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How to Get Started with Birdwatching and What You Can Expect to See

common gallinule with chick in marsh

Birdwatching is one of the cheapest, healthiest, and most calming hobbies you can have. The idea of watching birds may seem boring to some. But for those that see the beauty of nature shown through our feathery friends, birdwatching is a joy like no other. If you are considering getting into it, we have a few tips on getting started with birdwatching and what you can expect to see. So, without further ado, let's go over this popular pastime.

How to get started with birdwatching

Birdwatching, essentially, requires no equipment or preparation. As long as you are able to go outside and have some time to spare, you can start birdwatching. But, as you can imagine, it can be challenging to get into it. You need to have a strong natural inclination towards birdwatching to enjoy it from the start. Don't expect to be wowed from the moment you step outside. Instead, know that you will slowly grow to appreciate what you see and the process that brings you to it.

barred owl coming out at dusk

Go outside

The first step we recommend is simply going outside and spotting any local birds. We often ignore birds if we don't pay specific attention to them. Yes, an occasional eagle or a duck may jolt our interest. But those are few and far between. In order to be a birdwatcher, you need to learn to appreciate what is in front of you. This is why we recommend starting your journey with this seemingly simple step. Go for a walk, and see how many different birds you can spot. The fact that you are spending time in nature will be beneficial in its own accord.

Set up birdfeeders

If you live in a house and own a yard, you can draw local birds to you. Namely, you can set up birdfeeders. By doing so, you will be able to appreciate local wildlife quickly and provide them with a bit of healthy food. Building birdfeeders and bird homes will be reasonably straightforward if you are skilled at woodworking. If you aren't, you should be able to buy some online reasonably cheaply.

downy woodpecker on suet feeder

Start getting up early

Most birds tend to be active in the early hours of the day. So, if you wish to practice birdwatching, you will need to start getting up early. Fortunately, getting up early and going for a walk is one of the best things you can do for your health. Especially if you have a bit of nature nearby where you can enjoy both fresh air and wildlife, the fact that you are setting up a healthy morning routine makes bird-watching one of the best ways to enjoy your sobriety and maintain it. So, if you are struggling with compulsion problems, spending time in nature and birdwatching can be fun and healing sober activities.

Get a pair of binoculars

Birds tend to be small. And they tend to stay away from humans. Therefore, you must get a pair of binoculars to take it to the next level. These don't have to be anything fancy or expensive. In fact, we would advise against getting top-of-the-line binoculars immediately. Instead, opt for a budget-friendly pair that is of decent quality.

red-tailed hawk in flight

Get a guide

While it is possible to use your phone as a guide for birdwatching, we would advise against it. A big part of why bird watching is so beneficial for our mental health is that it motivates us to get away from technology. It should be just you, a pair of binoculars, and the nature around you. And while your cell phone is a powerful tool, it will likely ruin that experience.

Instead, we would advise you to get a guide for birdwatching. National Geographic sells some terrific guides at around 10 - 15 dollars U.S. With one of those at hand, you’ll be able to learn about safe and responsible wildlife watching and grow to appreciate the nature around you. While you might feel inclined to take pictures or look up certain species, try to enjoy the moment. You might also want to try wildlife photography or mix these interests to create a hybrid approach. But again, the more technology you use during birdwatching, the more likely you are to miss the point of it.

Join local birdwatchers

One thing that might surprise you once you start birdwatching is that it is no longer a niche hobby. Certain surveys show that in 2020, there were around 15 million birdwatchers in the U.S. alone. Therefore, regardless of where you live, you likely have a nearby birdwatcher club to join. Doing so is a great way to meet new people and learn more about birdwatching. You will learn about all the local hotspots, and you will grow to know more about the local wildlife. If, by some chance, you don't have a local birdwatching club to join, you can easily find an online group. There you can get terrific advice and tips. Check out the Ozaukee-Washington Birding Coalition on Facebook.

hummingbird on a branch

Final thoughts

It won't take long after you get started with birdwatching to figure out whether it is your cup of tea. If it is, you'll soon want to watch new species and travel to different locations. Fortunately, the point of birdwatching is to be a calm and spontaneous experience. Therefore, you can practice it wherever you travel, as long as you find the time. Yes, you will get up at certain hours to have a better chance of spotting different species. At the end of the day, whether or not you will spot a particular bird is a matter of luck. And it is precisely this aspect of luck that gives birdwatching its unique allure. Nature is beautiful, spontaneous, and ultimately unpredictable. This is why we often struggle to reconnect with it. But, in a way, birdwatching encompasses all these aspects in a single, fun hobby.

red-breasted nuthatch on a branch

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