Why Bird Watching?

Bird watching is one of the most wholesome and relaxing activities you can get into, and also one of the easiest if you live near nature. But it’s also not the most popular hobby, which is why I’m publishing this piece comprised of comments from bird-watchers on what they enjoy about it. Have a read through it 🙂

My name is Rose and I'm a long time birding fanatic. I've worked in wild bird rehabilitation and bird watch for fun. I also run a bird watching blog over at Spark Lark.

I recommend going out bird watching because afterward, you feel closer to nature. Birdwatching is a quiet activity so a lot of time is spent observing the trail and fauna around you.

Birdwatching gives you an appreciation of the mundane. To others, a small brown bird or a common bird you see frequently can be considered boring. When birding, you're observing the bird's behavior, checking seasonal plumage, and listening to their calls. You can learn a lot about something or someone by stopping to pay attention.

There aren't many requirements for bird watching. It's relatively inexpensive and can be done anywhere. You can go solo, in a group, and even with kids. All you need is a pair of binoculars and a bird identification guide. It's also an activity that can be done on any continent.

--Rose Churchill, Spark Lark

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As someone who has been into bird watching for most of their life, I feel I have some insights I can give.

Bird watching is a great way to interact with nature and get you outside. Birds are often creatures that we take for granted and are often just background noise in our day to day life but they are in fact so much more than that.

Each species fo bird has a story and has a characteristic completely unique to them. For example, Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds actually travel from South America all the way to Southern Canada in the summer months. Often times they actually travel across the Gulf of Mexico on a nonstop flight to get to their destinations in North America. Other bird species toughen it out in the harsh winters of Canada standing out in the snow fallen trees. My personal recommendation is to get a bird watching book, see what species you come across and then look at the specifications and range of the bird. Once you do that you will truly appreciate how some species really go to great lengths to visit your area.

--Derek L, Best of Bird Watching

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Bird watching can be enjoyed by anyone regardless of age or physical conditions. This is because you can do it however you wish - you can get super involved, or not. You can get fancy binoculars or just look with your eyes. You can hike to remote locations or just enjoy identify local birds in the neighborhood. I personally love bird watching because it gets me outside more. My daughter has fun learning the bird names too so it has become a family activity. There is a community aspect to it as well. You can find local bird watching groups on facebook or meetup.com. I got started bird watching using the Merlin Bird ID app from Cornell Lab and I still use it today. I recommend this app for anyone interested in identifying birds.

--Seth Newton, OutMoreUSA

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I have been a landscape, wildlife and travel photographer for over 10 years. In particular, my favorite subject is birds. I always say birds loved me before I loved them because they seem to stick around and pose for my photos. Over time the love became mutual. I love that you must take time to understand the environment and the birds behavior in order gain the bird’s trust and capture a great picture. It forces you to stop and appreciate the moment and the details around you. A lucky shot is hard to come by, it's about patience and trust.

It’s really rewarding when you gain the bird's trust and you get to see it's natural behaviors as if you weren’t there. They are beautiful, majestic creatures with so many unique traits.

--Delaney Van, Aperture Adventure

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My husband and I are not experts in the bird watching field, nor do we aspire to be. Many others know so much more than we do. But enjoy venturing outside and seeing what we will discover on our frequent walks.

We live next to a lake, and we realized we had seasonal visitors to the lake each spring and fall. We started paying attention to these birds, often a flock of one type or another, which made it pretty easy to figure out (with the help of binoculars--these migrating birds are quick and shy) which type of bird we had visiting. Many seasons we have seen just one or two types of migrating birds, so we have gotten pretty familiar with the 'usual suspects. When we visited the ocean, a little less than an hour's drive from our home in MA, we discovered many of the same migrating birds feeding just off shore. Finding familiar birds was fun, sort of a nature's scavenger hunt for us. We eventually bought a spotting scope and tripod, and bring it with us on our trips to the shore. Sometimes we use it, other times we simply enjoy walking along the shoreline.

Looking forward to seeing birds we recognize, and learning the name and characteristics of another bird or two on these visits offers us a fun challenge, with the only reward being something to focus on beside waves, ocean, shoreline and rocks (which is enough, but it's fun to discover new birds).

Sometimes we have observed ospreys hunting right off shore. We have learned to recognize their characteristic hunting behavior as they hover high above the waves, swaying back and forth in the wind. Such fun to understand what we are probably about to see. Most dives are unsuccessful, but once in a while the osprey is lucky and emerges from splashing into the water with food, for himself, or in the spring, for hungry chicks.

We met some people one day when we were looking at rafts of birds just off shore, and thye told us of another location where a snowy owl hung out all winter. We headed over to where they directed us, and found crowds of people getting pictures of the owl. On one of our visits to see him, he perched on top of the visitor's center--a real show off! This made us laugh..

Related to watching birds, one day we went to the ocean and spotted hundreds of butterflies hovering along the shoreline. We watched in amazement as the breeze swept the butterflies out over the waves, then watched as these tiny critters fought their way back to shore. We learned later that these were migrating monarch butterflies. Magic!

--Marjorie Turner Hollman, marjorieturner.com

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I run safaris for a living and am often in the African bushveld looking for animals of all shapes and sizes. Not surprisingly, we get to see some amazing birds. Generally speaking, most people are not that keen on bird watching when they arrive. However, after showing them a few species of birds and chatting to them about their behaviour, people start showing interest. Before long, we have a few keen birders emerging from the game vehicle.

Bird watching can be so rewarding! They are fascinating creatures and are such an important part of the ecosystem. Bird photography is an art all unto itself and, getting a good, crisp shot of a bird feeding or in flight can elude people for years. However, it is so worth it! If you are looking for a hobby that is timeless and will cause you to take an entire year off to travel the country bird watching (a big year), this is the one for you!

--Shaun Taylor, Moriti Safaris

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Birdwatching is my favorite form of self-care. The quiet of the woods. The singing, cooing, hooting and calling of the feathered fauna. Birding gives the space for thoughts to cycle from the minimalism of steps and breaths all the way to the more involved thoughts and memories and hopes, each with their complex of emotions. Everyone will have a different experience; mine is usually dominated by the simple joy and challenge of the hunt for a bird I’ve never seen or that species I’ve not yet captured to my satisfaction on film.

I’ve always been most alive and at home in the woods. From climbing trees and building forts as a kid to long distance hikes on the Appalachian Trail. My love for birding began about 10 years ago. The hobby dominates 3-4 mornings each week during Spring and Fall migration which lasts about a 6-8 weeks here in Tennessee. Other times of the year I’m not as intentional or formal about my birdwatching, but I’m always looking up to see what I might spot in the trees.


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i am actually a bit scared of birds (they intimidate me because they are like mini dinosaurs and their beady eyes always have a lot behind them), but in traveling all over the world, not only am i exposed to so many rare and beautiful ones- but when i moved to a pond on a nature preserve, i became more interested in who comes to my house in a way i never really imagined i'd be.

i use the cornell university merlin app to look up and track the different birds that come to my feeders or the pond.

we have hummingbirds, which are my personal fav- their sounds, especially when they are dueling is pretty amazing (they sound like cartoon laser/ video games).

the pond brings all different kinds of birds from herons to swans (once) and all sorts of ducks i'd never seen. pretty much i think i only believed mallards existed because in growing up in ny and most of my east cost travel, it's all i really remember...but here, more often i see teals- and mallards are a bit more rare of a sighting!?

i am always excited when a new species comes along. it seems too i will say to myself, why don't we have any wood ducks? and the next day one will appear! that has happened multiple times with a few different birds...if only i could ask, why don't i win the lottery and that would happen 😉

on trips we have been privileged to see so many rare and unusual birds. there are often so many i don't keep track of them all (looking back i kind of wish i did but it is honestly A LOT), but i keep track of the ones i find particularly interesting or beautiful- like the lilac breasted roller in kenya, which is a gorgeously bright colored bird. i saw one perched on the back of a zebra (so the pretty colors contrasted with the black and white was a great shot)- and screamed for the truck to stop. the guide didn't believe me that's what i saw because they don't usually hang out with zebras, but sure enough we rolled back a bit and bam! the guide is a big birder and he was fascinated!

in australia, i challenged myself to go into an aviary with food and let the parrots climb all over me and eat out of my hands. i was extremely nervous and kind of grimacing and laughing at the same time- but then they came and perched on my lips and started pecking my teeth, which was terrifying as i was too afraid to move!

anyway, i am not a serious birder, but it is definitely a fun thing to do- even just from home. you really don't have to invest much or go anywhere far, but can still find fun in seeing who pops up. the movie the big year is really a fun one if you have even a remote interest in birds- and might get you started.

i am going to participate in the great backyard count coming up in may as it doesn't take more than a few minutes to look outside and see who shows up- but it helps science to study birds and their patterns, populations and conservation!

--Jme, Travel with jme & Bryan on Facebook

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