First off, I’m too young to be a birder! People look at me funny if I tell them that I go birder… so now when people ask what I did over the weekend, I tell them that I went for a hike. I hike often! So if you feel funny telling people that you like to bird, just tell them that you like to get out and hike in nature. Now if you are like me and many other birders, you may not actually get very far hiking, but that is the key to good birding, patience…
To start you need a good pair of binoculars. Go to your local sporting goods store and check out ones that feel good to you. Remember that if you buys ones that are supposed to be great for distance, but they are too heavy for you to wear, then you probably won’t be doing that much birding. Make sure that you are comfortable with them.
Next, I personally recommend a new birder have a camera with a good zoom. I found that early on I had to do a lot of “homework” to figure out just what bird I had seen that day. Sometimes you just don’t have that much time in the field to be looking in your book or at your bird app to figure out just what you are looking at, so its easier to snap off a good photo or two. I go home and download my photos onto an iPad (helps to make the photo bigger), then I can figure it out.
Make sure to have a good bird book with you or if you find that too heavy download a bird app onto your phone. I personally like Audubon bird, though sometimes they change the app and its not as easy to use (but luckily I have saved an old version which I restore)… I know others who like the Merlin App too.
Sometimes I like to use the binocular straps that shifts the weight off of my shoulders, it is something you might want to look into, especially if you go “hiking” for long periods of time.
I always have a small backpack to carry my camera, water bottle, bug spray, sunscreen, pepper spray, protein bar and pad and pen (to write down the name of the birds I saw or at least a description of them).
So now that you have everything that you need, where do yo go? Well, that’s up to you, are you looking for shore birds, then head to the water, its all up to you… I always do my research before I head off anywhere. On the Audubon app, you can find locations where birds have been seen, there are also directions how to get there. I’ll write down a couple of places to go just in case one isn’t quite what I want. You can look for areas that have birds that will be new for you to see “lifers” or just ones that you are interested in seeing that day.
Now you are ready to get out there, so enjoy your birding and let me know what you find!