Every now and again people ask about getting into birdwatching, what they need, how they learn the birds. So this week I’m going to make a couple of posts that constitute my personal ‘guide’ to getting started.
The advice is based on my personal experiences and, as such, is limited. Plenty of people go birdwatching despite physical disabilities that may restrict mobility, hearing, even vision. If you are blind, you can still learn to identify species by sound. It may not be ‘watching’ in the dictionary sense, but your ID skills will probably be better than some fully-sighted birders.
Birds, and wildlife in general, are all around us. For the vast majority of the population there is always a way, even if it’s watching birds from your window. It’s an inclusive hobby.
This won’t be repeated elsewhere in these guides, so it’s worth saying that you shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions. If you know a birdwatcher, ask if they’ll take you out one day. Most will be happy to encourage you. Obviously be safe, don’t go wandering into the wilds with a complete stranger.
If you are at a reserve and can’t identify something, ask the person next to you. Don’t worry about looking stupid, don’t worry that it might be ‘obvious’. Things are only obvious once you know them. If you do ask, and the person you ask is rude, the problem is theirs, not yours (and if they do it in a hide and I witness it, they’ll be told so…).
If you are a kid, ask your parents. They probably loved this stuff when they were your age, then got older and thought they had to be cool and stop. Knowledge and an engagement with the world around you is the coolest thing there is. Your parents will probably be glad to reconnect with nature, and it’ll be good for them.