Birdspotting has had the unfortunate reputation in recent years as being an activity undertaken by people with a general aversion to society. It is now making somewhat of a come back as awareness and interest around bird watching is growing. Let’s face it, how many times have you wanted to impress family and friends with your expert knowledge by being able to identify ‘that bird’ you saw on your walk?
In a bid to up its game and attract younger watchers, the term ‘birding’ has been floating around for some time. So, what is the difference between bird watching and birding? Well, according to the New Yorker bird-watchers look at birds; birders look for them. It all depends how adventurous you want to be – in America they take the hobby very seriously, it can lead to fighting and in the Philippines, even gun battles in a bid to be the first birder to spot that rare eagle.
Thankfully, bird-watching is somewhat of a more serene pastime in the UK, but it can take you to some pretty awesome places if you allow it to.
So how do you get started in this crazy world of bird watching (or birding)? The fact is you don’t need anything except for the ability to be quiet and hidden out of the way for a while, though a pair of binoculars will be handy. Remember if you’re outside, especially at this time of year, be sure to wrap up warm and cosy!
You can start bird watching from the comfort of your living room: The RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch is just around the corner! You can attract garden birds such as starlings, blue tits and sparrows to your own patch by setting up a nice array of bird treats – hang them from your balcony, branches of trees or even set up your own bird table or feeding station. The fact here is, you don’t need a big garden, or even a garden at all, to get started.
If you fancy venturing further afield there are some great spots in Kent that are home to an array of bird life and some locations even have a bird hide set up, so you don’t need to worry about where to hide or whether you’ll scare someone by popping up out of nowhere.
Try out these birding locations:
Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory here you can spot a wide variety of bird species on the Sandwich Flats. Lapwings, cattle egret, hen harrier and six pink footed geese were amongst the many species spotted in December 2018. The observatory itself has a whole host of bird related services including a reference library, guided walks and talks and you can even stay here too!
Dungeness National Nature Reserve includes a well appointed RSPB reserve in the heart of a unique shingle landscape which is also home to many rare species of flora and fauna. Some call Dungeness Britain’s only desert, whether you agree or not, one thing we can all agree on is that it’s a pretty special place. The nature reserve is accessible for wheelchairs and pushchairs. It’s also home to several bird hides all situated at integral points to make the most of the diverse birdlife that can be found here.
Elmley Nature Reserve on the Isle of Sheppey should be on your ‘to do’ list. It’s a privately owned nature reserve that also comprises a family farm. Featuring four bird hides including an open air screen on the sea wall and the tranquil spot of the Spitend Hide. It will make a wonderful day out for the family.
It would be rude not to end this blog with the king of all things to do with birds. The RSPB rates Kent as one of the top birding counties and has no less than six reserves in the county. With a whole host of programmes and learning opportunities for youngsters, this is a great way to introduce younger people to bird watching so they too can discover the pleasures of this great activity.
Despite the novelty aspect of bird-watching, there is more a serious side to this hobby. Bird populations have declined significantly over the last few years and it is really important that sightings are reported and recorded so that bird populations can be monitored. The recording of your bird sightings count towards a meaningful action in the Year of Green Action which is taking place throughout 2019.
So, whilst you’re having a bit of fun doing the big bird count in your garden, you’re also making a big contribution to your environment and nature. So….Happy Birding to one and all!