A beginner’s guide to birdwatching: top tips to help you get started

A beginner’s guide to birdwatching: top tips to help you get started

One of the beauties of birdwatching is that it can be done from anywhere. You often don’t even need to leave your home – just stepping out into the garden or looking out the window can be enough to catch a glimpse. 
 
 

It’s also a great hobby for anyone to try, whatever your previous experience or knowledge of wildlife. And it’s an inexpensive way to connect with nature. Win, win!  

For those who are new to twitching (the pursuit of a rare bird), the team at Bird Aware Solent have put together some top tips to help get you started. 

Know your area
Birdwatching may seem daunting at first, simply because there are so many bird species. Start by getting to know the most common birds in your area, both by sight and song/call. This will make it easier to spot any newcomers. 

Improve your garden habitat
Feeders are a great way to see lots of bird species in one place. They’re great to hang in gardens, but any outside space available to you will work. Some birds like blackbirds and thrushes prefer not to use feeders and prefer feeding off a table or the ground. Robins like to use feeders with a perch, as they’re not the most agile birds! Some feeders have an inbuilt perch, or you can tape a twig to the bottom. 

You can learn more about the types of food different birds enjoy by checking out this video from the Bird Aware team. 

Get a closer look
You don’t have to spend a fortune on optics to be a birdwatcher, but it’s worthwhile to invest in some decent binoculars (8×40 or 10×40 is a good spec to start with). If you can, try and borrow a pair. That way, you can ensure that birdwatching is for you! 

Practice being able to raise your binoculars to lock in on a bird that you are looking at quickly – this will save you lots of frustration and missed birdsLook at the bird with your naked eyes first and then try and lift the binoculars in front of your eyes without moving your eyes. It takes a bit of practice, but it helps wasting time finding the birds again. 

Handy guides
Buy a decent pocket bird guide for use in the field, such as the RSPB pocket guide. 

No sudden movements
Birds are skittish, so when out birdwatching be as unobtrusive as possible by:  

  • wearing clothing that blends in with the surroundings and doesn’t make loud noises when you walk.     
  • staying still (preferably in vegetation cover or a hide) and letting the birds come to you. Movement will scare them away. 
  • being quiet! 

 

Sun on your back
Orient yourself so that the light is shining from behind you – otherwise birds can appear as just silhouettes. 

Practice! 
There are great educational resources online such as the BTO videos on YouTube, bird song samples and ID quizzes 

Be sure to stay local while out birdwatching and ensure you are following the latest government guidelines when leaving your home. 

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Bird Aware raise awareness of the birds who spend the winter on the Solent. Their rangers engage with visitors and communities to help people learn more about birds and minimise disturbance. For more helpful information, be sure to check out the Bird Aware Solent website.  

A great place to put these tips in to practice is Titchfield Haven Nature Reserve. Be sure to like their page on Facebook to find out when the site is reopening. 

And don’t forget to share with us any snaps you get while out birdwatching. You can tag us in any images on Instagram or Twitter or send them to our Facebook page.