Benefits of Birdwatching
What is birding watching, or "birding"? It is exactly what it sounds like - watching birds! For what purpose varies from individual to individual. Some watch birds to study them with the intention of learning about certain species or our shared environment. Some watch birds to better understand our impact on their populations. Most, I would say, watch birds because they are interesting, cheeky, adorable-yet-sometimes-fierce little creatures. We watch them because we enjoy them!
Why Now? Why not, I say!
Now is the perfect time to get into birding, and I'll tell you why:
Spring time is an exciting time to watch birds! There is a lot of activity. Migrating birds are coming and going. Many birds are much more vocal during the spring as they attempt to attract mates and defend territories. You may very well hear songs you won’t hear any other time of the year. You may see behaviors you won’t see any other time of the year!
Spring time is an exciting time to be outside! Warmer weather is just around the corner. Days are slowly getting longer. Trees and flowers are transforming as warmer months approach. Plus, it’s not miserably hot yet.
Birding teaches you so much more than just bird facts! Through learning about birds, I have learned about some of our native and invasive plants, what a healthy ecosystem looks like, what different bird populations can teach us, what their anatomy can teach us, and so much more. Birds are just a beautiful, feathery iceberg tip. Many of us are trying to find creative ways to “homeschool” our children, and I am all about using real life experiences to teach things they can’t learn as well from a book.
Having an appreciation for other living things (whether or not it's birds) is good for the soul. Birdwatching can be meditative and relaxing. Watching these creatures, some of who have traveled further than most of us ever will, can give you a wider perspective about the world. You may start to notice how we're all connected, how taking care of them is good for us too. It encourages compassion and curiosity.
What else are you doing? Although we are encouraged to physically distance ourselves from others, connecting with fellow birdwatchers can make you feel like part of something greater, something important, or at least interesting. Birdwatching can be done from anywhere, with no equipment, or $5000 worth of equipment. You can do it from inside your house! So, while you're stuck there, why not?
Birdwatching for Kids
Birdwatching is one of my favorite pastimes! It's easy to pick up, works for any budget, and you can do it from anywhere! They are fascinating creatures and can tell us so much about the health of our local ecosystem. Although you don't even have to leave your house, I encourage you to!
Have some budding "birders" in your family? One of my favorite games to play with kids in the warmer months is Bird Bingo. I have created two different bingo cards - a beginner and intermediate. These cards include some of the most common birds in and around the Salt Lake Valley. Feel free to pull these up on a phone or print them off to make bird watching into a game.
As I said, you don't need any supplies to go bird watching, but a pair of decent binoculars will really enhance the experience, especially if your kids have a pair of their own. You can find them for as little as $5, but I recommend these. I have tried at least 3 different brands, and these are the best I've found so far. Adult binoculars vary widely in price and quality, so do some research if buying for yourself. When I go out with my boys, we also like to take along this pamphlet or this book.
Second to my binoculars, my next favorite resource to use while birding is my phone! There is definitely something to be said about setting technology down for a while and simply being in nature. However, there are several apps that can quickly boost your knowledge about birds, many of which are free. Here are the apps I use most:
Audubon (for reading up on specific species and tracking your "life list")*
Birding in Utah (for viewing birding "hotspots” in Utah)*
eBird (for logging your birding observations into a global database and viewing global “hotspots”)*
Merlin Bird ID (for trying to figure out what an unknown bird might be)*
* - iTunes and Android App Links Below