How to start birdwatching when you have no idea where to go

Sharon Stettler has spent two decades tracking down a brave bird known as Spruce grouse. For Stettler, the birds, with their black and white plumage and striking red eyebrows, are what they are referred to in the avian world as enemy bird: an elusive creature that always seems to evade your view. Each time she received information about sightings of spruce grouse, she arrived a little late. says Stettler, a bird writer and best-known writer the birds. “And then it will not appear again.”

Stettler conceded defeat as he hunted for spruce grouse. Just when she began working in Alaska’s Denali National Park in 2021, she accidentally discovered not one, but three spruce plantings while biking on her first day in the park. “I got off my bike, took pictures,” she says. “I cried.”

You don’t need to be a birder for long to appreciate the thrill of discovering a new creature for you.

Since its inception in the late nineteenth centuryBird watching has become her favorite pastime Millions nationwide – The number of residents it has grown since the pandemic. What was once considered his recreation Middle-aged white men It is slowly moving into a demographic youngerAnd more versatile the birds. (Despite the fact that even the notable bird conservation organization is a non-profit The Audubon Society recently announced that it will be keeping its namewhich has ties to John James Audubon, the 19th-century naturalist who enslaved people.)

Christian Cooper, the black bird who was falsely accused of threatening a white woman while keeping birds in Central Park in 2020, is among many leading the charge To diversify bird watching. says Katrina Clark, a board member of the Philadelphia-based Foundation In the colorful bird club. “These new bird clubs really appeal to people of color, to women, to people who might not even be able to walk a certain path.”

Birding or birdwatching (the two terms, for all intents and purposes, can be used interchangeably) is a hobby that engages the senses, encourages the mind, and gets participants outdoors. Being immersed in nature doesn’t just come with a range of Mental health benefitsbut even listen to it birds It can improve well-being. Whether you’re looking to slow down a bit or want to find your enemy bird, getting involved in birdwatching is just that As simple as estimating a single bird.

The birding equipment you will need

In terms of hobbies, birds are fairly low maintenance. In theory, young bird watchers need nothing but their eyes and ears to enjoy the sights and sounds of birds. says Meghadeepa Maity, director of accessibility and cross-cutting community engagement at Female Bird Club“,” And you just need to get out or look out your window.

For further guidance, a field guide and binoculars are the only necessary items. A field guide is a book that documents the types of birds commonly found in an area and their descriptions. You’ll want to find one specific to your geographic area – It will contain pictures and descriptions of the birds you are likely to encounter. Free apps like Audubon Bird Guide app And Merlin Baird ID It can also help you identify birds. Virginia Rose, Founder Bird susceptibilitya comprehensive birding group, recommends B National Geographic Guide to Birds of North America.

Binoculars will give you a closer look at the birds without disturbing them. Binoculars can get expensive, but beginners can use pairs borrowed from local birding groups during guided walks. says Jeff LeBaron, director Counting Christmas Birds According to the National Audubon Society, “It will help you to use it yourself at first.”

do you want your own husband, Entry level binoculars It can run anywhere from $50 to $150. Look for binoculars labeled 8.5×40, says LeBaron (or As close as you can find to those specs). Number one is the magnification: eight is powerful enough to make birds zoom in, but not so powerful that you can’t find what you’re looking for. The second number indicates the amount of light entering through the lens: 40 or higher provides a brighter image in darker or cloudier conditions.

Safety gear includes sunscreen and tick and bug spray, especially if you’re heading into a wooded area. Clark always wears long pants tucked into his socks while birding to protect herself from ticks. You’ll want to wear sturdy, supportive shoes that are comfortable for walking.

Where and when to go bird watching

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to venture to a remote nature reserve to enjoy the birds. When Mighty started raising birds as a child, they began to take an interest in the animals in their surroundings: at school, in the neighborhood, at home. Stettler suggests walking around wherever there is water—a fountain, a creek, a pond. If you have the space, consider a bird bath On the patio, front step or porch for bird watching at home. (“Cemeteries are actually great places for birds,” says Stettler, “but you want to be respectful.”)

When you’re ready to explore further, start by making a list of the parks in your city or county, Rose says, and visit them, either by yourself or with a few friends. If a local birding club plans trips to any of these parks, all the better.

A local bird club or Audubon season It can provide recommendations for prime bird-watching spots in your area. These groups also host birding trails that are geared towards beginners, so that can be a great way to learn about the landscape and how to identify birds. the American Bird Society He has a list of bird clubs, and Female Bird Club It has chapters all over the country. Of course, a Google or Facebook search will lead to a number of local birding organizations.

Birds are especially active early in the morning – singing and feeding – so experts advise going out at dawn for excellent bird watching, no matter what time of year it is. If you are not a morning person, Birds are very active around dusk, also. Migration season is also prime time for bird watching, in particular Non-native species that might be on their way north or south. in spring, Birds migrate Between March and June, fall migration is August through November.

What to consider during your first bird watching outings

More experienced birders often have lists of birds they have seen and hope to see, but there is value in simply being in nature, listening to birdsong. Let go of expectations and start taking in your surroundings. what do you see? What do you hear? What are the forms of birds? What about their beaks and tails? What are their sizes? What are their actions? How do they sound? All physical and auditory descriptions of the birds will help you identify them in your guidebook. Even if you can’t classify them, enjoy watching the creatures behave in nature.

If you want to keep track of all the birds you’ve seen, experts recommend the app eBird Where you can keep a record of your viewing. The app also provides a list of birds that others have reported seeing where you are, based on your GPS location.

As for actually spotting a bird — and reporting its location to others — Rose recommends looking at the tree as if it were a clock face. “Suppose I see a bird on the three o’clock branch,” she says. “I will say the bird is six feet high on the three o’clock branch.”

What to do if you feel down or overwhelmed

You might spend an hour in a garden struggling to spot a single bird or fail to catch any while working at your backyard bird feeder and feel frustrated. There is strength in numbers: Look for guidance from a bird club where more experienced birders can point out birds and help identify them. When describing a yellow bird, another bird watcher may be able to guide you with questions such as, “Where did you see the yellow: all over or on certain parts of its body?” “After someone has some success,” says Clark, “you’re like, ‘Okay, I can do this. I got this. I may not know every bird but I’ve had some success.'”

If you feel overwhelmed by the diversity of birds, perhaps during migration, limit your focus to one species, says LeBaron: Just ducks in the park, only gulls on the beach. Mighty also recommends bringing a notebook and taking notes. “Later, you will notice patterns,” they say. “The birds have become really predictable.”

Remember to respect nature and other birders

As a general rule, give the birds some space and avoid making loud noises. “Being quiet enough that the bird continues to eat around you is a good sign,” says Clark.

If you find a nest, don’t go near it or touch it. “Your scent will linger,” says Stettler. “Predators like raccoons and cats, they smell that scent and follow human scent.” This endangers the nest.

For more guidance, Maity recommends the American Bird Association Bird Code of Ethicswhich encourages bird watchers to be mindful of their environmental impact and to respect the rights and skills of other bird watchers.

Speaking of respecting other birds, when interacting with others, be aware of your surroundings, but never question anyone else’s right to be in a public place. While experts agree that birds are largely supportive and helpful, Incidents of racism like the one Cooper experienced in Central Park She emphasizes the need for inclusivity. “You’ll see someone out there who doesn’t fit your idea of ​​the world,” says Maite. “If you are making an assumption — which you likely will — take a moment to think about if there is an alternative positive assumption you could make.”

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