Adding another hobby to your existing birdwatching activity can enhance your enjoyment of wild birds. Imagine adding vanilla ice cream to warm apple pie… the pie tastes that much better.
Regardless if you’re a beginner or expert, each of the five hobbies below will raise your enjoyment of birds to new heights.
See also: A Beginner’s Guide to Birding
Let’s debunk one myth right away—you don’t need a fancy, expensive camera to take great pictures of birds. Who’s to say you can’t start with your smart phone’s camera?
For the aspiring shutterbug, Photographytalk.com suggests a camera with a focal length of 300mm or better and a shutter speeds of 1/2000 second. Nice but optional are an autofocus system and tracking mode.
Here are a few quick tips to get you started:
- Be familiar with your equipment.
- Be purposeful in selecting your background and consider the lighting.
- Decide what you want in the shot. Fill your lens with your subject.
- Consider your position and mix it up. Try being at eye-level with the birds.
If you want help with your photography skills, look for courses offered by your community college or a nearby photography/camera club.
Birding by Sound
It happens all the time.
You can hear a bird, but because you can’t see it, you’re left wondering what you’ve missed.
Why not learn to identify birds by their calls and songs and turn your birdwatching into bird hearing?
You can train your ear with audio recordings. BirdWatchers Digest suggests checking any of these online resources as a great starting point:
- Music of Nature by Lang Elliott, a professional nature recordist.
- Bird Song Hero is an interactive game from Cornell’s Lab or Ornithology.
- Xeno-canto, which features birds from around the world.
I like Audubon’s eight-part learning series called Birding by Ear.
Any Internet search will bring up a multitude of recordings, CDs, books, and other resources to help you learn to identify birds by sound.
Drawing and Painting
If you already draw or paint, consider including birds among your subjects. A review of John Audubon’s drawing and painting of North America’s birds will convince you wild birds are among nature’s most beautiful themes.
Among wild birds are countless different shapes, sizes, colors, and behaviors.
Then take into account the multitude of species, habitats, and natural behaviors.
Imagine the variety of artistic possibilities!
A resource the novice and the expert will equally enjoy is The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds by John Muir Laws. I found 266 Amazon reviews and all of them are five stars.
I can’t imagine a place better than a bird festival to mingle with people who find joy in birding, and who are willing to share their knowledge.
Organizations across the country sponsor bird festivals during different seasons, making them a great opportunity to see new birds.
At these festivals, you’ll find field trips with experienced birders. Some festivals organize these hikes to cater to different levels of birding experience.
You’ll also find workshops and speakers sharing their knowledge on a huge variety of bird-related subjects. I dare you not to find something of interest.
Vendors are a big part of any festival, and bird festivals are no exception. You can look for equipment, talk to experts, find birding tours, browse books, check out conservation organizations, and eat funnel cake and kettle corn (hey, it’s a festival).
Hiking doesn’t have to be hiking. A stroll through a nice park or wooded path is a leisurely activity that will put you in contact with nature. Not to mention it’s good for you.
Find an arboretum or nature preserve. Look online to find migratory routes/flyways. Fall migration routes differ from spring migration routes so, twice a year you’ll see birds you might not otherwise see.
The new year is still fresh. Make it a resolution to try at least one of these hobbies. You’ll enjoy birds in a whole new way.