Anyone can be a birder
An avid birdwatcher shares her tips to make the pastime a great one for anybody
Many of us put off pursuing our interests until we reach retirement age, only to find that life has thrown a curveball and we no longer have the capabilities we once had. Fortunately, watching birds—or "birding"—is a pastime that even people with limited physical abilities can enjoy. Some of the best places to "bird" are the campgrounds of our provincial, national and territorial parks.
The most important tools for birding are eyes, ears and patience. Instead of looking at the big picture, look closer at hand. Sitting quietly in our campsite watching the surrounding vegetation while listening for the quiet sounds of nature can offer a satisfying birding experience. A brisk walk may be good for the heart, but a quiet, slow amble with frequent stops better serves for appreciation of our surroundings.
Soon it is noticed that the bird splashing in that puddle looks quite different from the one climbing down that tree trunk, or the one over there eating the seeds of a spent dandelion. Curiosity dictates wanting to know their names, so reference material is called for. Many different books and/or apps are available. The tattered appearance of The Sibley Guide to Birds attests to it being my personal favourite.
Birds don’t tend to sit still while you search through a book trying to find them. This is why, at least in my opinion, the best birding tool is a camera. Any digital camera with a minimum 20x zoom will do. Aim the camera as soon as you spot the bird, and press the shutter. Continue as long as you can without disturbing the subject. If most don’t turn out, who cares? Delete the shots and try again next time. Later, by using your reference book, you can figure out what it was you saw, save the best pictures and then enjoy the opportunity of reliving the experience. The camera’s zoom can even be used as a substitute for binoculars, which just might be the next tool you’ll want to obtain.
There is no right or wrong time, place or method to birding. Every location, every season, every day, even every hour can bring something different. The anticipation is what keeps us birders going.