So you want to start nature studies. But maybe you don’t know what topic to start with. Why not try bird watching? Too intimidating? I thought so too. At first.
I live near two bird sanctuaries. Which means, not only are there a lot of birds, there are also lots of bird watching fanatics nearby. It seemed only logical, to me, to start our nature study adventure with bird watching. So while I eagerly await the flowers to grow, we will prepare to check out the beautiful birds.
The only downside to bird watching – there are over 700 different species of birds! It can be overwhelming to get started. But nonetheless, we venture forward.
Birds are everywhere!
While there may not be a bird sanctuary where you live, there is most likely some sort of birds. There are birds pretty much everywhere in the world. Even Antarctica has penguins! But unless you’re a scientist, you probably don’t live in Antarctica.
Zoos are a great place to see birds that aren’t native to where you live. In our town, we have a petting zoo that has six or seven different types of chickens. Chickens! I didn’t realize there was more than one type of chicken. My favourite has feathers on top of its head that stick up like a mohawk. I call him the “Punk Rock Chicken”. I giggle every time we see him.
Because birds vary by location your bird watching experiences will be different from mine. Unless you’re near me, in which case we should hang out. The good thing is that there are plenty of birding guides that are location based. Or, if you’re more of the techy type, Explore a Region is a great option to figure out where the hot spots for bird watching are.
Eyes, notebook, bird guide – check!
There really isn’t much that’s needed to get started. You could just go out and look for birds. But it would be beneficial to have a few basic things:
- binoculars – to help you get a closer look without scaring the bird away
- a notebook – always a must with nature studies
- a bird guide – to look up which bird you saw from your observations; can be a book or website (The Burgess Bird Book for Children is a popular choice among homeschoolers)
Bird watching, like most nature studies, is very portable, it can be done at the park, on camping or hiking trips or even in your own backyard.
How do you learn all those birds?!
Some people suggest learning a list of common birds before going outside. I disagree. Mostly because Charlotte Mason teaches to observe nature first (or at least that’s my understanding). Not to mention, some birds are extremely similar. The only distinguishing feature being the size of the beak. I realize my example is more advanced, but the point is why not have the fundamentals first? Would you build a house on sand or solid rock?So here’s my
So here’s my suggestion, learn the four characteristics to identifying birds which are:
- size & shape,
- behaviour, and
When you’re out in the field, focus on just observing these characteristics. When you’re at home and have time to flip through your favourite guide books or websites, you can figure out which birds you saw. From there you can learn everything there is to know is to know about the birds you’ve spotted.
The more you practice observing THEN identifying birds the more natural it will become. Eventually, you will be able to quickly identify birds that frequent areas near you. When you visit new places and go birding you’ll have the skills to be able to have enjoyable bird watching outings despite not being familiar with the local birds.
You Got This!
If you don’t know where to start with nature studies, start with birds. Chances are you won’t have to go far to find one. Birds can be found pretty much anywhere. You don’t need to have any special equipment but it’s handy to have binoculars. Begin with observing. Enjoy the beauty of the birds in the field. Leave the identification and learning for when you’re home again.