Birdwatching refers to the hobby of observing birds in their natural environment. It’s inexpensive and unlike ornithology, there’s no science involved.
Lucky for hikers, they get to watch many feathered beauties on the trail. If you’ve never observed birds while hiking, it’s time to get started as a twitcher (that’s another word for birdwatchers).
Here is a detailed post on how you can get the best bird-watching experience while hiking.
Picking The Location
You’re likely to spot some common bird species on any kind of trail. But to watch a wide range of birds or rare species, pick a trail that features bird hotspots.
If a hiking trail has water sources like a lake, there’s a good possibility that migrating birds would stop by it. You can easily find nearby bird hotspots by spending a few minutes on the web.
Though you can find birds in swampy areas and landfills, I wouldn’t recommend it for obvious reasons. Birds can find peace in the most unexpected places.
Who knows? You may end up discovering a birding hotspot on your next hike! If you do, please share it with us.
Though you don’t need fancy gear to be a successful twitcher, investing in a good pair of binoculars won’t hurt.
A spotting scope will give you a crystal view of a bird miles away. If you’re serious about bird-watching, you may bring one along with a tripod.
Carrying a field guide can help you in classifying and identifying the birds.
Bring a journal to note down your observations and findings. This can serve as a guide to your other bird-watching trips.
Birds are artistic on their own. So, don’t forget to capture their Instagrammable angles with your camera (or smartphone).
Apps To Identify Birds
Identifying birds is a skill that’s mastered with practice and patience. So, along with trustworthy guides, you can rely on well-built birding apps.
Some apps like eBird let you keep track of your observations both online and offline. Offline access is important since bird-watching trails hardly have a decent connectivity.
Birding apps also come with customized checklists according to the region and time of the year. You don’t have to fret over doing research, though it’s a good thing to do if you have time.
A few cool apps can detect the birds by their songs. By the way, expert twitchers can do this too and it’s impressive.
Join A Birding Club
If you live in a populated area, chances are there’s a local birding club to unite people who share this passion. Else, you can always find one on the internet.
Along with making new friends, you’ll gain access to valuable resources on bird-watching. You’ll always have someone to accompany you on your adventures.
Find Facebook groups and subscribe to the newsletters of popular birding blogs. Use A2A (Ask to Answer) websites to clarify your doubts. Read the reviews of the bird-watching trail you’re planning to hike.
Membership to some birding clubs can have a small fee. So, choose according to your budget.
Learn The Rules
Be polite, towards nature, birds, and fellow hikers.
Take steps to avoid disturbances. Heavy noises and camera flashes can be stressful to the birds. This is more important when dealing with endangered species. Since they’re low in number, even a slight disturbance can have negative effects on them.
Remember the Leave No Trace principle of hiking? That applies to birdwatching as well. Apart from ruining the aesthetics of the bird’s habitat, the litter is bad for the environment.
As much as you’re tempted to chase an attractive bird, it’s important that you don’t drift off-trail. Getting lost in an unknown location is not funny.
When traveling in groups, always give space for other birders. Don’t be too enthusiastic about taking pictures that you interrupt the frame of someone else’s lens.
Never overplay audio recordings. Do not approach a bird resting in its nest. Respect the boundaries.
Stick to the good old method of layering before starting on a hike. For birdwatching, choose a neutral color and wear a hat for better camouflage.
Try to avoid zippers and buckles because a little sound is enough to make the birds fly away, thanks to their exceptional auditory senses.
On bird-watching trails, you’ll often be greeted by insects and flies. So, wear long-sleeved shirts and durable hiking pants. You can find more about these on Res Marty’s blog.
Clothes with UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) are recommended for summer hikes but that’s not the case when you’re aiming to watch birds. These little guys can see UV light and will try to get away if they see sunlight being reflected from your clothes.
Sometimes, you may have to cross a stream to keep an eye on the bird. Or probably step into a thorny bush. So, wear comfortable (and not brand new) shoes.
The Four Keys To Bird Identification
Last but not the least, mastering these 4 keys to bird identification can make you a pro in no time.
Size and Shape:
The size and shape of a bird play a crucial role in identifying it. Start by making yourself familiar with the silhouettes of different birds.
Described as the signature of a bird’s identity, habitat is another powerful tool. Though birds can fly anywhere, they prefer to reside only in a particular habitat to which their bodies can adapt.
Birds have fascinating colors and often, it’s the first thing that comes to your notice. With practice, you can id the bird following a quick glimpse at the color pattern.
Like humans, birds vary greatly in their actions and movements. Using behavior as a base to identify birds is effective even in low light conditions. So, pay attention to minor details like posture and flight patterns.
George Henry Lewes, an English philosopher said, “The air is crowded with birds – beautiful, tender, intelligent birds to whom life is a song.”
I hope my guide helps you look deep into this marvel of nature.
Happy hiking and birding!!
Starting at a young age, Res Marty’s first hikes were day trips in Switzerland; soon enough, he started to do multi-day vacations. He aims to share this passion with fellow hikers and guide them to have the best travel experience possible. Apart from hiking and camping, he loves to play soccer and tennis.
Image Source: BigStockPhoto.com (Licensed)