According to the National Audubon Society, birding is “the perfect activity while practicing social distancing.” Of course you will need to be extra cautious when spending any amount of time outdoors, but if you can find an isolated area to take a walk and observe wildlife, birding may give you a sense of peace, a bit of exercise, and a welcome distraction from the news. Or if you’re currently unable to spend time outside, you can enjoy birding from a window. All you need is a pair of binoculars, a guidebook, and some curiosity. Scroll down to learn how to start birding.
How to Start Birding
Get your gear.
While you could certainly enjoy a low-key afternoon of birding by simply using your eyes and relying on basic knowledge, most people find birding more rewarding if they have three pieces of equipment: binoculars, a field guide and/or birding app, and a notebook.
- Binoculars: A wide range of binoculars is available, at all different price points. Be sure that your chosen pair feels good in your hands, produces sharp images, and has a close focus of at least 6.5 feet.
- Field Guide/App: Look for a guide that’s practical and compact with helpful photographs to guide you. Audubon recommends the Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America for new birders. If you would prefer an app, look no further than the Audubon Bird Guide App, which is free and features calls, songs, and extensive information about more than 810 species of birds.
- Notebook: Typically birders like to have a place to record their discoveries. Select a waterproof journal to ensure your notes won’t be destroyed by a little rain or snow. Be sure to carry a pen or pencil with you as well.
Prepare for the outing.
Once you have your birding kit assembled, study your field guide a bit so that you know what you’re hoping to find. In addition, check the weather and look into the area you’re hoping to explore so that you’re aware of any regulations, opening and closing times, and other wildlife. We encourage you to follow the Code of Birding Ethics produced by the American Birding Association, which contains helpful guidelines like the following:
- Respect birds.
- Support the conservation of birds and their habitats.
- Minimize your impact on the area (stay on trails, prevent snags, etc.).
- Reduce your impact on the environment as much as possible.
- Avoid causing birds stress or exposing them to danger.
- Limit the use of audio methods to attract birds.
- Exercise caution and restraint when photographing or recording birds.
- Respect your fellow birders.
- Share your knowledge and experience with other birders.
- Respect and follow all laws, rules, and regulations that apply in your birding location.
Start looking for birds.
Birding doesn’t require a national park or a pristine natural paradise. Depending on where you live, you may be able to enjoy birding from the comfort of your couch! Once you spot a bird that you like, you’ll need to play detective to determine the type of bird. Look for the bird’s “field marks,” or the unique characteristics of that particular species. These include color, patterns (streaks, spots, etc.), size, shape, behavior, and song. Especially as an amateur, you might find it helpful to join a community of enthusiastic birders who can offer you tips and advice. When the coronavirus outbreak ends, explore local birding clubs and events.
You certainly don’t have to record your findings – perhaps you’re more of a casual birder, or you dislike the idea of note taking. But if you want to keep track of your successes, write down each bird, the date, the location, the weather, and what you observe the bird doing. Enjoy drawing, painting, or photography? You could add a visual element to your journal as well.
Now that you know how to start birding, get out there and start searching for feathered friends!
If the COVID-19 outbreak is putting a damper on your birding plans, be sure to check out Audubon’s The Joy of Birds feature. It includes a variety of interesting photos, videos, and articles. For example, you might enjoy browsing baby bird pictures, videos of outrageous mating dances, or an article about the most terrifying bird in the world.
At Springhouse Village, we know how important it is to enjoy your retirement in a lively and welcoming environment. We make it easy for our residents to be active participants in our community. Whether that means encouraging residents to shop at local farmers markets or assisting them in starting a garden club, we strive to help our residents thrive. To learn more about the amenities and services we offer, contact Springhouse Village today.