3 Gear Essentials for Those New to Birding
Birdwatching for Beginners - During Covid a ton of people in Canada have turned to birding and spending time in Nature. Many people are looking to figure out how to shift from being an armchair birder to being an expert. Therefore the natural question is, "What gear do you need to become a bird watcher?"
Join the Growing Wave of Birdwatching Enthusiasts in Canada
In its most basic form, bird watching (or birding) involves observing birds in their natural habitat and learning to identify them. Once regarded as a pastime reserved for retirees wearing Tilley hats and multi-pocketed khaki vests, it is now one of the fastest growing outdoor recreational activities in North America, in part because it's trending among millennials. In fact, recent surveys indicate 1 in every 5 Canadians watch birds, and on average we spend 133 days per year observing them, which is more time than we spend on any other nature related activity. So, what are the three pieces of essential gear you need to get into the game?
Scopes and Binoculars
The amount of enjoyment you get out of birdwatching is directly related to how well you can see the birds. Therefore, binoculars are an essential tool for bird watching for beginners. However, with so many models on the market, it can be daunting to know where to start. As a result, making choices about magnification, objective lens diameter, waterproofing, fog-proofing, size, and weight can seem confusing, especially when each decision affects the price. For beginners, 8x42 binoculars are a good choice because they are bright and have a wide field of view, making it easier to find birds and follow them in flight. There are many options available, but the Vortex Crossfire HD 8x42 and the Celestron Nature DX ED 8x42 are two models in the $150-$300 range that are frequently highly rated for clarity, brightness, and colour, making them a good choice that will continue to meet your needs as your skills and interest grow.
The second part of bird watching is learning to identify what you see. Around 450 bird species breed in Canada, and more than 200 others are occasional visitors. For this reason, a compact, easy-to-read field guide is a valuable tool for developing your identification skills .They come in different forms, from region-specific posters showing common backyard birds you'll see at your bird feeder, to folding laminate guides for different groups of birds, to books which typically include a photo or drawing of every species that can be observed in a given area, together with a short written description and a range map. A modern birder may not always carry their field guide around with them, but many do. Furthermore, as a tool it will always be invaluable for learning to recognize the broad characteristics of different families of birds, comparing similar species, reviewing and memorizing and of course identifying new species. There are many great options available, but two of my favourite printed field guides are The Sibley Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern North America and The Sibley Field Guide to the Birds of Western Northern America by David Allen Sibley which are available online or at many local independent bookstores.
3. Bird Identification App
Feeling a little daunted by the diversity of birds in Canada? No problem! There are a number of different apps that you can download for free which are ideal for birdwatching for beginners. The easiest app to use if you're a beginner bird watcher is the Merlin Bird ID App by Cornell Lab of Ornithology. You answer three simple questions about the bird you wish to ID: How big is it? What are its main colours? Where was it? Then you are presented with a series of photos of common species in your area that match the description. You can also make identifications by recording a bird song you hear, or on a photo. In addition, another great option for beginners is the free Audubon Bird Guide App. Birds can be viewed like in a traditional field guide, or you can use the app as a tool for making identifications. Under the circumstances, you may by wondering why you need a birding app if you already have a field guide. Apps not only help you identify birds, but they can also help you keep track of which species you've seen and where, connect you to other bird watchers in your area, help you find good places to see birds, and allow you to share your observations, making you a Citizen Scientist who helps conserve Canada's birds and other wildlife.
Keep It Simple – Anyone can Do It!
Like any hobby, there is a seemingly endless supply of gear and equipment available for watching birds. With this in mind, it's important to remember that all you really need is to see the birds and to learn about them. If you start with these three gear essentials for beginner birders you can always upgrade as your skills, interests, and level of enjoyment grows!
Remember that Nature is for everyone. To be a birdwatcher you don't need the most expensive equipment, a huge life list, or know every species by ear – all you need is to enjoy birds! In conclusion I hope my birdwatching for beginners helps welcomes you into our birding community.
I haven't heard of that one, but I'll be sure to check it out before we start our hike across Alberta in the spring! Thanks for the recommendation!
Exactly! I think the idea that we need a lot of expensive equipment to try something new is one of the biggest deterants.