So you want to be a birdwatcher… Part 3 Heading Out

SONY DSCSo you have your ‘bins’ and your pocket guide. You have practiced in the garden and in the park. What next?

Well, next is your first proper birding walk. Pick somewhere local, ideally a route that allows you to take in a couple of different habitats (e.g. a woodland and a river, or a meadow and a pond). Allow yourself time. You don’t want to rush this.

Pack a drink (water is fine), lunch or a snack depending on time of day, and layers. Layers are important. You can check the weather forecast before you go out, but still never guarantee a change in the conditions. So it’s worth having warm clothes and waterproofs with you (if it’s summer, even a rain shower is likely to be pleasant so just a light jacket will do, especially if you are wearing shorts!).

While many birds are quite blasé about humans, they will not be so relaxed when you start looking at them. Most species know when they are being observed, and it makes them nervous. Which makes them hide, or fly away altogether. This problem is avoided by being quiet, wearing colours that are fairly unobtrusive (dark browns, greens, greys), and as much as possible watching from a bit of cover.

It’s great to go walking and birdwatching with friends, but you have to have an unstated code of conduct that conversation is kept to low voices. If you are running around, stomping, shouting, the birds are likely to be gone before you ever see them.

Depending on your level of patience, think about picking a spot to sit for 15 minutes (this seems long, but some birders will sit in a hide for 10+ hours, and wildlife camerapeople may spend days in one spot). Try and clear your mind, and pay attention only to what you hear and see around you. What’s that rustle? What’s that flicker of movement? Focus. Wait. Your reward may or may not come. This is the burden we bear.

????????While I don’t personally like obsessive list making as a way of keeping score, it’s good to keep track of what you’ve seen for your own personal reference. So take a notebook out and write down what you see. If you have any artistic ability, feel free to add sketches!

Head home, happy at a couple of good hours birdwatching. Count how many species you saw. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s 20 or more. Easy this, isn’t it?

This entry was posted in About the blog, Birds, Green exercise, how to, Why watch wildlife? and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

I welcome thoughts, comments and questions, so please feel free to share anything at all. Thanks, David

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