My tally for the Great Backyard Bird Count was embarrassingly paltry—2 American robins. Hardly worth uploading the results to the website. The towhees, flickers, and pestilent red finches that are usually hopping about our house and yard were nowhere to be seen. Even the ever-present ravens made themselves scarce during my designated 15-minute observation period.
Of course, I had forgotten one of the cardinal rules of birdwatching: Go out when the birds are most active. Here are some tips on how to observe more birds, if you were like me and have a hard time seeing birds when you go out hiking or walking:
- Go out when the birds are most active. Generally, that’s just before sunrise and sunset. Those awesome videos of starlings flying in formation? They were nearly all shot near sunset, as the flock was looking for a roost for the night.
- Look where birds like to feed and water. Trees and bushes that bear fruit or nuts attract hungry birds. Puddles after rain showers are popular for bathing and drinking. Or you can set up a feeder and birdbath in your backyard.
- Be willing to sit quietly in one spot for a while. Our human tendency is to talk loudly and move around suddenly. This makes birds nervous. Try just siting and looking around, allowing the birds to get comfortable and start acting naturally again.
- Learn the different songs and calls of the birds you want to see. You would be amazed just how many more birds you can identify once you learn what they sound like!
Now that birdwatching season is starting to heat up, these websites are a great source for info and advice.
- The Audubon Society has lots of information for new birdwatchers.
- The Natural History Museum (UK) has some basic tips for beginners.
- The Royal Society for the Protection of the Birds has some basic advice.