birding 101

If you follow me on social media, you know I spend a good chunk of my free time exploring various parks in the name of “birding.”

But what exactly is birding??Is bird even a verb? Does it involve costumes?? The first time I heard someone casually use bird as a verb, I recalled to mind this image of a dedicated photographer—

swan

along with a definition like

bird [bərd] v. to assume the identity of a bird

or

bird [bərd] v. to make bird noises.

BUT. Birding is just a shortened version of “birdwatching”—aka a convenient way to say Looking For Cool Birds!! And contrary to popular belief, birding is great for all ages and not just “for old people.”

so why bird?

I think it’s a great way to get outside and explore the little pockets of green in your city! For me, spending time outdoors is super reenergizing and helps me sort out my thoughts.

On top of that, I really love wildlife, and I think it’s fun to look for birds you’ve never seen before. Kind of like a never-ending scavenger hunt, since there are over 18,000 different species of birds in the world! Also, for people who enjoy(ed?) Pokemon Go, birding is like REAL-LIFE POKEMON GO. Minus the Pokeballs and a few other things. But you get to search your neighborhood for new species and learn what makes each bird special!

Birding is also very accessible! You can bird at any time of day for as long as you want from locations as close as your backyard. Here’s a barred owl that I spotted from my kitchen window!

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barred owl (Strix varia)

disclaimer

Although you probably can’t tell based off my in-your-face ~excitement~ over birds, I’ve actually only been birding for a few months. I’ve always loved being outside and observing wildlife, but what really got me started on birds was my internship, which I’ll definitely talk more about in a future post! I also went through a major photography phase a few years ago, and birds make for great subjects. (Peep @ the robin at the top of this page!)

Anyway, I still have tons to learn and discover when it comes to birding—but here are the basics if you want to give it a try!

what you need

Honestly, you don’t need anything to get outside and see some happy feathered friends. But here are a few helpful tools to consider!

  • binoculars for a better view of birds! *especially important if you’re trying to identify species*
  • some kind of field guide or ID tool. I highly recommend Merlin, a free mobile app designed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. It’s equipped with detailed descriptions, photos, and a user-friendly, 5-step ID questionnaire to identify birds on the go.
  • a notebook or app to keep track of your observations. I use eBird, another free Cornell Lab app, which lets you maintain checklists of your species observed. An eBird post is also soon to come!
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my eBird profile online!

where to go

Birds are everywhere! If you step outside right now, you’ll definitely hear, if not see, at least one or two. From my room right now, I can hear five or six different birds! So if you’re only looking to dip your toe into this ~wild~ new activity, you could just go stand outside for three minutes and look for birds.

If you’re looking for something a little more serious, parks and gardens are great spots for birding. After all, birds are wild animals, so the farther away you get from urban spaces, the better chance you have of spotting lots of birds.

If you’re lucky, though, you may already have a bird feeder that attracts lots of different species! Stay tuned for a post about bird feeders to learn more about setting up a food source for your feathered neighbors. (Look at me, promising all of these future posts. I’ll try to get to them as soon as possible! I have so many ideas! Ahh!)

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Larsen Lake, one of my favorite birding spots!

what to do

So now that you have what you need and know where to go, what do you do?

For me, birding is just like taking a walk with some binoculars around my neck. I do try to walk softly and move a little more slowly for better chances of spotting birds, but it’s not like I’m crawling through tall grass on my stomach to sneak up on birds. (But being mindful of park rules and the people around, you do you.)

If you also enjoy photography, this is a great opportunity for you to bring your camera along and kill two birds with one stone! (Just kidding. Please don’t kill birds.)

And if you think this is a weird niche activity with no end goal, that’s 100% ok. But if you end up birding sometime and want to let me know how it went, shoot me a message! I’d love to hear about it!

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