While staying home for virtually the last year, most of us have grown tired of being in the same setting, surrounded by the same walls. But take a look out the window and you might be surprised by a never-ending show of colors, fluff and feathers, the uplifting sounds of songbirds, and the calls of eagles and hawks. A flash of a scarlet tanager or a circle of juncos coexisting with bluebirds is enough to make you catch your breath. Bird-watching is an opportunity to be still at your window, observe nature at play and bring a lightness to your day. This popular hobby is easy to start and a great way to make your home teem with life, beauty and sustenance.
"More people are working from home, spending more time looking out their windows to appreciate what they have -- and have always had -- in their backyards," says James Walker, owner of bird-watching supply store Wild Birds Unlimited. "Folks are noticing things like birds and nature in general that perhaps they hadn't noticed before, either because they weren't home or were just moving too fast to pay attention."
Bird-watching is as enjoyable as it is beneficial for our daily lives. "Birdwatching has been helpful in so many ways to my customers. It has served as therapy to get them through troubling, difficult times," says Walker. "It brings families closer together by sharing time learning about the hobby, and it simply slows things down by bringing more joy into people's lives." It's uplifting to know that the simple hospitable act of putting out food, water and shelter welcomes these little visitors, creating a joyful, peaceful place for them and for yourself.
Not much is needed to begin bird-watching, and it delivers nearly instant results, as bird visitors quickly discover your feeders and birdbaths. Here are the basics:
Build or buy a simple bird feeder that provides easy access to food. Walker recommends placing the feeder in a location where it can be easily seen and enjoyed -- by the birds and you. Assess the positioning from several windows to decide on the best place.
Your feathered friends appreciate and are attracted to high-quality bird food. Treats such as bricked mealworms and suet keep things interesting. "Sunflower seeds, peanuts, safflower and white proso millet should be the primary ingredients used to attract the widest variety of birds," says Walker.
"Shelter and nesting in the form of nest boxes, trees and shrubs is important for raising families and providing protection from the weather and predators," Walker says. Provide several kinds of shelter, from birdhouses to tear-shaped hanging roosts made of soft, natural materials, so the birds have their choice of comfort stops.
A birdbath is also key to welcoming birds. "Providing fresh, clean water in a bird bath or any shallow container will attract not only your seed eating feeder birds but also the insect, fruit eating and migratory birds," Walker says. A simple plant container saucer suffices. Simply clean it and refill it with fresh water each day. To raise the bar, create a more established stone, terracotta or fountain birdbath.
Find a quality birding field guide. Many online guides and apps deliver FYIs on birds typical to your area as well as reports on local birding conditions, all for free or a reasonable fee. The National Audubon Society Bird Guide app, as one example, will help expand your birding experience.
"I personally like two smart phone applications that I use for identifying birds as well as keeping a list of the different birds I've seen," says Walker. "They are Merlin Bird ID and eBird. Both were built and maintained by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology." EBird reports a 37% increase in users documenting their bird sightings through its app.
If you prefer old-school ways to store information, create a bird journal or scrapbook. By keeping it close to your bird-watching spots, your entire family could easily share their bird discoveries. Sketch birds. Affix printed images. Cut and paste images from birding magazines and catalogues. Or create a custom record of your birding experiences.
The Audubon Society says that 389 North American bird species are threatened by climate change, so your family might wish to embrace the cause as you find your lives enhanced by the peaceful and beautiful world of birding.
Peace and calm are so valuable these days, and anytime. Keep your eyes to the skies and enjoy all that bird-watching has to offer.