How To Start Bird Watching

How To Start Bird Watching

If you’re reading this article, then the chances are you’re already a bird watcher and just don’t realise it yet. Do you find yourself noticing birds or bird song wherever you go? Are you constantly aware of the slight movement just at the edge of your peripheral vision? It sounds like you’re a bird watcher.

 Bird watching is a cheap, easy way to get immersed in nature without ever leaving the environs of your own garden. Whether you live in a town, city or in the countryside, the one creature that won’t be lacking is the birds. Your garden is probably playing host to a number of bird species as you read this.

Where To Start Bird Watching?

By leaving home and searching slightly further afield like out to a local park, or field, you’ll see many more varieties of birds than visible in your own garden. Try a local riverbank that’s always a good starting point for seeing plenty of bird activity. The list of spots to look for birds is endless;

  • Gardens
  • Fields
  • Parks
  • Riverbanks
  • Woodlands
  • Countryside
  • Car Parks

Anywhere people don’t frequent too loudly, you’ll find birds. 

How To Start Bird Watching?

You probably already are bird watching but, try to be more methodical in your bird watching. Start with a notebook and record what you see. Ask yourself the following questions and record as much as you can.

  1. Where Was The Bird?
  2. What Size Was It?
  3. How About Compared To Surrounding Birds?
  4. What Colours Did It Have?
  5. Any Distinctive Features (eyes, markings, feather patterns, leg size, claws etc)
  6. What Activities Was It Undertaking? (singing, preening, feeding, bathing,etc)
  7. If it Was Eating, What Was It Feeding On?
  8. Was It Alone Or Part Of A Group?
  9. What Did Its Song Sound Like?

The more birds you observe and the more you get to recognise their peculiarities and similarities, the sooner you’ll be able to tell which bird you can hear long before you see it. The more you can record the better equipped you’ll be to recognise other, similar birds in similar settings. If possible, make your recording as soon as you see the bird while it’s all fresh in your mind. If you have one,  a smartphone will allow you to record all of your observations in quick time, allowing you to write it up at your leisure later on. If you can, go bird watching with an experienced bird watcher, someone already familiar with the sights and sounds who will be able to help you identify your latest bird find.

Will A Guide Book Help?

No one knows what many birds look or sound like, which is why a decent bird book to identify birds is well worth investing in. Look online and see which book suits you best. The more you try, the better you’ll get at identifying wild birds. There are a number of online apps that are worth having a look at for identifying various birds. 

The BTO (British Trust for Ornithology)[1] has a great online series of identification videos which will make identifying some of the more difficult species easier. The RSPB (Royal Society For The Protection of Birds)[2] also has a lot of hints and tricks on identifying birds.

What Do You Need to Become a Bird Watcher?

All you really need is an interest and some time. But a decent pair of binoculars will also be a great help in spotting birds in the distance. For beginner birders choosing binoculars can seem like a daunting task but we have a guide to help you to make the correct choice just follow this link for beginner birders binoculars

Apart from binoculars, a notepad, and some stout walking shoes, we’d recommend some waterproof clothing, some lunch and a warm drink. And of course a backpack/rucksack to carry it all in comfortably. We recommend subdued colours (greens and browns to blend in and not frighten any birds away) and be as quiet as possible.

Respect The Bird Watchers Code

As bird watching has become such a popular pastime worldwide, and as we all want to do what’s best for the birds, a code has been set up by all of the leading bird organisations, magazines and websites.

The Bird Watchers Code

  1. Never Disturb Birds Or Their Habitats
  2. Be A Good Ambassador For Birdwatching
  3. Be Aware Of Laws And Rules For Visiting The Countryside
  4. Always Think Of Wildlife And Local People Before Spreading Locations Of Rare Birds
  5. Send Any Usual Sightings To The County Bird Recorder.

The interests of birds come first and should always be first and foremost in your mind. Birds respond to people in different ways at different times depending on the time of year breeding,etc. Any disturbance can keep birds away from their nests and their young.

Some birds have flown many miles in adverse  weather conditions to reach their Winter sites in the UK allow them to rest and recuperate. Don’t scare them or flush them from their hiding places. Allow them space to feel unthreatened so they can rebuild their strength. Avoid venturing too close to nesting sites, feeding grounds etc.

Stay on roads and/or pathways so as to keep disturbance to a minimum. Remember a flock of birds a mile away can be spooked if you show yourself on to a sea wall etc, remember fieldcraft and stay hidden. 

When To Start Bird Watching?

The answer to this, is, you probably already have started, but there is no time when it’s not a good time to bird watch, with the exception of night time. Whenever you have time, it’s time to go bird watching. As soon as you spot the first bird you’ll realise a pair of binoculars will improve your viewing. 

Apart from that, go for it! Some people enjoy seeing birds even closer than through binoculars; using a spotting scope gives a starting point of more than 10 times the magnification of a standard pair of binoculars. But that extra magnification will need the support of a tripod to prevent a shaky image.

Some prefer photographic images to record their bird spotting and this can lead on to digiscoping which involves using a spotting scope connected to a camera to give incredible close-up images.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is needed for bird watching?

All that is really needed for bird watching is patience and time. But a decent pair of binoculars will definitely help. As will a field guide, bird identity book and a notebook and pen.

What is the best time for bird watching?

The best time of day to bird watch is early morning and up to lunchtime. This is when most birds are most active.

What are the two important things required for bird watching?

The two most important things required for bird watching apart from patience and time, are a pair of binoculars and a decent field guide.