Are you interested in getting into the relaxing and educational experience of birdwatching, but you don’t know where to start? Do you think it would be a good thing for your child to be into, as way for them to learn about nature, while also being active and busy? Whatever the case may be, birdwatching is a rewarding and useful activity, if you are adequately prepared. Here are some tips to make your birdwatching journey smooth and exciting.
Getting to Know Your Area
Before anything else, it would be useful to know if your area is even amenable to birdwatching. Sure, birds are everywhere, but it the variety of birds in your immediate area is very restrictive, consisting of no more than a couple of species, then you should consider venturing further than the comfort zone you initially envisioned.
Either way, what you need to get started is a field guide of your area. You can opt for physical books like the excellent Peterson Field Guide (for Eastern Birds or for Western Birds). Additional sources would be the Sibley Guide to Birds, or the National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America.
However, no physical book can compare with the power of apps. Depending on the type of smartphone you own – Android, iOS, or Windows – go to their respective online stores, type ‘birdwatching’ in the search area, and you will be sure to find a highly rated app that offers you encyclopedic knowledge of birds, photographic images for recognizing them, as well as maps, note and log taking, audio-recordings of bird songs, and even an auto-recognition feature if your smartphone’s camera is good enough.
Furthermore, all the aforementioned field guides, and more, can be found as digital ebooks, so you can just download them to your smartphone to be easily searched, instead of lugging around large, unwieldy books with you.
Once you have an idea of what to expect in your area, everything else will come easy.
How to Find Birds
If you have installed one of the birdwatching apps, familiarized yourself with the area, you should already have a good inkling on where to find birds in a consistent manner. Essential bird info relates their eating and living habits to a great level of detail:
How do specific birds in your area like to spend their time – on top of the trees, on the ground, near lakes, etc.
Have you listened to the audio recordings of birds from your birdwatching app? Use it to easily spot, recognize and find them. And do remember that you can have multiple birdwatching apps installed at the same time, so if one is really good at something while lacking that one feature you really need, just switch to the app that has that feature. Always try more than one app!
Join a Birdwatching Group
Likely, your province already has birdwatching groups, and what more expedient way could you ask for if you are just starting with birdwatching? Furthermore, it is always more conducive and enjoyable to do an activity with someone else, instead of making it a solitary experience.
No one bothers with town billboards anymore, as you can now easily find everything online. Just hone down your birdwatching search to your area, and you will surely find some birdwatching group, either directly through their website, or through their social media presence.
More likely still, if you just go out with binoculars, you will stumble upon other bird-watchers in no time, and then you can just strike up a conversation with them. Great way of creating new friends, or even potential spouses!
If you have trouble getting around, due to age or disability, or simply don’t want to leave the comfort and security of your home, you can still enjoy birdwatching by getting the birds to come to you.
Best way to attract birds is to offer them something that every living creature under the sun wants – food.
Buy a good bird feeder/birdhouse, stock up on bird feed, and in no time you will see birds making a home of your backyard. Just make sure to get a bird feeder/birdhouse from recycled plastic instead of wood. By doing that you accomplish two things:
Incentivize recycling of plastic so it doesn’t end up as waste in nature.
When outdoors, wood cracks and blackens over time, especially if it is under direct sunlight. You are much better off with a bird feeder/birdhouse made out of recycled plastic. They also make better gifts for bird watchers.
In addition to bird feeders, birdhouses, and birdbaths, you should also consider getting ones that are resilient to squirrels, so you don’t end up feeding them instead of birds. There are all kinds of solutions for this, some work better than others, so definitely check out the most highly rated ones.
Get Proper Equipment
Not all binoculars are created equal when it comes to birdwatching. Usually, the smaller they are the more compromise you will get in achieving smooth birdwatching experience.
You should look at two critical values when opting for a birdwatching binoculars:
The diameter of the lenses – between 40 and 45mm – so that you can receive as much visual information as your eyes are capable of receiving. This is crucial when observing fast-moving objects like birds, in all kinds of lighting conditions.
The magnification power – it is nice to have high magnification, but bear in mind that magnification also magnifies any motion you make, so you should definitely not go over 8x magnification. Better yet, if you are able to get binoculars with an Image Stabilizer feature, that would be ideal.
Image Stabilization is present in digital cameras of higher quality, as well with flagship smartphones, so if you already own such smartphone, you might not need binoculars at all. Those smartphones would then have everything you would need – a powerful birdwatching app, high quality camera with zoom, and image stabilization.
However, if you find yourself in need of magnification that goes beyond binoculars and smartphones, a telescope would be your best choice. They are very cheap now, and you can use them for astronomy as well.