Birdwatching is a great hobby for the right kind of person. It is quick and inexpensive to get into but can be immensely satisfying if you have any interest at all in birds in general. However, as quick as it can be to get into the pastime, a lot of it depends on your existing knowledge. If it is something that you think you would like to try, but you can barely name all the bird species in your own garden, then we have brought together some fantastic tips to make it easier than ever to get started.
1. Get Hold of a Field Guide
Even if you’re not a total beginner when it comes to different types of birds, a field guide can go a long way towards introducing you to the hobby. Crucially, we wouldn’t advise going out and simply getting some kind of bird encyclopedia. Instead, you should do your research and get an idea of what is out there locally that will be relevant to you. Different birds live in different places, and if you know where you’ll be going to start spotting, relevant information is best and smaller guides make it quicker to find what you’re looking for. You may not venture further than your garden and local parks, but you can always expand your knowledge later on. The danger in the early stages is that you can become overwhelmed and that can potentially put you off the hobby before you even get started.
2. Once You’re Familiar with Local Birds, Look Up Their Calls
Even those with the keenest eyes cannot always spot birds easily, and hearing them can be one of the best ways to identify their location. If you don’t put the time into learning, then you’ll find yourself following any bird call and could easily end up spotting a pigeon. Once you have your guidebook, however, you can look up the calls of local birds on YouTube and familiarise yourself with what to listen out for.
3. Get the Best Binoculars you can Afford
If you’re just getting into birdwatching and are not yet even sure whether you’ll enjoy it or not, you don’t want to break the bank on expensive binoculars. Those used by seasoned veterans of the hobby can be very expensive indeed. At the same time, if you want to enjoy the pastime truly, you should try to get the best binoculars that you possibly can for your budget. Most birds have keen senses and will not stick around for long if they hear you approaching. Most of this activity takes place at a distance, so you want to stand the best chance of viewing whatever you spot properly.
4. Start Locally
You may have ambitions to travel the world spotting the most exotic birds imaginable, and there is nothing wrong with lofty aims. However, you have to start somewhere, and it is often best to hone your skills locally, in areas that are easy to reach and return to. If you have the right kind of garden and in the correct sort of area, you can make a start in your own garden – potentially without even leaving the house. Once you’re confident in spotting birds from the local area without reaching for your guidebook, it might be time to cat your net further.
5. Look Up Local Birds when You Travel
While you can travel specifically with birdwatching in mind, you might want to get in the habit of planning ahead for every journey you go on. Once you feel like you’ll stick with the hobby, it is worth spending more on books and resources to broaden your knowledge. If you travel far, particularly internationally, there will undoubtedly be opportunities to spot birds that you have never seen in person previously.
6. Join a Group
While a somewhat niche hobby, it is unlikely that you’re the only person in the local vicinity that wants to learn more about birdwatching. Even if there are no clubs and groups near your home, parks and nature reserves will almost certainly have a group you can join. There, you can share resources, tips and generally meet like-minded people.
7. Keep Notes
While there are plenty of resources out there for budding birdwatchers, there is nothing quite like putting together your own. Whenever you go out watching specifically or encounter a bird, make a note of the time and date. This will be authentic information relevant to you, and you’ll know what time of year to seek out individual birds and where you have the best chance of seeing them. That not only helps you along but is something to share if you choose the option to join a group.
8. Take as Many Pictures as You Can
You probably don’t need to prove anything to anyone with your birdwatching, and it could be a wholly individual hobby. Nevertheless, it is always great to have a record of what you’ve seen, especially if they’re rare. Fortunately, your phone probably incorporates a competent camera, and as your experience and interest grow, you can always upgrade your equipment.
9. Join Tours
If you do fancy joining others in your hobby, then you should seek out organised tours. These are designed, for obvious reasons, to cover areas where there are plenty of birds to spot, including those that can be difficult to find elsewhere. There will undoubtedly be fairly local options, but you can potentially make a full holiday out of it too.
10. Strive to Improve
If you’re going to put time, money and effort into birdwatching, then you might as well attempt to become as good as you possibly can be. Broaden your knowledge, do exciting things and experiment with tools and equipment that can serve to make your birdwatching activities lots of fun and the centrepiece of some fantastic life experiences.