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5 Easy Tips to Help You Get Started Bird Watching

Tonya Prater, Owner

If you’re looking for a free hobby, that doesn’t require a lot of gear, can be done anywhere, and is something anyone can do, consider bird watching.

Americans may love our sports, but did you know that birdwatching is so popular that almost 16 million people participate in the hobby annually?

Are you surprised? I am! But let’s think about this for a minute.

Birds are everywhere.

You can bird watch from the comfort of your backyard, it’s an activity anyone can enjoy and it’s free!

When it comes to choosing a new hobby, it doesn’t get any better.

I admit that I’m not an expert birdwatcher, but in the past few years, I’ve been drawn to birdwatching more and more. It was the perfect activity for my husband while he was recovering from a spinal fusion nearly five years ago. And it’s a budget-friendly activity we can do when we road trip.

In the past year, we’ve taken a road trip to Alabama, Florida, and North Carolina to bird watch. Not to mention, I spend time every morning on my deck with a cup of tea while I watch and listen to the birds darting around my yard.

Here are my top five tips to help you get started bird watching.

* This post does contain affiliate links. 

I was bird watching at Carvers Creek State Park in Fayetteville, North Carolina when I spotted this brownish/golden bird on a wire overhead.

Grab a Checklist.

    Serious bird watchers know what birds you’ve seen and often keep a life list. This is a list of all the birds they’ve seen and documented. I use this inexpensive bird logbook to record the birds I see. While it does fit in a backpack, it’s too big to fit in a pocket. You may want to check out an app you can keep on your phone.

    Two of my favorite birdwatching apps include:

    The Audubon app allows you to identify the birds you see, track them, learn more about them, and share photos.

    The Merlin Bird ID app also has a handy life list to track the birds you see.

    While the Audubon app is like having a field guide on your phone, Merlin offers quick identification by image or sound so not only will you learn to recognize the birds you sight, but by sound too.

    Both apps are free with in-app purchases and work with Android and iPhone users.

    Driving through a wildlife refuge in the Outer Banks when I spotted this white heron in the water alongside the road in the ditch.

    Know Where to Look.

      This may sound overly simplistic and I’ve already established that you can find birds in your backyard but hear me out.

      The key to checking off those birds on your bird list is to know where to find the varieties that you don’t often see at home.

      You can find out when birds are on the move by checking out the migration schedule with this live migration map.

      When traveling, seek out state and national parks as well as a wildlife refuge. Did you know there are over 500 National Wildlife Refuges in the United States? You’ll find at least one in each state.

      This gross looking pond in Myrtle Beach was full of ducks.

      Know What Species to Expect.

        The United States is home to about 900 species of birds. Even the most experienced bird watcher would be hard-pressed to identify half of them.

        When planning to visit a new area, do some research so you know what you’re looking for and the types of birds you’re likely to find at that time of year.

        With a bit of preparation, you’ll be better prepared to identify one bird species from another. Don’t forget to keep track of what you see on your app!

        We were looking for manatees but ended up spotting birds instead. Bird Watching in Florida's State Parks

        Invest in the Best Pair of Binoculars You Can Afford.

          You may be tempted to skip this purchase but having a decent pair of binoculars can be the difference between a fruitful day of bird watching and time wasted because your binoculars stink.

          Invest in the best pair of binoculars that you can afford. Ideally, that will be a pair with image stabilization, anti-fogging, low-light viewing, and wide-view characteristics. This is the pair of binoculars that I own and are great for someone starting. 

          Did you know you can even purchase binoculars with built-in digital cameras? This will enable you to identify the birds you see once you get home.

          If you’re brand new to bird watching, you may want to try it a few times before laying down the big bucks but keep in mind as you continue, the benefits will enhance your bird watching and far outweigh the cost.

          Even birds that can be a nuisance are still beautiful, like this crow that we spotted driving through the Smoky Mountains.

          Take Someone with You.

            I’m a huge fan of making memories with others- whether my kids, my husband, or a friend. Find someone who may enjoy it or is open to trying something new and go bird-watching together.

            Not only are you able to enjoy the great outdoors with someone you like but it will be fun to have someone to share your birding experiences with.

            The best part about bird watching is that you can do it anytime, from nearly anywhere.

            Have you tried bird watching or are you just getting started?

            Two photos, the top one shows a white heron at a wildlife refuge in North Carolina. The bird is standing in the ditch the runs along the road. The bottom image shows a bird resting on a branch surround by beautiful turquoise water and Spanish Moss hanging from the trees.

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            David Cheung

            Tuesday 9th of July 2019

            Hi Tonya, Great tips! It is fun to read up on this as I had no idea. I downloaded the app you recommended and will look through it. I did not know that you can get binoculars with a built-in digital camera in it! Thanks

            Tonya Prater

            Monday 16th of September 2019

            I haven't tried the binoculars with the camera yet but it sounds like a fantastic invention!

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