These are some strange and challenging times we are going through. No matter what part of the country you live in, we are all watching the calendar as we crawl closer to that day when normal life can resume. Every state and region in the country has varying degrees of densities, infection rates, and restrictions. The one thing we all have in common is the need for distraction.
If you’re like most people, you’re getting to the point where you’ve binged as much Netflix as you can stand. You’ve played as many video games as your bleary eyes can take. You’ve watched enough YouTube or TikTok videos to fill a lifetime quota. If your daily walk or random drive around town is not cutting it either anymore, consider taking up the hot new hobby during quarantine—birdwatching.
Birdwatching is Easy to Get Started
Birdwatching is the perfect hobby for anyone who is frustrated and bored with being on lockdown. For one thing, you don’t need to order anything from Amazon to get started. Most importantly, you don’t need to go any further than your own backyard to get started. Really, all you need is two ears, two eyes, and a view of the outdoors.
You can take your first step into your new hobby by simply sitting in front of a window. Stepping out into your backyard is a great way to get started while breaking that cabin fever. Start by getting to know what birds are native to your area. You can do this easily by searching the internet for native birds of your state.
Print copies of some of the popular birding guides are a great resource, but you can avoid waiting for their delivery. Get started right away by downloading any of the birding apps available. Some of the most popular and easy to use are the Merlin app and Sibley app. These include a map of your area, and information about the birds you can expect to see. If you’ve got a pair of binoculars lying about the house, this is the perfect opportunity to put them to use. If not, don’t worry. You will still be able to spot many different species of birds with the naked eye.
Start a Bird Journal
Once you start seeing different species of birds in your backyard, you might want to start keeping a record of them. You don’t need a fancy journal or a notebook specifically for birdwatching; any notebook will do the job. You can add more depth to your new hobby by heading to your window at different times of the day. Take note of which birds you spot in the early morning and which birds are late afternoon visitors. Spring is a particularly great time to start birdwatching as spring migration and nesting season are underway.
While you will find yourself captivated by different colors and markings on different birds, don’t forget to engage all of your senses. Your ears are a great birding tool. Take a moment to listen to the sounds the birds are making. It’s sometimes difficult to tell which bird is making what sound when you’ve spotted a cluster in a tree. A bird singing in plain sight is a great way to connect the sound to the bird. With some time and effort, you will eventually find yourself recognizing different species of birds by sound alone. Birdwatching by ear is a great skill to develop.
In addition to recording which species of birds you spot, you can record specifications of each bird such as colors, sizes, shapes, and sounds. Many backyard birders enjoy making rough sketches of the birds they have spotted as an additional part of their record keeping. It’s a great way to build both drawing skills and hand-eye coordination.
While you are getting started in backyard birdwatching, keep in mind patience and persistence are key. Don’t be disappointed if you spend what feels like hours without spotting anything beyond a sparrow or two. As you determine what time of day birds in your area are most active, you will start spotting new birds.
Keep these Dos and Don’ts in mind to make your time birdwatching a fun and educational experience:
- DON’T go crazy worrying about the right equipment or the perfect space.
- DO work with what you have, even if it’s simply your two eyes and two ears. No perfect space required. Enjoy birdwatching from your backyard, a patch of land in the front yard, or a small balcony off your city apartment.
- DON’T beat yourself up if you have an ‘unproductive’ outing. View any time you spend outside or gazing out the window as an opportunity to build on your birding knowledge.
- DO keep in mind that you are getting fresh air and Vitamin D.
- DON’T make yourself crazy with birding goals that may not be attainable. If you become obsessed with spotting some rare bird, you will miss the birds that are right under your nose.
- DO be sure to focus on the sights and sounds of whatever birds visit your backyard.
Not only can you enjoy birding in your backyard or from your apartment balcony, but if you’re able to take a walk in your neighborhood, you can apply your new birding skills as you walk. Bring your notebook along and scan the shrubbery and trees for any birds that might pop up. If you have your phone with you, take a picture to help you identify a new to you bird once you get home.
Birdwatching during quarantine is the perfect antidote to cabin fever. It’s a chance to get some fresh air and sunshine, and a great way to keep your eyes and ears sharp. Don’t be surprised if even after your quarantine ends, you find yourself happily ensconced in your backyard, poised with a notebook in hand, ready and waiting.