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Friday, June 04, 2010
Summer Bird Watching

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By Michael K.

Bird Watching, or “Birding” as it is known to its regular participants is a wholesome, inexpensive activity that’s fun for the whole family.  Now that summer is here, it’s also a great way to spend time outdoors.

Modern History of BirdingBird Photography

Birding as we know it today evolved from an earlier British Victorian practice of collecting the eggs and feathers of rare birds.  It was considered a symbol of status to be able to afford to engage in such an activity.  That is of course, because proto-binoculars were not readily available to the public until the mid to late 1800’s; before this time, it was necessary to kill the bird in order to observe it.  Since then, birding has become a sport for some, and a pastime for many.

Indeed almost 1/5 of Americans consider themselves bird watchers.  Many of these folks engage in birding as a casual hobby, but for a select few, birding can be competitive.  There are many types of competition which revolve around birding.  Some test the ability of organized teams or individuals to identify as many species of bird within a given period of time, while other competitions are limited not by time, but by distance i.e. contestants must stay within an agreed upon perimeter. 

While not participating in competitions, many bird watchers work toward personal goals.  It is common for avid bird watchers to have personal list of birds they want to observe.  To keep themselves motivated, some will limit these lists by time or region.  That is, they have a list of birds they would like to see within a certain area or time frame.

The Bird Watcher’s Backpack

There are many numerous tools that can be and are regularly used in normal birding.  Some of these include:

  • Binoculars: To observe the birds from a distance, some bird watchers use the classic method of binoculars.  Still others take advantage of modern technology and use cameras specifically designed to view birds. 

  • Bird Calls: When a birder wants to view a specimen up close however, it is necessary to attract the bird.  In this case, inexpensive options include bird feeders, while an example of a higher-tech option would be a digital bird caller.  These devices many times not only have preset bird calls stored in their memory, but also have the ability to record calls allowing the birder to reproduce them whenever he/she likes. 

  • A Camera: The use of photography in birding is very common.  In order to preserve the memory of the sighting, or to prove that one did in fact observe a particular bird, cameras are often part of the bird watcher’s toolkit.  In addition to this, the high powered lenses available for many cameras also aid in the sighting of birds. 

  • A Field Guide: When birding in an unfamiliar area, it is helpful to have a guide written by someone who knows the region.  Birding Field Guides include information about specific species of birds which can be observed there, helpful hints as well as warnings about possible danger.

The most popular seasons to participate in birding are spring and fall because of annual migration habits of many birds.  Still, as summer rolls on, avid bird watchers continue in their favorite activity, while others turn their eyes skyward to find out just what it is they’re seeing.

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