Birdwatching during self-isolation – a beginner’s guide

Posted on May 14, 2020 at 9:29 am by

Birdwatching is a popular hobby at the best of times, but during social distancing and self-isolation, even more of us are paying attention to the feathered friends outside our window.

If you have a garden, then you have more options to attract new species of birds to within a good viewing distance, but you don’t need to have any outside space of your own.

You can spot birds from any window, even in urban areas, and once you start to learn about the different types, you might be surprised by how much variety is in your area.

If you have a garden…

To bring more birds to your yard, put up some bird feeders. You can hang them from trees, fences, or put up a freestanding bird table.

Try different foods – if your local shops have them during your essential grocery run, you could get some fat balls, suet pellets or bird seed.

Different species like certain foods the best. Berries and berry-flavoured suet sticks are more likely to attract robins. Niger seeds are favoured by goldfinches.

If you have a window…

If you’re limited to what you can see from a certain window, just do what you can. You can get bird feeders that attach directly to the glass using suction cups, for example.

Set up a comfortable chair in a position that gives you a good view out of the window, ideally without overlooking any neighbours too much.

Keep a note of the birds you see, and you’ll soon learn which directions give you the most action, the species that are common in your area, and the less frequent visitors.

In urban areas…

Your variety of species might be smaller in urban areas but you might start to notice the same individual birds coming back day after day – and potentially spot where they fly away to, too.

If you see the same birds flying off in the same direction every day, their nest might be nearby. Try to identify species that are known for nesting in roof spaces, and see if you can make a good guess of where they might live.

Urban birds can be extremely entertaining. They’re less fussy about their food and less nervous too, so if you have a small yard, you might still be able to sit outside and see them close up as they fly down to feed.

Learning about birds

The internet is an amazing tool when learning about birds. Look for any distinctive colour markings – for example on goldfinches, the red head and splashes of yellow on the wings.

Even a quick search can identify many species of birds from their markings. If possible, take a photo and use a tool like Google’s Reverse Image Search to find photos of similar birds, which is another handy shortcut to identify which species you are looking at.

Again, as you learn the common visitors to your garden or street, you’ll naturally start to notice the less frequent visitors too, so you can start to make a note of any rare or unusual species, or those that might have travelled further than you’d think to reach your feeder.