Bird Watching - The Cheapest Hobby There Is

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    Nov 13, 2012
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I am a birdwatcher. There, I have said it.

There is a certain stigma attached to bird watching. Some people, those who have never tries it, liken it to train spotting, or some other ‘anorak’ type pastime. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Bird Watching, or birding as it is known by its aficionados is one of the cheapest, relaxing most rewarding pastimes there is.

I have been bird watching for forty five years. I was introduced to it by my sadly departed uncle who was a great outdoors-man  It is a past time that can be as expensive, or as inexpensive as you want it to be. You can watch birds with the naked eye. You don’t even need to know what type of bird you are watching. It is enjoyable enough just to watch their behavior  especially when the males are preening themselves during the mating season.

I started with a pair of inexpensive binoculars bought from a garage sale, but admit now that I have good binoculars and a spotting scope and a camera, and various tripods. I was bitten by the hobby. My wife reckons I take more gear bird watching than I do when I go on vacation.
Bird watching can be a hobby on many different levels. There are casual observers, who just like to watch the birds, there are birders who have learned enough to name most of the birds they see, there are twictchers so called because they positively twitch with anticipation as they race from one end of the country to another to see the one-off ‘migrant’ species that have landed in a country completely foreign to them, and then there is the ornithologist, who studies migrations, breeding patterns, numbers etc. I am a ‘ Lister’. I make lists of the birds I see, where and when, weather conditions etc. I now have lists for the year, for my local patch, for the UK where I am currently based, for North America, where I work a lot, for Mexico where I vacation…..the list (no pun intended) is endless, and travels with me and gets updated every time I see something.

With the advent of the internet there are many bird watching related websites that help you identify the varieties that you see. Twitter and Facebook has virtual communities of like-minded individuals. A lot of bird watchers including myself write regular blogs on their activities and sightings, allowing others to share the experience and visit your area. There are various apps that help you list and identify birds in the field, and I would never go bird watching without at least my iPhone, or more usually, my iPad.

Bookshops have Bird watching guides for every occasion and location and every town and city has a bird watchers club of some form or another. They are usually very cheap to join, have members ranging from beginner to expert and arrange trips out to bird watching sites. They are probably the greatest place to learn the hobby and the birds that you watch. I started off in a bird club, learning from the more expert members and now, forty years on I do my best to put some of my knowledge back into the hobby.

You can take up bird watching at any age. It is a great way to de-stress after a hard week’s work; it gets you out in the fresh air, and can be shared by all the family. My wife has no interest in birding, but still comes with me for the walk and the scenery. You don’t need to travel that far to watch birds. They are in the town, the city and your back garden.

It has also opened my eyes to conservation and ecological issue that I would have missed otherwise, and bird watching groups around the world have lobbying powers with their governments regarding their local environments. If you travel a lot, as I do for work, it is a very transportable hobby. A pair of binoculars, a note-book and a local identification guide is all you need to take and you are set. I even sneak in a few sessions during a family vacation which lets me see more exotic species than I would normally see in the UK.

Give it a try, get out and have a look around. You will enjoy it and get some exercise and fresh air into the bargain. You never know, you may become and addict like me!

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Rick Samson loves working out and playing sports. He currently writes articles on Interesting Articles.

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