Tips for Successful Bird Watching
The fastest growing outdoor activity in North America, and one that already occupies the minds and hearts of sixty million people, is not football, not soccer, not extreme sports nor snowboarding. It is the timeless and simple practice of bird watching. Why is this such a popular hobby, and in some cases, an obsession? If you are new to birding, how can you make sure your forays into the natural world are successful and enjoyable, as well as safe for the birds? Let's talk about some tips for successful birding: if you're not a convert yet, you will be!
The first question is easy to answer, and at the same time, there is a different answer for everyone. Why is birding so popular? Why do people love it so much? For some, it is the chance to get out into nature and hear only the songs of birds and the wind in the trees. For others, it is the chance to meet other birders, trade secrets, and learn more about their pursuit. For others, it's a chance to spend time with their children and teach them about the natural world, and for others still it is the joy of seeing birds interact with their ecosystem and a desire to help preserve or create healthy habitats for a variety of species. It is relaxing, exciting, challenging, and rewarding.
And we should note that it is inexpensive. You can start just by looking out your window. You can look online for bird identification tips. You can begin recording your observations in a notebook. You can, and many birders do, travel all over the world to see rare and exotic birds
, but you can also find reward in simply fostering a bird friendly habitat in your backyard or on your balcony and enjoying what your locale has to offer. With over 800 species of birds in North America, there is something worth seeing no matter where you are.
If you're new to birding, you won't need much more than a desire to learn more about avian life and a few well-chosen tools. One of the most important is a good field guide. Sibley's is one of the most recognized and widely used, but you will find others that are also geared to birds in your area. Choose one that is well illustrated and which has clear and concise descriptions. Take a look at it now and then when you have a few minutes. When you see a bird, look it up. This is the best way to become familiar with your guide and the birds in your area. You should also carry it with you on your bird watching trips
As you begin enjoying bird watching, you'll want to invest in a good pair of birding binoculars
. The best binoculars for your level of interest need not be the most expensive but usually it is well worth it to get the best that you can afford. A very cheap pair will provide a fuzzy view, and they may cause you to become frustrated and disenchanted with birding. Spend a little more initially, and you'll find that you are getting your money's worth. A good pair will last a life time, and on a "per bird enjoyed" basis, the expense is not worth talking about.
One of the cardinal rules of birding is to be respectful of the birds. As a birder, you are there to observe and possibly record and document the birds that you see. You aren't there to call to them, scare them, stress them, or interfere with any aspect of their life, including trying to help injured birds. You could end up doing much more harm than good, even with the best of intentions. Tread lightly and respectfully. It will not only protect the birds' safety and security, it will actually make your experience that much more enjoyable.
When birding, make sure to come prepared. For some, this means bringing a camera and notepad. For others, it means having good walking shoes. For everyone, though, it should mean grabbing your binoculars, wearing appropriate clothing and a hat, and applying sunscreen and bug repellant. Always stick to established trails to reduce impact on the birds' habitats, and always leave word as to where you are going and when you expect to be back. These are just basic safety precautions, but again, birders need to protect the birds and themselves.
Begin by observing the natural birdlife that you have around you and focus on the most common birds such as pigeons in the city or sparrows and chickadees in the backyard. Note their behaviors, habits and patterns of movement. Watch and appreciate the ways different birds fly or forage for food. Maybe practice taking pictures right in your own backyard. Mosy of all just enjoy yourself. There is no wrong way to bird - except if you are negatively impacting the habitat. You can record your observations or not. You can use your field guide or not. You can take a trip to an exotic locale or you can stick to your own home. In any case, be sure that you get out there and begin to experience the wonder that nature has to offer.
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