BirdWatching UK give us some tips on nature watching on your doorstep. Once you have created a garden that attracts birds and nature (read our how to attract birds to your garden), it is time to sit back and enjoy it. The great thing is, you’ll be watching at close quarters, and you can sit back and let the birds and other creatures come to you.
Bird Watching Equipment
Unless you’ve got a very large garden, a spotting scope isn’t really necessary, but a good pair of binoculars will quickly prove their worth, allowing you to pick out the smallest details, and even to read identification rings on birds that visit.
The default birders’ size of 8×42 is probably your best bet, given that you don’t need to worry too much about size and weight, but you do want something that combines a good field of view with brightness and reasonable magnification. Hawke’s Frontier binoculars, are a great example.
FRONTIER ED 8x42ED | FMC | BAK-4 | PC | Waterproof
Extra-low Dispersion glass for optimum clarity. Fully multi-coated optics produce sharp images. Close focus from 2m. High resolution phase corrected BAK-4 roof prisms. Stay-on lens. Twist-up eye cups with position stops for eye relief.Find Out More
Finding a good spot
Try to keep your binoculars where they’re always close to hand, that way if a Nuthatch drops onto your feeders, while you’re washing up for example, you’ll be sure of great views. It is also a good idea to find a good regular spot to watch from. A garden shed with a window or half-door is ideal, or you could invest in one of the many portable photographic hides on the market, and leave it set up in a quiet corner of the garden. You need to be patient once you’ve entered the hide, but it will quickly pay dividends. Neither option is going to be too appealing in winter, though, so find a good spot in the house to watch from....a good rule with any sort of birdwatching – sit down, and you’ll be surprised how quickly birds are willing to come very close, whereas an upright human figure is seen as a threat.
You’ll get a better view from an open window than through glass, but whichever you prefer, the golden rules are not to have any lights on (they allow birds to see every movement in the house, and that will make them nervous), don’t make any loud noises, and sit still. In fact, that’s a good rule with any sort of birdwatching – sit down, and you’ll be surprised how quickly birds are willing to come very close, whereas an upright human figure is seen as a threat.
When to watch birds and what to see
Dawn and dusk are often the times of most avian activity, with the former particularly important as birds look to feed up after the night, but even if you can’t watch at those times, try to get into a routine of watching for the same duration at the same time of day – in the case of some species, that will allow you to get to know their routines. Starlings, for example, roost communally in autumn and winter, and will often visit feeders for a last binge before roosting.
If you keep any kind of list of sightings, too (and doing so can help you get to know different species’ annual routines), try to log the weather conditions each day. You’ll soon notice patterns in which birds eat what, and in what weather, and you’ll be able to tailor what you put out accordingly.
If you’re also getting non-avian visitors, a ‘trail’ camera or ‘camera trap’ is a great idea. These can be secured to trees, fence posts or the like, and are set up to automatically photograph or video whatever moves in front of them. Most also have night modes, so you can use them to get an idea of what’s in your garden at all hours.
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