Bird watching, or birding, as those dedicated to the hobby like to call it, is one of the best hobbies there is. Some may argue that a different hobby, like stamp collecting, cooking, photography, or golf, is the best, but I can give you three reasons why bird watching is the best hobby out there.
You don’t need any equipment to be a birder. Sure, binoculars help, but they aren’t actually necessary. Besides, good binoculars are quite expensive. If you can get by without them, you can spend the money elsewhere on things like food, clothing, and shelter.
You can simply walk outside and start looking for birds. If you want to keep track of the birds you’ve seen, you can jot them down either as you walk or later when you get back home. Birders call this keeping a “life list”.
It’s hard to beat a free hobby.
Speaking of free, there is one help that you can take with you while birding that doesn’t cost a thing. As long as you’ll have your phone in your pocket anyway, why not have a birding app loaded onto it?
There are several free apps that are quite useful.
eBird Mobile is available courtesy of the good folks at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Use it to keep track of birds with customized checklists. You use it in connection with your (free) account at the eBird website.
Birds Near Me also implements the eBird database. It uses pictures from Flickr, recordings of bird calls from Xeno-Canto, and descriptions from Wikipedia. That’s a pretty sweet mashup.
Merlin Bird ID is a favorite app that asks you questions to help pinpoint the species you have found. Based on your answers, it can accurately tell you the name of the bird you’re looking at.
There are more, and there are also some apps you can pay for. These should be enough to get you going.
As I hinted at above, you have to go outside for proper birding. Going outdoors is generally good for your health and is probably something you don’t do often enough. Walking from the door to your car doesn’t count.
Technically, you could look out a window to watch the birds, but you’ll never see more than a couple dozen different kinds, unless you live in a very special location. Trying to see as many different species of birds as you can is really the goal of birding.
Seasoned birders normally try to find as many as possible in a calendar year. You’re simply not going to be able to accumulate much of a list looking out a window into your backyard. If you live on the 8th floor of an apartment building, it’s even harder.
You can go birding by yourself, if you’re the loner type, or you can get together with others who also have birds on the brain for a group activity.
There are many bird watching clubs across the country that meet formally or informally as the spirit moves them. Virtually all of them are more than happy to welcome new bodies into the group.
On the other hand, if you prefer walking through nature by yourself (or maybe with just one other special person), you can easily find wonderful places to spot many different kinds of birds. The best of these places are known as “hot spots” to more experienced birders.
Whether you go by yourself or the rest of your posse, it’s easy to find nature trails to hike, some of which have specifically been crafted for bird watching. It doesn’t matter much what time of year you use these trails either. If you live in an area with cold winters, you should know that not all birds fly south to keep warm. Many are just fine staying put all year. Even when the snows fly, they don’t.
There are more reasons that bird watching is a top-notch hobby besides the three mentioned. What other hobby can come close to matching the ease and benefits of participating in birding?