Birdwatching tips for beginners
Birdwatching is a great hobby and a fun pastime, giving you an excuse to get out and engage with nature and learn more about the wildlife in your area.
You don’t need to be an expert to go birdwatching or invest huge amounts of money to take it up as a hobby; with little more than a pair of binoculars and a view from your back garden you can enjoy following and learning more about birds.
Want to give it a go? Here’s a few birdwatching tips to get you started.
Start with your eyes and ears
You don’t necessarily need fancy equipment to go birdwatching – your eyes and ears are enough. Take a walk in your local park or sit in the garden and take notice of what you see and hear; learning to recognise different birds and their songs is a good way to get started.
Keep a log
A logbook of what you see and when will help you keep track of the best times to spot your favourite birds and is a good place for you to note down any exciting discoveries. A hardback notebook works best, and use pencil rather than pen, as pencil won’t run if you get caught in the rain. Taking note of shape, beak, legs, habitat and behaviour are all useful facts to collect.
Think about clothing
Don’t forget to consider what you wear. If possible, choose clothing in muted colours and avoid wearing any times of clothing – like a windbreaker jacket – that rustles when you move. Also choose garments that will keep you warm (or cool) and comfortable, and even in winter, make sure you wear a hat to protect yourself from direct sunlight.
Use a field guide
Once you start seeing birds, you may want more information to help identify and learn about them. There are hundreds available, but to begin with stick to a book that contains birds that occur in Britain – or are native to the place you live. The RSPB Handbook of British Birds is a good place to start.
Set up a bird feeder
You don’t need to travel far from home to enjoy birdwatching. Setting up a bird bath or bird feeder in your back garden will help attract local birds so you can watch them more closely at home. A suet or sunflower feeder are both inexpensive and will work for a range of different birds. To create the best environment for birds, place feeders away from the home and in an area of the garden where they can easily see predators. Building up regular visitors takes time – make sure feeders are well stocked, offer heartier options during winter, and most of all, be patient!
A good pair of binoculars can make bird watching immensely more pleasurable. They range in price from a tenner all the way up to over £1000 – but you don’t need to spend beyond your means. Making an upfront investment will prove more cost-effective in the long term as a good quality pair will last you a lifetime. That said, it’s possible to get a decent pair for about a hundred pounds. If you’re trying to buy cheaply, choose porro prisms rather than roof prisms for better quality at a lower price point. If you are investing in a high end pair, both porro-prisms and roof prisms should be able to provide a clear and excellent view.
Find a birdwatching spot
There are great locations all over the UK where you can see a high concentration of birds in one place. British Bird Watchers has put together a list of 10 spots where you can see birds throughout the year.
Join an event
Birdwatching doesn’t need to be a solitary pursuit. The RSPB runs great events for adults and children throughout the UK, from guided walks to family fun days where you can learn more about birdlife, conservation and ask questions to the experts. Search for events from the RSPB website.
Have you ever tried birdwatching? What are your tips and tricks?
Rachel - Silversurfers Assistant Editor
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