The Joys of Backyard Birding: Part 2
In this installment we’ll outline some basic guidelines for getting close to the wild birds in your local habitat. As mentioned in Part 1, there are usually a great many birds and other wildlife living in populated areas which are seldom seen or noticed by the humans which share their habitat. And as many avid backyard birders know, getting close to the local wildlife is largely a matter of inviting them to get closer to you.
This begins with simply noticing them. Some say that bird watching is done largely with the ears. And we’d agree. One of the key ingredients in successful birding is to listen for and learn to recognize the sounds made by the various species in your habitat. There are numerous field guides and audio learning aids available to help you. And of course, when you hear your birds you can often spot them singing or calling (binoculars are very helpful), to make a visual ID to help you learn to distinguish them by ear.
After some initial watching and listening, you soon discover the most common species in your area, and for most folks there will be more than you’d have guessed. So keep a list of each species you observe, and do a little homework to learn about them. Knowing what they eat, where they nest, and when/if they migrate is very helpful in attracting them and caring for their needs.
And of course, those needs are:
Water: Both for drinking and bathing. Clean, liquid water sources which are maintained so thruout the year, are probably the number one attraction for songbirds. Even if streams or ponds are available naturally in your area, a birdbath or similar water feature in your garden will be a major invitation for your birds to come closer.
Food: Which can be provided naturally with gardening, as well as in the form of man-made feeders. Many birds thrive on seeds and berries, and the insectivores will find their sustainance by helping you control the insects in your trees, gardens and lawns. Avoid the use of pesticides as a kindness to them, and they will return the favor.
Man-made feeders could be considered optional in most habitats, especially during the warmer months. But they can add healthy variety to your birds’ natural diets and offer another major incentive for them to come closer and more often. I’ll have more to say about different kinds of feeders and placement alternatives in Part 3.
Cover: Trees and bushes provide safety from predators, nesting sites, and additional food sources. All of which are important attractions for the birds. They also provide some of the most naturally photogenic perches. There are endless combinations of beautiful and bird-friendly landscaping possibilities that can enhance your backyard for both your birds and your photos.
As your species list grows, your tending of your backyard bird garden will draw more and more lovely and entertaining birds within range of closer observation. You may begin to recognize birds that visit on a regular basis, and observe individual behaviors and interactions amongst them, which greatly enriches the experience of birding. That’s when things really start to get interesting… and we get out the cameras.
Much more to come about photographing them in Part 3.
Until then, happy birding all.