Birdwatching or birding bestows many benefits. It can decrease stress, sharpen concentration and let you impress your friends when you can identify birds on a whim (that skill comes after A LOT of practice though). Birding gives you the opportunity to explore new places, whether it be your backyard or a whole different country. While it is up to you how much you are willing to invest in this hobby, it’s definitely worth your while to try the activity at least once. Not sure how to start? Continue reading to learn about the basics of birding.
Materials involved: Apps and binoculars
As a college student, being frugal is at the forefront of my mind. Which I think is one of the main reasons why I, a 20-year-old woman, enjoy this activity so much. We live in a world where technology is at our fingertips. And one of these pieces of technology directly instigates my passion for birds. I use a lot of different apps for bird guides. Bird guides are field guides — books that help us identify what the heck it is we are looking at. For me, my guides come in the form of the Audubon app, ebird.com, and ibird. However, there are lots more to choose from, even actual books!
You can downloaded this app right on your phone. I usually use this when I can’t identify a bird immediately when I view it. I simply input all of the information about the bird I observed, and the app narrows down a long list while keeping in mind the date and location of where I am.
When using eBird I feel like a scientist! I use this tool to record all of my bird observations. It helps birders engage in something called citizen science. This term allows people a part of the general public a way to collaborate with scientists to better understand the natural world surrounding us.
iBird is another field guide. It allows you to use pictures to identify birds that they may encounter on their birding treks.
I also use binoculars when I go birding. I’ve been using the same pair of binoculars for the past fifteen or so years. Now, these are not the most expensive binoculars. I just take good care of them the entire time they’ve been in my possession. That goes to show how important it is to take care of your stuff! Any pair of binoculars can be used for birding. But I would recommend choosing a pair that is comfortable for you, and easy for you to maneuver. The ones with difficult-to-use adjustable knobs don’t serve me well, but they might be for you!
Notice how I only listed two things for materials? I would argue that you don’t even need those! You can also use a physical field guide if you have one showcasing birds in your area. Birding can be as intense as you make it. If you want to go on a hike and try to identify birds from memory as they fly past you, go for it! The activity is extremely versatile and can be tailored to just about anybody. Now how is that for inclusivity?
How to bird
When I was little, I would go birding with my grandfather. This in itself is an indirect benefit of birding. The memories and appreciation for those people in your life. Without my grandpa’s influence, I probably would not be working for the Montana Audubon today! I have so many memories of us going on both dedicated bird excursions and also just walking outside and identifying them.
When my grandpa and I would go on those dedicated bird excursions, we would always check the weather beforehand and make sure we had a list of potential birds that we would see that day so we weren’t going into the activity blindly. When we made these lists, we took into account where we were in Northeastern Ohio so we would not expect any tropical birds to cross our paths. We would also note how cold or warm it was that day, what time of the day and year it was, and if we were wearing clothes and shoes that would not deter birds from going to our general location. Camouflaging was always the most fun part for a five-year-old girl to navigate. I got to play dress up and have fashion shows, then I got to bird at the end of them with my favorite human being.
Birding responsibly is something that should always be at the forefront of any recreators mind. We want to respect and take care of the environment just as much as we want to enjoy all that it has to offer us, right? So keep that in mind while you enjoy the sight and sound of a Black-capped Chickadee ordering its favorite food, a “cheeeeseburger” or while you are watching a Red-tailed hawk soaring past the river you decided to walk along.