Two weeks ago at our regular Cafe A Rocha gathering in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Mark Huebert shared with us his story about learning to love birds. He also shared with us some helpful tips and tricks for those interested in learning how to bird watch. People have been intrigued by birds for millennia. In the Bible, Jesus urges his followers to “consider the birds” (Matt 6:26). Since May 11th is World Migratory Bird Day we thought we’d share some of those tips with you!
Here are 5 Tips for Beginner Bird Watchers:
1. Start Birding at Home:
Going no further than your own yard or balcony is a great way to get started because you can do it at any time of the day, and it helps you ease into the hobby. When you bird at home you won’t be overwhelmed by too many species at once, which gives you the opportunity to learn the species around you and get used to their different behaviours, songs and calls, and sizes.
2. Get Your Family Involved:
Birding can be a family bonding activity because it combines recreation and education and is easily accessible for all age groups. Getting the family together and learning about birds and their habitats fosters an appreciation for creation care, and is a great way to unplug and get outdoors.
3. Find the Right Equipment:
Binoculars are a necessity when it comes to birding, so when you choose a pair be sure to try them out to find what works best. All pairs are specified by numbers, such as “10×50” which refer to the magnifying power of the binoculars (10x) and the size of the lens at the end of the binocular (50mm). Getting a pair that are either 7×35 or 8×40 are typically good. You may also want to pick up a local field guide, or use an app such as Merlin Bird ID, to help identify species.
4. Identify the Easy Ones:
While some species have very distinctive markings that allow easy identification, others are very difficult to identify. First, get familiar with the birds that you are able to identify, and don’t become frustrated when you can’t identify one. This hobby requires practice, and patience! Sometimes birds will blend in to their environments, or remain quiet when they can sense someone is around, so remain patient, and enjoy the challenge that comes with birding!
5. Learn Seasons and Songs:
The types of species around you will change with the seasons, and even with the time of day. Some birds are only active during the day, while others might hide away until evening. With the advantage of flight, some birds will travel and move with the seasons, whereas others stay put year round. You can also help identify birds based on the sounds they make, and when/how often they make them. Use these two tips to your advantage, and learn their patterns and songs for easier identification.
Manitoba Birding Hotspots
Assiniboine Park (English Gardens in May, August, September)
Seven Sisters Falls/Pinawa Area
Birder’s Guide to Southeastern Manitoba by Norman Cleveland
The Birds of Manitoba by Seton