How to Get Started Bird Watching
By Charles Hopkins
Published 01/2/2008 | Hobbies
Bird watching may be both one of the world's easiest and most difficult
hobbies. This seemingly contradictory statement can be explained
because bird watching may be pursued at many different levels, from the
most simple to the most complicated.
At its simplest level, one can be a bird watcher -- also known as a
birder -- simply by looking out a window and observing the various
winged creatures that may be passing by or hopping past. On the
opposite end of the scale, one may purchase the most costly,
high-powered telescope and portable tripod and traipse across the globe
in search of some of nature's most marvelous and colorful creatures.
Although, for most bird watchers, the purpose for their hobby is to
gain knowledge about nature, some people have used the observation of
avian creatures as the starting point for very serious scientific
research. Probably the most famous example of this is Charles Darwin.
He was a naturalist aboard a sailing ship, traveling to such far-away
locations as Ecuador's Galapagos Island. It was Darwin's observation of
different variety of finches that led to the development of his theory
of natural selection.
It is likely that the two most important tools for a would-be bird
watcher are an identification reference guides and visual aids. A trip
to a local public library is a good way to borrow a reference guide.
Some of the most popular and widely used books for birders are those
published by the Audubon Society. Binoculars and telescopes are the two
choices for making it easier to see far-away birds. Binoculars offer
the advantages of being less costly, more portable and more compact in
size, but a telescope is the first choice for the very serious bird
watcher, as their magnification is usually superior, and, when mounted
on a secure tripod, the image is less shaky and easier to see.
One excellent way to learn about birds is to go on an outing with
an experienced naturalist. At a Migratory Bird Sanctuary in Delta,
British Columbia, Canada, where over 280 different bird species have
been sighted, such an opportunity is offered every Sunday morning. For
no extra charge other than the basic admission fee, people can walk
along the paths with a veteran birder. He will point out the various
resident and migratory birds that he observes, often pointing his
telescope at an owl, snow goose, chickadee, or whatever feathered
feature catches his fancy.
Although birds are easiest to see in the winter and early spring
when there are no leaves on the trees, birding is usually more pleasant
during warmer months. For this reason, it is equally important to be
able to identify birds by sound as it is by sight.
Like any hobby, the more one learns about a topic, the more
interesting and fascinating it becomes. After a few walks through
nearby parks and other birding areas, one may be motivated to purchase
or construct a feeding station and bring the birds to you. That is the
easiest kind of birding, when the birds come to you, rather than you
having to go out and look for them.