never regretted that decision (my credit cars maybe have, but me personally, no). My classic example that I've pointed to before is the time years ago when I random day off of the bird store and though I should have used that day to do things like clean the kitchen and tackle the piles of month old laundry, I decided to take a day trip up do Duluth to see Hawk Ridge. The winds were supposed to be perfect for a good broad-winged hawk flight, right out of the northwest. Even as my car reached the outer suburbs, I almost turned around, "You're an adult now, you should really do laundry," but my bird side won out.
It ended up being a record day for Hawk Ridge and over 100,000 broad-winged hawks were tallied that day. It was magical. And I would have hated myself had I chosen to stay home and do laundry instead.
And unless I'm just home for a very hardcore birding trip or survey, I generally try to avoid laundry, vacuuming, cleaning out the fridge, etc as much as possible and go birding. Last night I was biking through my patch and almost hit a Harris's sparrow that flew in front of me. I knew that if I went to bed before midnight and got up at 6:30am (or about) I'd have enough time to walk my local patch, get some birds and get cleaned up for a day at the park service. I was hoping to digiscope the Harris's sparrow but also I just like looking for sparrows in the fall. All those lovely combinations of brown, rufous, gray, buff and heck if I'm lucky enough to find a Nelson's sparrow, even pumpkin color.
I did get some yellow-rumped warblers and palm warblers but there all kinds of great sparrows: Harris's still (though none were obliging enough for a photo, swamp, fox, white-throated, Lincoln's and quite a few song sparrows.
At first glance, I really wanted to turn the above bird into a clay-colored sparrow when I first saw it but my patch isn't really clay-colored habitat. After a bit more observation showed the bold eyeline of a chipping sparrow and it lacked the white "muttonchop" look of a clay-colored. Chipping sparrow makes way more sense for this habit anyway. A bummer to not add a new species but I do enjoy sorting out tough species. If you've never noticed how similar these two sparrows can look in the fall, check this out from the Sibley app: