Bird Watching Tips for Hikers
* Written by: Mark Danenhauer - who also writes a blog, Jake's Nature Blog, http://jakesnatureblog.com, that contains nature facts about the Rocky
I love hiking. It doesn't matter where I am or who I am with as long as I am out on a trail somewhere. One of the things I enjoy about it is being out in nature and having silence or just the sounds of some birds. Yes, it seems that no matter where you are hiking you will almost always see or hear some birds. Unlike the big mammals, which are harder to see, birds are ubiquitous. Here are some simple tips to help hikers learn how to be better bird watchers and get more out of their time in nature.
First of all, it is important to stay quiet and listen (unless you are in an area that is heavily used by bears). Birds are always talking and listening. This means that they can hear if there are people around, which can sometimes cause them to be quiet. To prevent them from being quiet you should try to be quiet yourself and listen to your surroundings. You may surprise yourself at how many different kinds and numbers of birds that you can hear at any one place. Once you hear where the noise from the birds is coming from the trick becomes trying to see the bird.
Next, try to walk or hike slowly. If you go for a fast hike or walk you are not going to see as many birds as if you were going slower. The best way to see and hear many birds is to walk slowly and pay attention to the sounds and movements along the trail. If you are trying to get some good exercise and want to go fast, then you could try to alternate your pace. For example, try going really fast for 15 minutes, then slow down and walk for 5 or 10 minutes, then go fast again for 15 and so on.
If you still want to hike fast then another option for you, which is even better than just walking slow is to sit still. Actually, this is a great idea for anyone whatever pace he or she is hiking at. Pick a nice spot somewhere off of the trail and just sit or stand still for several minutes. This could be on a rock, a log, or under a tree. By sitting still and keeping your eyes and ears open you will give yourself a chance to see or hear all the birds in the area. The birds may even become accustomed to your presence and begin to get active again.
Fortunately, you can really pick any spot to sit and look for birds because birds live everywhere in all habitats. You can see birds near water, in forests, open meadows, or high up in the mountains. Keeping that in mind, the best places to see the most birds are spots at the edge of two different habitats, such as on the edge of a forest next to a meadow. Another excellent spot to see lots of birds is near water, such as along a creek, river, lake, or a wetland.
While you are walking along or sitting still you should always watch for movement. Often you may just see a flash of movement in the corner of your eye. That movement may turn out to just be some leaves blowing in the wind or it could turn out to be a bird darting from one bush to another. If you hold still and look towards that spot you may see the bird move again. It can be hard to see a bird holding still on a bush or tree. But, once that bird moves you will easily see it and by following its movement you can see where it lands.
Birds tend to be more active at certain times of day, which makes them easier to spot because they are flying or moving around a lot. Luckily for hikers the best times of day to see birds are also good times to be out hiking. The best times to see birds are early in the morning or in the evening, since those are when most birds are the most active. I love hiking in the morning or evening when it is not too warm out and you may even get the added bonus of seeing a sunset.
Following these simple tips will help you see lots of birds the next time you go for a hike. The next step is to learn how to start identifying those birds you are seeing.