Becoming a Birdwatcher

Three years ago, my husband and I came home from work one afternoon to a backyard filled with birds. It was early spring and migration was in full swing, but we were stunned by the variety and beauty of the birds in our backyard. We quietly watched the birds for an hour or so and went online to figure out the unusual ones we hadn't seen before. It started a bird obsession for us and over the last three years we have become amateur bird watchers. It is something that brings us so much pleasure, we wanted to share some of our favorite tips, birdwatching places, and some of the things we have collected along the way. Since becoming birdwatchers, our eyes have been opened to a vibrant world that runs parallel to our own. Everywhere from the city, to the mountains, to the beach is inhabited by a magical variety of birds. Casual familiarity has made most of us blind to these incredible creatures, but the moment you put even a bit of effort into learning about birds and their behaviors, you will find yourself charmed. 

Did you know there are usually about 300 billion birds in the world at any given time? This means that birds vastly outnumber our mere 7 billion humans. Birds add song, beauty, color, and even pollination to our lives. So let's appreciation them a little bit more. There are over 10,000 different species of birds and they range in size from the tiny hummingbird to the long-legged ostrich. The sheer variety can be little daunting when starting out so we recommend beginning by learning about the birds in your area. Most countries have different bird websites that have amazing resources for identifying local birds that you see. Some of our favorites for the birds common in America are: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Audubon Society, and EbirdStart with the birds that are in your backyard. Take a blanket outside on the grass in the hour before sunset, or if you are an early riser, just as the sun is rising. The birds are most active during these hours as they live by the solar clock. For your first couple of bird outings we recommend just observing. Find a small pair of binoculars to take out with you if you want to start seeing more detail. We have lovingly dubbed our "bird-noculars" and keep them right by our front door.In order to attract more birds to your yard, try putting up a bird feeder. Not only does this allow for better viewing, but this helps many birds survive in the rough outdoors, particularly during the winter months. We put a feeder in our yard and see birds from our window visit the feeder everyday. This bird silo is a great option, and lovely colors so it won't be an eye sore. for birds as it allows them to perch on the edges and additional seed falls down naturally like a grain silo. It was designed by a bird loving couple in Finland. 

You'll often hear birds before you see them. Accustom yourself to following their voices. Once you have spotted the bird try to keep your eye on it, as most birds rarely stay in one place for very long. If you are outside, and you don't hear any birds initially, wait a few minutes as you may have scared them off when you settled into your spot. It is important to stay quiet and still so the birds will feel comfortable coming near you. We also have this selection of handcrafted bird calls that are made in France. Once you identify your regular bird visitors, you can communicate with them using the call that matches the species.You can also venture out to watch birds in your local area. Birds often congregate around beaches, lakes, rivers, marshlands, and fields with an abundance of food. However there are even birds that have adapted to live among us such rock doves, house finches, barn swallows, and such.Another favorite way to observe more exotic birds, without the expense of traveling, is by watching live bird cams. These are essentially cameras that are set up that constantly stream a certain area. Many local state parks or national parks will run specific bird cams on their favorite local residents, such as the Bald Eagles in Big Bear Valley. The Cornell Bird Cam YouTube channel offers round the clock bird streams from all over the world: from Panama to Ontario and beyond. One of our favorite streams to watch is located in Sapsucker Woods in Ithaca, NY. There is a huge variety of American birds that pass through the woods on any given day. We also love learning about birds from all over the world and sharing our knowledge with others, whether they want to hear about it or not. One of our favorite ways to learn but also have fun is by playing Bird Bingo. Our nieces and nephews always request that we bring this game along to family events and they love to play. It comes with a booklet that gives you an informational paragraph about each bird featured on the bingo cards. For just some general bird knowledge we love this book called A Bird A Day, which just gives simple facts about a wide variety of birds, one for each day of the year. For the more dedicated bird watcher, or for those interested in the bird culture, we recommend The Audubon Reader. This book is a compilation of the life history and journal entries of John James Audubon. He was a pioneer in the study of ornithology (the study of birds) and he was an incredible bird artist. He created drawings of many birds that had never been seen before. He also contributed so much to the bird community and he was just a regular guy! Now that we are self-proclaimed bird people, we like bird everything! Here are a few of my favorite "birdy" items, in our bird collection. We also love songs about birds including:  Rockin' Robin, Bluebirds over the White Cliffs of Dover, Snowbird, Chickadee song, and more. Happy Birdwatching!

April 12, 2021 — Chelsey Newbould

Leave a comment