Birdwatching is an ever popular past-time that more and more people are turning to nowadays, combining a love of nature with a healthy outdoor activity. Most countries boast vast and vibrant populations of birds and avians to delight the hobbyist in any season. From pidgeons to puffins, there's always something out there worth seeing, whether you're just a bird-lover looking to see something new or a dedicated ornithologist.
If you're thinking of taking advantage of the turn of season to do a spot of birdwatching yourself, here's a few of our favourite tips to bare in mind:
1) Think like a spy; be quiet and discreet.
Remember the Dodo? Naturally given that they went extinct in 1662, you probably don't. Dodo's growing up on the remote island of Mauritius had no fear of human beings – a somewhat fatal flaw when confronted with hungry sailors who had been subsisting on rotten meat and tasteless biscuits for weeks or months.
However, the wild birds that still exist besides humanity in nature long ago learned to be wary of the odd too legged monkey things. (The ones that didn't got eaten). This means that, even for the more benevolent activity of bird watching, you need to be aware of this natural tendancy for birds to flee when threatend if you wish to get into position and watch them effectively.
Wearing camoflage jackets and stealthily creeping through the terrain like a commando isn't just for show, it's essential if you want to get into the best positions to watch birds from. Birds have a terrible sense of smell in general, but they make up for it with impressive vision. So avoid wearing bright, revealing colours and shouting out to your friends when you see something exciting.
2) Get the right kit.
While Birdwatching is an affordable hobby, it's essential to bring the right things with you when going out into the wilds. Though habbitats differ, you can gaurentee that sturdy outdoorswear is essential if you want to make the most of your trip. If possibly, choose muted colours that don't contrast brightly with your surroundings.
Because birds have better sight than you do, you'll need to use optics to even the score. Binoculars remain the birdwatchers favourite staple, with a wide variety for sale at different prices and qualities to suit all budgets. For spying on birds in even more distant locales and remote nests, you may need a more powerful telescope to let you see everything.
Finally, since you will be out in the wilds, it's essential that you bring a few key items just incase. An emergency medical kit can be invaluable should something happen and, given the outdoors nature of the activity, it is key to stay hydrated with a waterbottle. Furthermore, given that national parks increasingly have mobile phone coverage, taking yours with you in case of emergency is a good idea. Remember, better to have and not need than need and not have.
3) Bring the binoculars to your eyes, not the other way around.
When you spy a bird you want to take a better look at, get into the habit of continuing to look at it and bringing the binoculars up to your eyes, rather than moving your face and head in to the binoculars. It can be easy to lose sight of what you were looking at when in the transition otherwise, as the suddenly magnified world makes it much trickier to look around broadly.
4) Use hides responsibily.
Many parks and other places where birdwatchers go offer hides and other shelters for birdwatchers to use. While they are typically open to the public, it's nevertheless important for you to use them responsibly. Remember to be quiet both when you enter and leave the hide and to take any rubbish with you when you go. By taking care for the state of the hide, you help ensure that it remains available for use by everyone.
5) Join or donate to a bird sanctuary or charity
Many of the fields, parks and reserves that exist only to so because of the efforts of charities and the volunteers who give time and resources to them. If you find you really enjoy the hobby, consider getting further involved with those who ensure that today's birds can be enjoyed by tomorrow's generations. You can choose often between getting involved in local concerns right up to national charities such as the RSPB.
For those bird watching fans wanting to get even further into the hobby, ADL offers an Ornithology course, a complete first course that makes for an ideal start for anyone wanting to learn more about birds. The ADL Ornithology course is available direct online for only £325.