Bird Watching For Beginners
Bird Watching Tips and Advice
Birding is one of the fastest growing activities on the planet. So if you are thinking about getting into this fantastic activity then let me share some tips for bird watching beginners with you.
You can learn from my mistakes so that your first adventure into the hobby of birding is as enjoyable as possible. I will cover where and when you can participate in wild bird watching, what to wear, and what to bring with you.
All Photos By: whatsittoyou
My first introduction to birding was with my grandmother when I was just a little kid. She had a feeder and a bath in her backyard that she could watch from her window. She also had a book with all of the local backyard birds listed in it.
In the summer we could sit on the patio and see the birds arrive for a snack or a bath. Then we could use her book to look up what type that they were. This is an easy and fairly inexpensive way to get into birding.
Tips For Backyard Birding:
- If you don't like squirrels, make sure you get a squirrel proof feeder. While I thought they were cute, my grandmother was forever knocking on her window yelling at the squirrels to go away.
- If you want to enjoy the hobby 365 days a year and you live in a colder climate like I do you need to get a heated bird bath to keep the water from freezing.
- The type of seeds/food that you chose to put out will affect what type of birds that you attract.
What Is Your Favorite Season For Bird Watching?
I recently got back into birding when my local paper started featuring pictures of birds and listing where the photo was taken. I was fascinated by the photos and I wanted to go see them in person. So I looked up the location online, grabbed my camera, and headed over there.
The location was even better than I expected. There was a wide variety of birds to be seen. There were Herons, waterfowl, and small birds to be seen all within steps of the parking lot. Most of the people there were very friendly, even pointing out where a "snowy egret" was perched in a tree.
What I learned is when you are new don't be overanxious to share your "information". I got to talking to a couple of other people and told them about the "snowy egret". Unfortunately I pronounced it wrong as I had never heard of one until that day. It was at that point I got the "what did you call it?", along with some laughing.
It was also these "lovely" people who pointed out that my attire was wrong. You don't wear white when bird watching. It stands out and it will keep the birds away. I didn't know, I was dressing to keep cool in the hot weather, I didn't realize that I had to dress for the birds.
- So don't offer information or advice unless you are asked, even if you think you are being helpful. Apparently more experienced birders may feel insulted.
- Don't blindly believe everything you are told. After I got my Birds of Ontario book I learned that the "snowy egret' was actually a Great Egret (it has a different colored beak).
- You do want to dress in darker colors to blend in with the scenery.
- While you do want to blend in with the scenery, camouflage can be seen as overkill. The areas that I have been to people dress more like hikers rather than hunters.
- I have found a great website for finding the birding hot spots in your area. You can chose by location or by the type of bird you are looking for at www.ebird.org.
- You can also look on Facebook for bird watching groups from your area. They will post pictures and give locations as to where they can be found.
Keep Your Feet in Mind
Another thing I learned was to carefully consider your footwear. If I stayed nearby at the first location, running shoes were perfectly fine. If I wanted to take the trail out to the bridges I was better off wearing hiking boots or Wellies when it had rained recently.
During the winter I needed to buy a warmer pair of boots. The boots that I had were fine going from location to car to location, but they were not meant for standing outdoors in the snow for long periods of time.
Standing and watching for long periods of time became tough on the feet and legs. Then I noticed some of the other bird watchers had brought little portable stools with them.
These are a good pair of hiking boots. They have a good tread, they are waterproof, and come in a wide variety of colors.
I have found these have taken care of all my birding needs for spring, summer, and fall. They are also okay for some of the winter time except on really cold days or after a large snow fall (then I need tall winter boots).
Fall and Winter Birding
I found birding to be so relaxing that I wanted to keep going even when the weather got colder. While the original place I found was still a great place to go in the fall, when winter came there was very little to see. I did some research and found some other places where I would be able to bird year round.
While the new places and the new birds I have seen has been great, the weather has not been. In the fall I found dressing in layers was a good idea. When I went out in the early morning it was cold, but as the day went on it got warmer. I found a warm zippered hoodie was good for this transition time.
When it came to winter time I tried wearing my regular winter coat but I ended up having to leave quickly. It was not able to keep me warm enough, as it is more for looks than warmth. So whenever I go birdwatching in the winter I use the coat that I wear to work, which is designed to keep me warm. You need to have a warm coat (along with more layers on really cold days) or you won't be able to enjoy yourself since all you will be thinking about is how cold you are.
Cold Weather Birding Tips:
- Dress for the weather. Include layers so that you are ready when the weather changes.
- Dress for comfort (warmth) not fashion or you won't be able to stay very long or enjoy it.
Bird Watching In The Spring
Baby Canadian Goose
The best part about bird watching in the springtime is you get to see all of the baby birds, goslings, and ducklings. While to me the adult Canada Goose is not that impressive, I absolutely adore the goslings.
When you go looking for them try to look where the water is more calm, such as in a marina or a pond. You can read about my experience with finding and photographing Baby Canadian Geese.
Keeping Track Of Your Birding
People have different approaches for keeping track of the birds that they saw and when the saw them. Quite a few keep a journal logging all of the information. You write down your observations and can later look up what kind of bird that you saw.
This can help you to track not only what, where, and when, but also any other observations.
Personally I take my camera with me so I can take pictures of the birds. I then transfer the pictures onto my computer and add all of the relevant information that I want. I find this works the best for me as it makes it easier when trying to figure on what type of bird it was that I saw.
With the computer you can zoom the picture in even more to pick up the fine details that you may have missed out in the field. Plus I am not an artist by any stretch of the imagination so there is no way I could make a good sketch of my sightings. The camera can also save me money as it acts as my pair of binoculars while birding, but it also works for photographing on other occasions.
How To Log Your Findings
This is an excellent journal for out in the field. It is small so it will easily fit in your pocket. It is also waterproof in case you get caught in bad weather.
This is the camera and zoom lens that I own. It was what was used to take all of the pictures shown in this article.
Creating Art From Your Photographs
Another benefit of using your camera to keep track of the birds that you see is you can create art. You can take the photographs of the birds that you saw and post them online to share with your friends and family.
You could also use the photographs to give as gifts to other bird or nature lovers. There are also places on the web where you can offer your photographs for sale. One of the most popular sites is Fine Art America where they have a variety of photographs including bird of prey art for sale.