Birds

I’m With Birds: First Steps Towards Birding

I’ve been mesmerized by birds for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, I would climb the trees in my parents’ backyard and sit for hours listening, watching, and disappearing into the background — it drove my parents crazy. They were always worried that I’d fall out of a tree, or come home with ticks or chiggers stuck under my skin. They never realized that they were responsible for my interest in birds.

Images and ornaments of birds were found in every room of my childhood home, hung on the walls, chiseled into the wooden dining room table, and placed on on coffee tables. My parents even had little miniature sculptures of birds decorating their garden — birds were everywhere.

Fast forward from 1985 to 2013, a few decades passed by and I had seen a lot of different types of birds during that time (most notably during a decade of traveling abroad). In 2013 I found myself homebound, on bedrest, for nearly 7 months. I clocked many hours of watching Investigation Discovery, Facebooking, and even more hours looking out the windows. I can probably draw the shape and structure of every building, tree, road, and leaf within a quarter-mile of my bedroom and kitchen windows from memory.

During my hours of gazing out the windows, I noticed (of course) the birds. My husband gave me an old pair of binoculars that he had found in storage and so it began…my first steps towards birding.

During this time, the DC Snowy Owl was paying a visit (RIP DC Snowy Owl) and through Twitter (how perfect is that) via a Snowy Owl discussion, I became acquainted with a wonderful Wonder Woman who steered me in the direction that I am going in today — wherever the birds are going.

I’m with birds and you should be too. Here’s 6 ways how:

#1 Hang up a feeder

Hanging up a bird feeder is the quickest and easiest way to get involved in with birds. See my two-part series on bird feeding (part one and part two) to learn about the best way (for you) to feed and attract wild birds.

#2 Get a pair of binoculars

All it took to get me started was a badly treated pair Bushnell binoculars. Now, years later, I use Nikon Monarchs. Yes, the price difference is steep, but I bird everyday and the quality of your binoculars makes a big difference.

#3 Become Resourceful

The amount of FREE resources available to birders will blow your mind — it’s nuts. Here are my top three:

AnimalPerspectives.Com (duh!!!)

Cornell

Audubon

#4 There’s an APP for that

I don’t use a paperback field guide. I have several and I keep one in my car (along with a nest and egg guide) but I read the others at home. I simply cannot bother with the weight of a field guide in addition to my other gear that I carry. The app that I use in the field is Sibley Birds. It’s fast, user-friendly, and good. Download different kinds and find the right fit for you.

For keeping track of my sightings I prefer to use the notepad feature of my smart phone. Some people really like the eBird app. Give it a try and find what works for you! In the coming months I will post my “There’s an App For That!” review. Stay tuned!

#5 Get social

There are no shortages of Facebook groups. Here’s a list of Facebook groups to get you started:

Animal Perspectives

East Coast Birding

ABA Rare Bird Alert

#6 Be Patient

Whether you’re indoors, or outdoors, patience pays. “Good things come to those that wait,” is true for me when I’m out birding. My biggest birding days have happened from sitting in one spot, for hours (sometimes just 45 minutes), and becoming part of the scenery.

If you’re 30 minutes in and nobody has shown up (birds, I mean) stay another 15 minutes. I do this (time permitting) and it usually pays off. Three birds that were absolutely worth my 15 extra minutes were a grand pileated woodpecker that I was able to add to my Christmas Bird Count (CBC), a Northern Harrier I would have otherwise overlooked, and a barred owl that had probably been watching me for hours before I found it. These photos are of the actual birds I saw in those last 15 minutes!

 

Stay tuned for more posts about simple ways to be with birds!

Don’t forget to follow Animal Perspectives on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!

Also Read…

5 Ways to Enjoy Birds in the Wild

Quick and Dirty: Steps to Cleaning Your Feeders

Winter Bird Feeding Part One: Determining Habitat

Winter Bird Feeding Part Two: Feed and Feeders

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