BIRDING with PAXIS
The Paxis backpack is essential for birders who want to maximize their time in the field. Paxis adds comfort with its ergonomic design, which means a longer time doing what you love. The swing pod provides the perfect accessible storage solution for critical birdwatching gear, bringing what you need immediately right in front of you.
in the Field
You've probably come across the buzz about birding, also known as "bird watching." This hobby has been making waves on social media, thanks to the growing number of people who have recently embraced it. Birding not only gets you outdoors but also makes you part of a community dedicated to safeguarding bird populations. Here's how to get started in this accessible and enjoyable pastime.
Exploring the Birding Trend
Birding has long been a favorite among nature enthusiasts, but it reached newfound popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic. When stay-at-home orders left people seeking outdoor activities close to home, birding emerged as a natural choice. Spending time in nature, as research suggests, enhances mental and physical well-being. For individuals like David Lindo, an urban bird guide leader and wildlife educator known as the Urban Birder, birding is a form of meditation.
But the advantages of birding extend beyond that:
Knowing Your Neighborhood: Birding is an excellent way to discover hidden gems in your local area. "Often you find things in your local neighborhood that you never thought would be there," says Lindo. "Birding enables people to have a sense of place."
Finding Community: Many birders join local groups and embark on bird-watching expeditions, fostering tight-knit bonds in the process. According to Jenna Curtis, Ph.D., a project co-leader for eBird with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, this sense of community played a significant role in the recent surge of interest. As people grappled with increased isolation during the pandemic, birding provided a sense of connection.
Learning, Staying Young: Birding provides an opportunity to learn, regardless of your age or expertise. Each outing is a chance to discover the distinctive traits, preferred habitats, and migration patterns of local birds. Plus, if you're lucky, you might spot a bird species you've never encountered before.
Enjoying It Anywhere: Wherever you are, there's bound to be a thriving bird population nearby, says Monica Bryand, the founder of the Urban Bird Collective in Minnesota. Even if you're confined to your home, bird watching can be as simple as gazing out of your window.
In essence, birding is a means to reduce stress, relish the outdoors, forge new friendships, and acquire knowledge about the world—what's not to love?
Beginning Bird Watching
We recommend two essential items to get started:
A Field Guide:
Opt for a digital guide or a book. Most birding guides feature detailed photos or illustrations along with valuable information about a bird's habitat, feeding habits, nesting behavior, songs, calls, and migration patterns. Birding guide apps often include features like bird identification, audio recordings of songs and calls, and recent bird sightings by location.
If you have a smartphone, check out Cornell's Merlin Bird ID. Among other great features, it can identify birds by sound. Fun!
A high-quality pair of binoculars will enable you to observe birds with remarkable clarity and detail. Binoculars come in various price ranges, from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. Our birding experts recommend investing in a mid-price range pair if possible, typically costing between $300 and $500. These binoculars offer improved quality for birding and are more durable when subject to accidental impacts. When shopping for binoculars, consider factors like fit, eye relief for glasses wearers, magnification power, and lens diameter. A magnification power of 8 and a lens diameter of 32 or 42 are commonly suitable for birding.
Here are some pairs we suggest:
Nikon Monarch 5 8x42 (priced at $280)
Vanguard Endeavor ED 8x42 (priced at $300)
Zeiss Terra ED 8x42 (priced at $450)
Pro tip: If you're uncertain about what type of binoculars to get, Bryand recommends attending a local birders' meetup and asking to try out another member's pair. Some local nature centers and libraries may also offer binoculars for rent or loan, allowing you to try out birding with zoomed-in views.
Another popular option among birders is to use a zoom lens on a digital camera. If you have an interest in photography, this approach can provide close-up bird observations and opportunities to capture photos for sharing on social media. Curtis also suggests the technique of "digiscoping," which involves taking pictures through your binoculars using your phone's camera.
Getting Started as a Novice Bird Watcher
Are you ready to plan your first birding excursion? Here are some beginner tips for bird watching:
Download an app or obtain a guidebook:
Before venturing out, familiarize yourself with the local bird species. Utilize a guidebook or an app to learn about the types of birds in your area and where to find them. Additionally, the American Birding Association offers a free eBook for beginners with valuable tips.
Research where to go and who to go with:
To start, consider finding a local birding group. These experts can introduce you to bird watching and help you discover great birding locations. They can also provide guidance on spotting and identifying birds. To locate a local group, consult the American Birding Association's list of clubs and organizations. If you prefer to venture out alone or lack a local bird club, an app like eBird can show you where bird sightings have been recorded near your location.
Pack your essentials:
Prepare for your birding trip similarly to a hike. Wear sturdy, comfortable shoes and dress in weather-appropriate clothing in muted colors to avoid startling the birds (as many birds have excellent color vision). Alongside your field guide and binoculars, consider bringing extra layers, sunscreen, snacks, and drinking water.
Get out and Bird!
When you're out there, be ready for walking, sitting, observing, and listening. If you're part of a group, inquire about the length and pace of the hike. When you're bird watching, keep a close eye on the birds and savor the chance to encounter other wildlife, plants, and scenic landscapes.
Note your observations:
While it's not obligatory, some birders enjoy maintaining detailed lists of bird species they've encountered, capturing photos, or recording birdsongs. The key to this step is to make it enjoyable and experiment with various ways to document your observations. Whether you identify every bird you see right away or not, you can still capture wonderful memories from your initial birding experiences.
If you'd rather bring the birds to you, backyard birding provides a delightful way to observe birds from your back deck, patio, or balcony. Attracting birds to your yard is as simple as providing a bird feeder or birdbath. Here's what you need to know:
Choose the right food:
Different bird species have varied food preferences. To attract local birds, determine the specific species you wish to invite and research their preferred diets. The National Bird-Feeding Society offers charts listing birds and their favored foods for the Eastern and Western United States. In urban or suburban areas, a basic mixed feed is a suitable starting point for attracting a variety of birds.
Select the right feeder:
Birds have specific preferences when it comes to feeders, which can vary by species. Consult the National Bird-Feeding Society's charts on bird feeders to determine the most suitable choice for your preferred birds. If you're dealing with squirrels or other critters in your area, consider a squirrel-proof feeder to safeguard your birds' meals.
Birdbath best practices:
Birdbaths provide wild birds with a source of water for drinking and preening. Keep birdbaths shallow and filled with fresh water. Plan to rinse and refill the birdbath two to three times per week or whenever you notice debris or dirt in the water. It's important to be aware that birdbaths may not be suitable for every backyard, especially if outdoor cats are present, as they can pose a threat to birds attracted to the birdbath.
As you make your yard more bird-friendly, you may attract other local wildlife as well. Birds often serve as indicators of habitat health, and recording your backyard birding observations in an app like eBird contributes to global conservation efforts. This community-driven data is used for research, conservation, and education worldwide. The Great Backyard Bird Count, held annually in February, encourages birdwatchers to venture outside and count and report as many birds as possible, aiding scientists in understanding bird populations globally.
David Lindo of the Urban Birder sums it up nicely: "It doesn't matter how far you want to take birding." Whether you're planning grand expeditions or simply enjoying the wildlife from your balcony, "Being involved is a great thing for you and all those around you."
Frequently Asked Questions About Birding
Q: What's the difference between birding and bird watching?
A: Some distinguish between "birding," which involves planning specific outings to see birds, and "bird watching," which encompasses more casual bird spotting and observation. Others use the terms interchangeably.
Q: What is the purpose of birding?
A: At its core, birding aims to discover and learn about local bird species. Its additional benefits include stress reduction, community engagement, and outdoor enjoyment.
Q: How popular is birding?
A: According to a national survey conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 45 million Americans identify themselves as bird watchers.
Ready to embark on your birding journey? Birding could become your new favorite pastime, so give it a try. Keep in mind these key takeaways:
Birding is versatile and can be done in various settings, from rural areas to bustling cities.
Beyond learning about nature, birding offers stress relief and a chance to connect with fellow wildlife enthusiasts in your community.
Specialized gear is not essential for birding, but a field guide and binoculars can enhance your experience.
Consider joining a local birding group to get started.
If you set up a bird feeder at home, you can even enjoy bird watching from your backyard, porch, or balcony.