Did you know…
…according to a survey done by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, 51.3 million Americans watch birds?
…bird watching is the number one sport in the world over baseball, basketball, football and hockey?
…North America alone has over 800 species of birds and at least 100 species in any given area?
Even though it's winter, you can still gather up the family and take a peek at what nature has to offer. Bird watching or “Birding” has been gaining popularity and is an inexpensive, educational and fun way to spend some quality time with the kids. But before you grab your snow boots here are a few tips to help get the most out of your birding day.
Like any sport, bird watching requires some tools. First you’ll need a good pair of binoculars. These can range in price and in quality. Binoculars are identified by two numbers. The first number is the power of magnification level and the second number is the lens size, which determines how much light is let in. Example 7 x 25 set means the object will appear seven times closer and the field of vision is 25mm. For more specific information on binoculars visit Binoculars101.com - (http://www.binoculars101.com/). This web site is designed with specific information for all your binocular needs.
A bird guide book for the area you plan on visiting is a definite “must have.” This will help you locate and identify the species of birds you come across. Depending on the guide, these books can either have actual photographs of the birds or an artist’s rendition of them. They will also offer more detailed specifications of each species such as size, beak shapes, color/markings, tail feathers etc. As well as what areas the birds are most commonly found in, any call they make and what they like to eat. National Geographic: A Guide to Birding Hot Spots of the United States is highly recommended.
Okay so you have your equipment ready, now all you need is a destination. Depending on where you live, you may not need to go any further than your own window, local park or wildlife preserve. However, if you’re after more exotic birds to watch, BirdingPal.com is your ticket;(http://www.birdingpal.com/).
This web site is your complete guide to planning any birding vacation. Whether you’re looking for the Red-Lored Whistler of Australia or a Wreathed Hornbill in Thailand, Birdingpal.com gives you information on specific locations, accommodations, upcoming tours and even guides for hire once you get there. Of course with all vacations if you make your travel arrangements in advance there’s always a good chance you’ll get a discount.
Other good places to stay are Bed and Breakfasts. In fact http://www.bird-watching-vacation.com/ation.com/ lists B&B’s that are located in prime “Birding” areas.
National Wildlife Refuges http://www.fws.gov/refuges boosts 150 million acres dedicated to 550 national wildlife refuges. To find one near you simply visit their web site and type in your zip code.
The Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Chesapeake ,VA is any bird watchers dream. Located in SE Virginia and NE North Carolina, this forested wetland has over 200 species of birds in and among its 112,000 acres.
Deloras Freeman, Visitor Specialist with the Refuge tells us, “Spring is the best time to view songbirds. They are their most vocal when establishing territories and attracting mates.” However, she says, “Woodpeckers are entertaining all year, as are owls.” And the “Waterfowl migrate in large numbers in the spring and fall.” She recommends that you “Move slowly and quietly. If you are in a big group, stay relatively close together so you can move slowly as one. Be mindful of the noise your clothing may make and never disturb nesting birds.”
So whether you plan a vacation to watch birds or just start out in your own back yard, Ms. Freeman reminds us to “Be patient with young birders and make it fun. Help them first be able to recognize and name the birds they see most often in their neighbourhood.” This could lead to birding being a “lifetime hobby.”
For more information on The Great Dismal Swamp, check out their web site at; http://www.fws.gov/northeast/greatdismalswamp
Note - all these pictures were taken in my own backyard :)