What’s all the appeal of birding anyway?
Birding is something that you can do from a child up to any age. You can do it if you’re rich or poor and no matter where you live in the world.
How to Start?
Find a bird and try to identify it. That’s it. Do that and you’ll be hooked! It’s like a real life Pokemon Go game……or like hunting – except in this type of hunting, the animal gets to go on and live its life for other people to “hunt”.
Besides your eyes and ears, the best tool you can have is a pair of binoculars. Invest in a good pair (bet $150-200 is decent) because they will be one of your most valuable tools and you won’t replace it as often as a camera. We use the Nikon Prostaff and love them. $175-200
Choose between either a 10x or 8x magnification – we have one of each – a 10×42 and 8x42The 10x are better for looking at birds at a distance and out in the open, but also a little more shaky. The 8x is brighter and really good for forest birding and it easier to follow birds. If you wear glasses, make sure you pick a pair with retractable eyepieces (most new ones all have this).
Basically try them out when you go shop
We have 3 favorite apps for birding: Audubon, E-bird and Merlin.
Audubon app – This is a fantastic app for birding in the US. You can search for birds by family (ie ducks, hawks, etc) to narrow down what you’re seeing.
You can also hear the birds songs 🎵
This is one of the most valuable features of the app. Listen to a bird you hear in your backyard or local park and then compare it to the sound of the bird you think it is on the app. You can also use it to find the birds you’re looking for. Listen to the song and then go out and try to hear that song!
The app can be downloaded offline so you can use it in the field without having an internet connection.
E-bird App – Once you start getting familiar with species of birds you are seeing, you can use the app to report what you are seeing – and help not only contribute to science, but help others in the area see what birds are at that location.
You can open up the bird app and start a track. It will give you the option to choose a location right from the map of where you are, and It will track your path, time and distance.
The app doesn’t have to be open and will just work in the background in your phone. Along the way you can enter the types and amounts of species you encounter. It will have only the likely species on the list and if something rare is spotted, you can add it in.
Ebird will also keep track of all the birds you’ve seen!
This is what we call your “life list”. Ebird will also organize your list by smaller details like state and county. What’s our life list? Click here to find out!
Merlin app –
Now, we really suggest you only use this app, once you start using the Audubon app and learning how to identify each species – because this app is a little like cheating.
Merlin has a great feature called Photo ID. You can take a photo of let’s say your camera screen of a bird you just took, or from a photo on your camera roll. Then you enter your location and the date the bird was seen and Merlin will tell you what the likely species is! It’s surprisingly accurate – about 80% – but don’t use it as a 100%, but rather as a confirmation for what you think you are seeing. The Audubon app is really what helped us learn our birds – trying to identify it ourselves.
So many other resources
Of course there are many field/guide books you can use which is especially helpful when you’re birding abroad. You can also learn do much from Instagram! We’ve learned so much just from photos – and of course meeting up and birding with our followers!