Happy Saturday! - Hope you have a great one!
The weather is getting nicer and it’s time to get outside. Bird-watching is a four-season activity that will not only extend the amount of time you spend in parks or other green spaces, but also make you feel a little bit like a treasure seeker as you try to spot birds you know should be around (and find others you may not expect).
You can go birding any time of the year, but a good way to get hooked is to take advantage of the spring and fall migrations. During those bountiful times, hundreds of neotropical bird species rest and refuel in urban green spaces on their way to and from countries south of the U.S. Outside of the migration months, you can find resident birds in cities, too.
So whether you think all the little brown birds on your lawn are sparrows or are comfortable identifying a handful of common backyard birds, Field & Stream’s guide to bird-watching in any US city will elevate your bird-spotting abilities.
The first step on the path to birding is understanding which species are in your city at any given time. If you only take one thing away from this story, let it be this: bird knowledge is essential. Try eBird’s web-based Explore feature
. You can search by species, region, or hotspot—a location where lots of birds have been observed—and can click on any listed bird for identification clues, photos, songs, and calls. Knowing the difference between complex songs and simple calls is like having a special tool in your kit; one that can help you predict a bird’s behavior.
Once you’ve become familiar with the species in your city at the time you’re planning to go out, decide whether you’ll be birding alone or not. You can also use social media to see what’s been spotted locally. Birding groups and organizations often post photos on Instagram and Twitter, and some birders tag their images with #birdtwitter. Make sure to search using #MeridianIdaho (or replace with your actual location) to get the most relevant results.
The basic tools for birding are not that expensive. You don’t necessarily need binoculars for your first casual birding experience, but you may want to purchase a pair if bird-watching will be a regular pursuit. You want binoculars that let in a fair amount of light because you will see objects (and birds) more clearly, but larger lenses mean heavier binoculars. The goal is to strike a balance between lens size and overall weight.
You’ll also want to purchase a field guide. Get a regional one; it’ll be geared toward the birds you are most likely to see and weighs less than a comprehensive North American guide. The most recent edition of the National Geographic guide contains more than 1,000 species, while the Sibley guide has 650. If you don’t want to buy a guide right away, check to see if your local library has any. To go paperless, try the free Merlin Bird ID app.
You don’t even have to leave the comforts of home to bird-watch. If you have a yard, you can bring birds to you by creating a bird-friendly garden. Choose native plant species, which will act as a food source for native birds. They’ll also attract insects and the birds that feed on them. Planting native flora is a benefit on its own, as human activity has significantly reduced global plant diversity. Because plants are the backbone of many bird habitats, their loss has contributed to a massive 3 billion drop in the North American bird population since 1970. For just-right species for your locale, check out Audubon’s native plant database. The organization also provides tips for assessing your space and designing your garden.
Bird-watching can also help you reap the benefits of being outdoors, which has been shown to improve human physiological and mental health. In general, viewing and spending time in nature can lead to lower blood pressure and a slower heart rate, shorter recovery times after surgery, and increased attention and focus, so get outside!
I grew up in South Meridian, and we would see a lot of different species of birds, and even wildlife like the occasional fox. We especially liked it when we would see birds of prey flying in our field or a pheasant running through the pasture. Happy bird watching. 😊
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P.S. Here's a joke for you!
What kind of bird works at a construction site?
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