Home Life Getting started with birdwatching

Getting started with birdwatching

Even if it’s through a birdfeeder, birdwatching can be fun year round and lead to some laughter.

Birdwatching can be a great way to get outdoors and add some fun to a hike in the forest or even on the edges. Canada has a wide variety of birds. Some are more common such as junco’s or chickadees but we have bright yellow goldfinches and brilliant red cardinals or shimmering Baltimore Orioles (no, not the baseball team!.) Which can always light up the day.

Not surprisingly, since the pandemic there has been a surge in interest in birdwatching. Many Canadians are adding bird feeders to their decks and backyards as well. Either way you go about it, there is much joy to be found. 

Aside from a feeder, you can get into the great outdoors and wander about the woods, which, by the way can lead to the great joy of Werifesteria, an old English word that basically means getting lost in the joy of the forest. Take a pair of binoculars with you and perhaps your smartphone. There are some great apps that are also free, such as Merlin, created by Cornell Labs and is based on citizen data. It’s available in iOS and Android and your data entries can help it get better too! Another is Seek by iNaturalist, also available on iOS and Android. This app can help you identify birds, fungi and plants as well. They’re both easy to use. Of course, you can always buy the print version of a filed guide. Be sure to get a North American version though!

Spring is the best time of year to get out birdwatching in Canada since that is when the big migrations happen. Fall can be good too, but species tend to vary their times when they head back down south so you don’t get the variety you do in spring. If you’re heading out into the woods, be sure to pack enough water and maybe a lunch or snacks. Wear suitable footwear and if you’re going beyond public parks or extended hikes, take some emergency rations in case you get lost. You don’t need expensive binoculars either, just start with a basic pair and go from there.

A great way to find places to go bird watching is doing an internet search for provincial and federal parks, but also trails in your province. Most provinces have trail associations that maintain the trails and have maps posted online, with many using Google Maps. By the way, with Google Maps, many trails and bird areas are listed on the maps on your smartphone. It can also help you if you get turned around and lost.

If you’re planning the backyard feeder addition, be sure to check what birds are most popular in your area and get the appropriate feed. The best prices are CostCo and WalMart, especially for bulk peanuts which blue jays, northern flickers and blackwings love as much as chickadees. Once chickadees get to know you, they’ll almost always come down and grab a peanut or sunflower seed from your hand. They’re friendly and funny and have some silly antics. Another advantage to small birds like chickadees, junco’s and sparrows is that they eat a lot of insects, which can be very helpful in making your backyard a bit more comfy.

Whatever your choice, birdwatching is calming and distracting, especially during this pandemic time! If you have grandkids it’s a wonderful way to help them connect with nature and grow a sense of understanding around our interconnectedness with the world.

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Author: Alex Hurst is a staff writer for HUM@Nmedia, the parent brand for Silver and Optimyz Magazines.