Celebrate spring with a bit of backyard birdwatching

Caitlin Walker Photo

MEEKER | Need a moment of zen? Give birdwatching a try. This fun and free hobby is a great way to celebrate spring and bring a bit of mindfulness to the daily grind.

“Birds are great entertainment to watch—their behaviors, interactions, foraging techniques—their songs and brilliant plumage make us ‘happy’,” said Blanco Ranger District’s Supervisory Biological Scientist Mary Cunningham in an email exchange with the HT. “The more you study and understand birds the more enjoyable this great hobby is.”

Birdwatching can be done anywhere. According to Cunningham, Meeker is home to a variety of easily accessible vegetation communities that support unique bird species. Grab an inexpensive pair of binoculars and a field guide or smartphone app and you’re ready to go. (Cunningham recommends the Sibley app, available for both Apple and Android devices.)

No matter your level of expertise, remember the safety and welfare of the animals you’re observing is your first priority. Exercising restraint and caution and keeping habitat disturbance to a minimum are of paramount importance, according to The American Birding Association Code of Birding Ethics.

Cunningham recommends these tips to get the most out of your birdwatching experience.

Identifying birds by song can be intimidating at first (but challenging and necessary as you learn more.) Work on identifying “field marks”—colors/markings/shape/flight patterns that can help you identify birds by sight.

Have patience and really “study” the bird that you are trying to identify…sight, song, life history, nesting behavior, range maps.

Realize that different groups of birds use different habitat/vegetation communities i.e. the green-tailed towhee in the mountain shrub is unlikely to be observed in a wet meadow near the river and a sandhill crane in the wet meadow is unlikely to be seen in the pinyon/juniper on China Wall.

Keep a field journal of notes as you learn new species—write down behaviors, timing of first sighting, vegetation type, sketch. Was the bird carrying nesting material in its beak (building a nest)? Carrying food in its beak (feeding young)? Displaying while singing (courtship)?

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

-Binoculars

-A birding app or two (try the Audubon Bird Guide, Merlin Bird ID, or Birdsnap) or a field guide

-A field journal and pen to record your sightings

-Optional: bird feeders—don’t forget to clean a few times a year with a 10 percent bleach solution—and bird seed; it’s not necessary to feed birds year-round, but early spring is a great time to give your feathered friends a little help

 

y Caitlin Walker | caitlin@ht1885.com