Beginning Birdwatching

A big part of the reason that I have this blog is to get me (and you too, I hope!) more interested in the outdoors. I’ve never had an interest in birdwatching before; mostly, I just like to look down and check out the plants while I’m making sure that I don’t trip and fall on my face!!

This year I decided that I would at least try to learn a few birds. I didn’t want to feel like such an idiot when talking with all the birdy folks I know — after all, if I’m working with folks from Audubon, I better know more than a chickadee and a few ducks.

There are a lot of great resources out there for beginning birders (start here), but I’ve taken a pretty casual approach so far. This means finding our long-abandoned birdfeeders, hanging them, and generally keeping sunflower seed in them. And looking and listening for birds while I walk. And one day Sexy and I went to a marsh to hang some wood duck houses (unsuccessfully—it was too flooded to access the lake edge) and I used a crummy pair of binocs to see things that were far away. That’s when we saw this happy heron:


So why do people birdwatch anyway? Based a bunch of birding websites, it’s a fun, easy, and cheap activity… that is, until you start buying binoculars where the third item gets ruled out. And judging by the late-90s look and feel of most of the birdwatching websites that I found, birdwatching is so entertaining that people would rather do that than update their websites.

I’m definitely still figuring this out, but here are two factors that keep me trying to find birds.

Birds are Everywhere

Once I started paying any attention, it became pretty easy to find birds. They’re everywhere. Or, at least robins and chickadees are everywhere. Now every time a bird flits across the road in front of me, I look at it to see if it will be something new. Nope, it’s a robin nine times out of ten. Every morning I hear a billion birds chirping in the trees, but I can’t see them and I have no idea what they are. But at least now I notice them. That’s definitely the first step.

Birds are Unidentifiable 

Clearly, this statement is not true since there are billions of bird identification guides and websites that prove me wrong (I like the Cornell and NatGeo websites), but I can’t friggin’ figure out how to identify anything new. I signed up for the local birder email list and everyone is seeing sparrows and all sorts of crazy things. Meanwhile, over the past few weeks, I’ve learned to identify a junco, red-breasted nuthatch, and American goldfinch. (And, yes, that really is how much of a non-birder I have been my entire life.) I’ve gotten a few good glimpses of northern flickers (my new favorite bird) and seen a bunch of different ducks. But mostly what happens that I see something like this guy (purple finch? or house finch?) and am totally lost.


But maybe I’ll eventually get a good, long look at a northern flicker or see something awesome and I’ll be hooked. It could happen, although I’m not there yet.

In the meantime, I’ll keep looking for birds when I’m out and about and see if I manage to see anything exciting.

Do you watch birds? Why?

And what bird is that?



6 thoughts on “Beginning Birdwatching

  1. We were watching birds for a while this spring. We had a feeder in the front yard that we moved to the backyard after the house went up for sale. Eleanor and I found Lois Ehlert’s “Feathers for Lunch” to be really handy bird-watching guide. We probably saw all the birds in that book on our feeder! We’ll have to work our way up to the Cornell and NatGeo sites. 😉

    1. That’s a great suggestion– and probably more my speed as well. I haven’t really learned many new birds. I just notice them more. I think I’d probably need to go out with a birder (and a lot of patience) to learn more birds. But we do have a blue jay in our pine tree now!

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