So you want to get into bird watching. You like looking at birds, but not sure how to proceed. It is easy to master bird watching since this process does not require any deep knowledge in particular spheres. Bird watching is basically a continuing education. You will constantly be learning. But before you get there, here are a few beginners tips to help you get on your way.
Get a Guide
Besides just sitting outside and waiting until you see a bird, reading about birds is a great way to get started with this fun hobby. There are plenty of great guides out there. I like the following: Field Guide to the Birds of North America (National Geographic); and Birds: A Golden Guide (St. Martin’s Press). These books will start to familiarize you with the birds you are seeing, differences between males and females, migratory habits, and more.
Get Some Binoculars
Thanks so much to your field guide, now you will be able to identify a few birds as you see them. But you need to see them. A handy (and durable) pair of binoculars will be your second best investment in this hobby. When starting out, start simple. You would be surprised how expensive binoculars get (we are talking in the thousands). Once you get further along, you may want to upgrade for specific needs and situations. Check out Nikon, Celestron, and Bushnell for affordable options.
Start a Journal
If keeping a diary was never your thing, don’t worry, this is different. By keeping track of the birds you have seen, you will not only learn them better, but you can start to notice patterns on migratory habits and how they live. Keep track no matter where you are, whether at home, at a park, or on vacation. How you organize is up to you. Some people like to keep track by state while others keep track of what they saw in a day or month. This will allow you to keep track of what you saw and share it with friends.
Join a Club
Just like running or knitting, this hobby can be a fun and social one. Meeting fellow bird watchers will not only help you make new friends, but you may just learn a few things from one another. Birding clubs can meet to watch, plan trips together, and simply have fun. And when you aren’t meeting with a club, be open to striking up conversations with others in the parks. Bird watching is a fun way to spend time in the parks and others may see you and your binoculars and be inspired to watch too!
Bring the Birds to You
Who said you had to wait around for the birds? There are a few things you can do in your own backyard that will attract the birds for your watching pleasure. Things like bird seed, sunflower seeds, and even birdhouses can attract birds to your yard. You may also want to look into what flowers you plant as many will attract hummingbirds. But be careful, depending on what you put outside, you may also attract squirrels and other animals not on your watching list.
While a field guide is a great tool for learning about birds, it may not hold your attention forever. There are plenty of birding publications and web sites that will keep you informed with up-to-date birding resources and information.
Get Your Ears Into It
I know it’s called bird watching, but a lot of this hobby has to do with bird calls. Learning different calls and being able to distinguish birds by the noises they make is extremely helpful because there are a lot of cases when you hear a bird’s voice before observing it. You can look for bird compilation CDs, online resources, and books on tape can help you learn calls. And when you are keeping an ear out, listen for the following:
- Pitch: identify whether sound is low or high.
- Length: find out longitude of the sound.
- Repetition: try to understand if a song is repeated several times.
- Volume: study loudness of a song.
- Tempo: enumerate beats and find out their speed.
Plan a Birding Trip
Between national parks, state parks, national recreation areas, and just about every area in the parks system, you have no shortage of venues to begin your hobby. In fact, many parks are well known for bird watching. Check out the time of year you want to travel, what birds you can expect in the region you will be visiting, and ask the park if they have any bird watching recommendations. Rangers may be able to suggest specific trails or overlooks that are perfect for bird watching, as well as guided tours.
Be Patient and Have Fun
This is not a hobby for the impatient. A lot of bird watching is sitting quietly and waiting. A lot of bird watching is missing opportunities and being confused by what you saw. But with that frustration comes learning. As you begin this hobby, remember, you are not an expert. You may not know what you heard or saw, but that doesn’t make it any less interesting or beautiful. Just be patient and have fun. Sit back, relax, take in the sights and sounds around you, and enjoy!
Cover Image: Photo by Chirag Saini on Unsplash
About the author: John M. Caviness is a successful copywriter at MeowEssay. This job gives him an opportunity to express his opinion and thoughts on different topics including dog care, traveling, motivation etc.