How to start Bird Watching?
This may sound simple for many but can be a daunting one for those who are just getting started. I guess that’s true for anything new we do. Bird Watching is one of the most popular activities globally nowadays. More and more people are joining the lot daily. To start bird watching, one doesn’t need any kind of a degree or a special Qualification or even a fancy equipment. You just need to have little interest and patience in observing and appreciating their beauty and behavior. This exercise alone would be more than enough to convince you to get more serious about Bird Watching. However, you can follow the below steps as a guideline to get started in Bird Watching.
Steps to start Brid Watching:
Start Observing your surroundings
Birds are everywhere and probably you have seen them in your backyard or them visiting your balcony or window. You would have seen them in the park you go for a walk or a water body you visited earlier. But then you might not have paid much attention. Do you know their names? Can you recognize them by calls? Did you observe their behavior? Can you differentiate between male and female? Did you notice what time of the day they are most active? Was it a lone visitor or you saw a flock? What is their eating habit? or Did you happen to see a migratory bird? These are just a few questions if you try to find answers to you will find yourself deeply engaged in the activity called Bird Watching. What bird names you can recall and write?
To be honest, when I started birding a couple of years ago, I couldn’t believe I was so bad at it. I failed to notice them even though they used to visit my backyard regularly. I only started noticing them after I came back from my first birding trip. Be it a Drongo or Bulbul, to me they were all just birds. And when I saw them for the first time up close in the view finder of my camera, I couldn’t believe what I had been missing all these years.
Find a Birder friend to help you in your Bird Watching Mission
They say the best way to speed up the learning process is to get more involved. And what could be a better way than finding a birder friend? You can learn from his / her experience. You never know, he / she might even invite you to join him / her for the next birding trip.
Join a Birding community (Online / Offline)
You can join a birding group (Online/ offline). This will give you reasons to observe more and discuss with other like minded birders. This will also give you opportunity to quickly make new friends wherever you go. Now ain’t that cool? Plus you can use this platform to share your pics and observations with others. And more importantly, it will present you with an opportunity to learn from others.
I tried various groups, but then got hooked to IndiAves at Twitter. This is a great community, if you want to learn and practice your Birding Craft. The team is always up to help you with any questions pertaining to birding. You can consider joining the group. They always come up with creative hashtag challenges which are very engaging. Highly recommended.
Go for a guided birding trip
Now, this one is my favorite. In fact, this is how I introduced myself to Bird Watching. You can choose to visit a property which is settled in a lush green forest or amidst nature. You can look for the one who provides Naturalists to accompany you for a nature walk and help you spot birds and tell you about them. This is a great way to get started.
If I talk about Karnataka alone, there are multiple options available. My first birding trip was to Old Magazine House (OMH) in Dandeli, a property by Jungle Lodges and Resorts. Soon will be doing a detailed blog about my experience at OMH. I am sure, many will be able to relate to this place. The impact it has on you to see the birds up real close and fall in love with them is just unexplainable. It is one hell of a paradise for birders. You can also read my other blog from one of my birding trips that I had to this amazing property called Anejhari Butterfly Camp (blog link), situated at Mookambika Wildlife Sanctuary in Uttar Karnataka near Udupi.
Sharing a small video of Birds we shot from my first Birding trip:
Start making a list of Birds you have seen
This is one fail safe tip. Once you start recording the names of the birds you have seen during your expedition, you will never forget them. It will really help you juggle your brain. This will make things so easy. When I am on a Birding trip, I make sure to list down all the birds that I have seen at the earliest opportunity. At times, it may be a tiring thing to do, specially immediately after a birding session. But you will realize that’s the best thing to do. Trust me, you will be surprised by the numbers when you start listing them down. I managed to list over 70 species in my last birding trip to Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary.
Spend some time learning about Bird Anatomy
Bird anatomy refers to the physiological structure of birds bodies. In simple words, a scientific way of identifying different body parts of birds. This will go a long way in your learning process in the birding world. There are some good materials available on the web to get you started. But my favorite is the interactive Bird anatomy page by TheCornellLab. Check it out here at this link: All About Bird Anatomy
Invest in Books for Bird Watching
Now this one, will not only help you get more serious about birding in a psychological way, but will act as a great learning tool too. Two books that I can recommend to get you started:
Download Birding Apps
You can download apps like Merlin Bird Id. This app allows you in identifying birds with their photos as well as Sound you might have recorded in the wild. This app, also has a good library of bird info with their calls.
Note: Recorded calls in the app or from any other source, must not be used for luring birds. This is not acceptable in the birding world. This can disturb the birds around. You may end up chasing other local birds away from the area, as some may take it as a threat. We must remember, while photographing birds or doing bird watching, we are stepping in to their natural habitat. We must respect the nature and do our best in not causing any damage or creating any disturbance to the natural world.
Invest in a Binocular or a Spotting scope
Once you get more serious about birding, probably it will be a good idea to get a pair of Binoculars or Spotting scope for yourself. There are various options available in the market from fancy expensive ones to not so expensive ones. Listing few as per their price ranges, hope this helps.
Price range of Rs. 8000/- to 15000/-
There are numerous other options available in the market. Just few tips, any Binocular with 8X to 12X magnification is very good for spotting birds. You can even go for higher magnification, but then it will get shaky as due to higher magnification, any shake also gets magnified. Look for the one with a good diameter of the lens. The wider the diameter, the brighter the image will be.
Just a note, don’t invest in cheap glasses, you will regret it. Image quality will be low and they may not be good for your eyes.
Some spotting scopes you can consider buying:
Note: Spotting scopes are usually built for higher magnifications. They have better image quality output and usually come with a good wide diameter lens allowing more light to reach the lens. Due to high magnification, use of tripod is recommended. Many models allow you to attach a phone or even a camera to take pictures. Listing just few for reference:
Invest in a Camera
This is the place where I started, though usually can be the last step in the order. But, you can always break the chain and find the spot that works best for you. Photographing and Videographing the birds will take your interest to another level. Since my first birding trip, it has never been turning back.
This is a sneak peak video of our Birding trip to Sharavathi River, during the monsoon season, near Shivamogga in Karnataka.
Coming back to the camera options, if you are just starting out, you can begin your journey from a Bridge camera. Once you have explored that area and you feel like taking the next step in the Bird / Wildlife photography, you can move to a DSLR / Mirrorless Camera.
Bridge camera options for Bird Watching:
Priced at around 70000/- is a great camera to start with. However, you may find it difficult to find it online. But, probably you can try your luck in the local market or can get hands to a used one. Great build quality, amazing picture quality. Perfect for Bird Photography for beginners.
2. Panasonic Lumix FZ80
This is another great option, but again availability of this gear in the market right now is a question.
If you want to take your Photography to the next level, you can pick up a DSLR and pair it with a good glass to get brilliant results.
Canon Camera Bodies and lenses:
Lens options for Canon:
1. Canon 100 – 400 F4.5 – 5.6L : Pro series glass from Canon. Definitely deserves a chance in your kit. Light weight, fast and tack sharp from the professional grade section of Canon.
2. Canon 400 F5.6L : Have used it once for doing portrait of someone I knew years ago. Prime lens and mind blowing quality. But only if you can find it. Try Canon stores, hopefully you can request them to get one for you.
3. Sigma 150-600 mm : There are two models from Sigma for this series.
Link for Sigma 150-600 mm Contemporary
Link for Sigma 150-600 mm Sports
There are similar options available from Tamron as well.
Nikon DSLR bodies and lenses:
Lenses for Nikon
This is the pair I am using currently and very satisfied with the results. Below are few images made on this combo:
Crimson Backed Sunbird
Hope you found this article helpful, if not, share with someone whom you think might.