The sport of bird watching has been around for years and, right behind gardening, is the second fastest growing hobby in America. It has been said that learning to bird is like getting a lifetime ticket to theater of nature. And indeed, with their beauty and elegance, birds are an awesome part of life. Birds flash past in every shade from emerald to vermillion, beautiful as showy flower blossoms. How could we not watch birds?
As with any sport or hobby, however, bird watching does require patience and practice to learn and will by all means have its moments of frustrations. But if you give it a good try and learn the basics, in no time you will be addicted!
What follows are some tips to help you along the way.
Binoculars are a birder’s eyes on the world, and they can greatly affect the quality of a bird outing. Good binoculars make for good birding, while bad binoculars can lead to missed birds and severe headaches induced by blurred images, double vision, and eye strain. When choosing a binocular for birding, cheap is definitely not the way to go.
Make sure the power (or magnification) is at least 7-power. The power is the first number given in the numerical notation that describes binoculars. For example, a “7 X 35” pair of “glasses” will make objects appear as if they are seven times as close as they actually are. Seven-power binoculars are about the minimum needed to see birds well. Binoculars 10- power or stronger can be difficult for some birders to hold steady.
Make sure that the second number (“35” for a “7 X 35” pair of glasses) is at least five times as large as the power (e.g., “7 X 35,” “8 X 40,” etc.). This second number describes the diameter, in millimeters, of the large lens that faces the object of interest – the “objective” lens. The larger this lens is, the greater the amount of light the binoculars gather and thus the easier it will be to see characteristics in dim light or on a dull-colored bird.
Don’t buy compact or pocket-sized binoculars (typically 8 x 21, or 10 x 21) as your primary pair for birding. The size and weight are attractive, but no matter how good the optics, compacts provide a lower quality image than mid- or full-size binoculars. Another drawback is that most compacts have a narrow field of view, which makes it very difficult to locate and follow birds.
A field guide is a little book that’s packed with information about birds. It’s the next best thing to an expert birder by your side. It describes and shows pictures of the birds, and it tells you which details of each bird to look for. A field guide can tell you what kinds of birds might be in your particular area and give some excellent tips on what to look for in your bird watching. If you don’t have a field guide, you won’t have a clue about what kinds of birds you will be seeing, so this is essential to have.
Most guides are roughly organized in “phylogenetic order.” Phylogenetic order is the way scientists classify all living things (not just birds) based on their evolutionary history – which creatures, according to likenesses in their present-day appearance, most probably evolved from common ancestors.
The beautiful part about birding is that it can truly be done anywhere! You can go to your local park and find some great specimens. If you’re traveling, you’ll find a new appreciation of the songs of birds and what you can find. You can even watch birds in your own back yard!