If you have always been interested in birds and you also have a passion for hiking and for discovering nature, chances are that you will consider birdwatching a pleasant and relaxing activity. When going on a birdwatching trip, you not only keep your body healthy, but you also help your mind stay sharp as this pastime activity encourages your brain to look for similarities and differences between bird species.
To help you start up, we have prepared a list of tips and tricks that can be of help for a beginner bird enthusiast just like you.
Before you leave your home in search for feathered companions, it is vital that you start by doing some fieldwork. In other words, it is recommended that you start by researching the birds that are common in your area. This way, you will find it easier to spot them once you go on your adventure. Information on this topic can be found in books or even online.
Also, if you want the best chances to succeed during your first expedition, seasoned birders point out that it is best that you wear dark or neutral colors. By making you less visible, you won’t risk disrupting the birds. Also, this way, you will be able to spend more time observing them.
What is more, if you intend to go birding during the warmer periods of the year, you might also like to wear a hat so that the sun won’t burn your face. So, you won’t be left with an un-aesthetical tanning line left around the area of your face that was covered by your birding binoculars with camera.
Before you go on your first excursion, you should also prepare a backpack that includes water, food, a change of clothes, a lantern, a pocket knife, and an insect-repellent solution. Besides, if you intend to record your findings, a notebook is also necessary.
Know the difference between a birder and a birdwatcher
If you plan on joining a birdwatching community, it is vital that you learn the lingo. In other words, you should know the difference between a birdwatcher and a birder. While a birdwatcher likes watching birds close to his/her home, a birder is someone that is ready to travel over great distances to see rare species.
Furthermore, a birder is also someone who is more invested in this activity, and that has a passion for documenting birds, rather than just watching them.
Invest in good equipment
In order to be a good birdwatcher, you should also invest in a quality pair of binoculars, or in a birding spotting scope. The device that you decide to purchase should be waterproof, light in weight and it should have a magnification ratio of at least 8x.
However, if you are not sure that you want to practice this sport often, it is best that you restrain from spending huge amounts of money on equipment of this type. Instead, you might want to start by getting a budget-friendly model. Later on, if you consider that you need more powerful binoculars, you can order a new device.
As some experts argue, if you have not purchased a product of this type before, it might be a good idea that you go to a local nature center and try out different choices before you decide what item fits you best. Also, to make carrying the binoculars effortlessly, you can also get a bino harness as most birders consider it a great investment.
Get your hands on a bird field guide
A guide of this kind is essential because it will enable you to match the birds that you spot in nature to their actual species. As a result, in no time, you will be able to tell apart similar birds without needing a guide.
Generally, these types of guides are not very expensive. For a better experience, you might want to get one that is specific to the area that you intend to explore. This way, you won’t feel overwhelmed.
What is more, you should know that there are two types of guides. While some of them show real images of the birds, the others only present you with drawings. So, before you make any purchases, you should decide which one is better suited for you.
Choose a location and start your adventure
If you don’t want your first expedition to be disappointing, you should go online and search for a list of well-known locations recommended by fellow birdwatchers.
When you are in their natural habitat, you should walk slowly so that the birds won’t be startled. Next, pick a place where you can settle down. Once you do so, silently take out your notebook and your guide and start analyzing the birds that you see. If you are not able to find the name of a specific bird, it might help if you try to draw it.
When observing a bird, you should pay attention to how it looks, and to how it moves and behaves. Also, you should listen to the sounds that it makes.
In technical terms, the most obvious feature of the bird is called its field mark. Be sure to note it down. When describing the animal, you should start at the top of its head, and you should make your way down. By following this order, you will be able to take organized notes.
If you want to be a serious birdwatcher, you should also keep a list of all the birds that you manage to spot. If you want to get better at this hobby, you should practice it as often as possible. Even more so, you can join a local bird watching group, and you can go on a bird spotting expedition together.
The most popular association of this kind is the American Birding Association. What is more, this non-profit is known for sponsoring fun workshops and lectures that you might want to check out. Also, every year, the ABA creates hands-on activities that you can participate in.