How To Get Into Bird Watching

How To Get Into Bird Watching

If you’re reading this then we assume you’re interested in bird watching. Getting into bird watching is the easiest thing in the world. In fact you’re probably already a bird watcher you just haven’t realised it yet.

Do you find yourself noticing birds everywhere you go? Are you seeing slight movements at the very edge of your vision? Do you find yourself wondering which bird is making that beautiful song? It sounds like you’re a bird watcher.

Read on for all you need to know to become a fully fledged bird watcher. We’ll tell you all of the equipment you’ll need, where to go to see birds in their natural habitat, what to wear, and all of the important information you’ll need to get into bird watching. 

We often get asked questions concerning how to get into bird watching and so this article is in answer to those questions.

Where Should I Go To Watch Birds?

Here’s the first piece of good news, you don’t need to go anywhere. Birds are all around us almost all of the time. Whether you live in a town, city, out in the countryside, by a lake or at the coast, there will be birds close by. Different types of birds frequent different areas but there are always some types of birds around.

If you live in a city and don’t have a garden try walking to your local park, or any open space and you’ll see signs of bird activity. River banks, ponds, even hedgerows at the side of the road are all places often visited by birds. In the countryside there will be birds all around you just be still and silent and they’ll show themselves.

How Do I Begin To Bird Watch?

At this early stage in your bird watching adventure, you’ll need to ask yourself the following questions;

  1. Where Did I See The Bird?
  2. How Big Was It?
  3. Was It Alone Or In A Group?
  4. How Did Its Size Compare With Those Around It?
  5. Did It Have Any Distinguishing Features (Colourings, Markings, Claws, Plumage, Beak etc)?
  6. What Activity Was It Doing (Preening, Feeding, Singing, Bathing, Perching)?
  7. If It Was Eating, What Was It Eating?
  8. What Did Its Song Sound Like?
  9. What Time Of Day Did You See It?

The more you do this, the easier it will become to identify various species of birds. As with all hobbies, it takes time and practise to get to recognise various traits of the various bird species. It will be very helpful to log all of this information down in a notepad as soon as possible and if you have a camera you might possibly be able to capture an image of this bird or better yet some video footage.

What Equipment Do I Need To Watch The Birds?

In reality, all you need is your eyes and patience but a notepad and pen will be helpful. As will a decent pair of binoculars, in fact let’s have a look at some helpful equipment you might like to take with you when you go out bird watching.

  • Stout Shoes Or Walking Boots
  • Waterproof Clothing
  • Binoculars
  • Bird Identification Book
  • Field Guide
  • Notepad & Pen
  • Hot Drink
  • Lunch
  • Backpack/Rucksack
  • Spotting Scope
  • Camera

Obviously you don’t need all of this equipment but it will come in handy. If you would like more information on finding binoculars for beginner bird watchers click here.There are also some great birding apps free to download from your app store and you might consider joining a bird watching organisation like the RSPB[1] or the BTO[2].

Recommended Reading

There are a number of good publications to help identify birds all at reasonable prices including;

  • RSPB Pocket Guide To British Birds
  • Collins Life-Size Birds
  • Collins Gem Birds
  • Bill Bailey’s Remarkable Guide to British Birds
  • British Birds: A photographic guide to every common species (Collins Complete Guide)
  • Britain’s Birds: An Identification Guide to the Birds of Great Britain and Ireland

There’s also a website called the Xeno Canto Project[3] which is aiming to identify every bird in the world by its song.

When Is The Best Time To Go Bird Watching?

The simple answer to this question is whenever you have a spare half hour. But the best time to see birds at their most active is early mornings and up to lunchtime. There are birds still active during the afternoon and evening but early mornings find them at their most active. As for seasons, birds are busy all year round, of course we lose many species in early Autumn as they migrate to warmer climes, but we also gain many birds that overWinter in the UK.

Springtime is the most active time of year for birds when they’re nesting and teaching their young to fly etc. They are also very active during Summer months and during Autumn we get the toing and froing of the migratory birds. Then in Winter the birds are actively seeking sustenance on a daily basis.

What Is A Bird Hide?

Bird hides are specially constructed huts specifically for watching the birds without disturbing them or being seen. Mostly found on nature reserves, a hide is usually situated near a lake, pond or other natural feature where birds congregate. From the hide you can get an unobstructed view of many species of birds like waterfowl and waders.

Often in hides there will be a notice board or information board with plenty of recorded sightings etc. Sometimes there are log books where other bird watchers record which varieties of birds they have spotted. Hides usually have seats that are positioned in front of windows covered with wooden flaps. Once you sit down comfortably, gently open the flap to reveal all of the birds and other wildlife in the distance.

When you decide to leave, do so quietly and remember to share any sightings you may have spotted in the log.

How Can I See More Birds In My Garden?

If you are enjoying watching the birds that visit your garden and would like to see more, consider adding some birdfeeders. By varying the type of feed you put out in your garden you will also attract many different species of birds. More important than birdfeeders, add a birdbath, many people feed the birds but not everyone realises just how difficult fresh, clean water can be for birds to find.

How Can I See Different Birds To Usual?

If you want to spot different varieties of birds consider looking in different habitats like woodlands, shrubland, heaths, lakes, riversides, ponds, coastal paths, wherever you’ve not been bird watching in the past. Different birds frequent different habitats so to see variety you need to go to different areas.

What Three Things Do I Need To Be A Bird Watcher?

The three most important things you need to be a bird watcher are patience, quiet and calmness. Other than that you need your eyes and to keep your wits about you. The birds are there, they just keep hidden from humans and with good reason. It’s how they’ve survived so long. To see more birds, remain still and make no sudden movements.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best time to bird watch?

The best time of day to bird watch is early morning and through to midday. Birds are most active in the early morning.

Is bird watching a career?

Bird watching is a great hobby, but with the right qualifications bird watching or ornithology as it’s called can be a career.

What month is best for bird watching?

Spring, Summer and Autumn are the best seasons for bird watching, so from March to October are the best months for bird watching.