With it's lengthy list of bird varieties, British Columbia is a hotbed for bird watchers.
After gardening, bird watching is one of the fastest growing hobbies in B.C. Not only are the requirements few but you can do it almost anywhere. Western Canada is one of the greatest places on the planet for bird watching aficionados. Due to the high number of wildlife sanctuaries, parks, and wetlands, many species of common and endangered birds make this their home. Another bonus - parts of B.C. are located along the Pacific Flyway, a major north-south migratory path for birds.
What You Need to Know
When you first start observing and studying birds, dubbed birding, it may be helpful to take along a list of birds that are common in your area. Check the websites mentioned in the resources section below for a handy checklist for your area or you can get a field guide (a book with pictures of birds and hints on how to identify them) for your area. If there are specific birds you want to find, check into what sounds they make and where they like to hang out. Will they be hiding in a bush or hanging out on the lake? I think you’ll be surprised just how many birds you already know from robins to bluebirds to woodpeckers. Many birders keep a notebook handy to jot down the birds they observe and the date and location of the spotting.
Perks of Bird Watching
Bird watching is an alleged stress reliever and it is an awesome way to get kids out and enjoying nature. While you can bird watch anytime, early morning is the time when birds tend to be most active and are hunting for food. And the best time to see birds is during their spring and fall migrations although you can see many of them year round. Avoid wearing white as it may scare off birds.
Pros and Cons of Bird Calls
What if birds are around but refuse to peek out and show themselves to you? There is disagreement in the bird watching community as to whether you should use bird calls or not. Some experts believe you should not distract birds with unnecessary calls when they are trying to scrounge for food or defend their territory. Others say a few subtle calls kept at a low volume won’t agitate birds too badly. If you are frustrated with waiting for birds to hop out of the bushes, consider using a bird call device; two common ones are the Squeaker Device and the Auduban Bird Call. Alternately, with some practice, you can mimic bird calls with your voice.
Equipment You Need
Besides possibly a bird calling device, you need very little equipment for your bird watching hobby. Binoculars and a field guide are all you really need to get started. Try not to cheap out on the binoculars – the better the binos, the greater your chances of identifying that ball of feathers. If you want more gadgets, consider a spotting scope and a tripod to make it even easier to spot the flying creatures. You could also take along a camera if that’s your thing.
Bird Watching at Home
If you don’t want to go out bird watching, bring your feathered friends to your home. Birds need four things to even consider making your yard their home – food, water, the feeling of safety, and a nesting area. A pan of water will suffice; you don’t need a fancy fountain. Keep trees that have nesting areas and leave dead trees standing if possible. Give birds the cover they seek. It offers them a place to hide from predators, escape the bad weather, and nest. Offer a variety of food to attract a wide range of birds or check into what the birds you are interested in like to eat. Keep your feeders well-stocked. If possible, avoid the use of pesticides and other chemical products as they are a poison to birds. The birds would thank you if they could!
Just by growing some flowering plants around your place, you will greatly increase the number of birds flying around. Every area will grow different things so check with a local garden centre as to what you should plant to encourage feathered guests. Flowering shrubs are another beacon for birds. If you are planting anything to attract birds, keep in mind that our feathered friends require plantings for many purposes – food, shelter, comfort, nesting, and security. Once you establish a safe place for birds to nest, they will usually return year after year.
High-Tech Bird Watching
As technology advances, bird watching is going high-tech. Portable media players enable birders to create their own birding multimedia library. Robotic cameras set up in remote areas with links to the Internet allow us to bird watch from anywhere. It is exciting to ponder how this pastime will evolve in years to come.
Bird Watching and the Environment
As bird watching grows in popularity, there is growing concern about the effects of all the attention on birds and their habitats. A bird watching code of practice has been informally introduced to uphold the welfare of birds; birders are encouraged to limit the sounds of photography and limit the amount of electronic or manual bird calls. Birders should respect private property and give a wide berth to birds and their nests. All bird habitats must be respected and protected. Above all, be kind to the birds!