Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Stokes 10 Tips to have MORE FUN Birding

Posted by Lillian Stokes

What's your favorite way to have fun birding? Here are our 10 tips to put the fun factor into watching birds.

1. Bird with Fun folks
Go birding with people you enjoy and it 'll be even more fun. Do those people above look like they're having fun? That's our gang (with us in the middle) at our local hawkwatch, Pack Monandnock Raptor Migration Observatory in southern NH, where we had a record breaking day. Not only did we see the largest number of hawks there in a day (5,290 raptors), but we also broke the 10,000 migrants mark the earliest in a season. It was a group effort, scanning and counting, and so much more fun together.

2. See Better
Optics are your eyes in birding, unless you're 10 years old, in which case you can see better with your naked eyes than most adults who have 60 power scopes. Get the best binoculars you can afford and if you're still using your grandfather's hand-me-downs, it's time to upgrade, really! Today's binoculars are better, with more quality for the price. 8 x 42 binos are the usual choice for most birding, although it depends on the person and their needs. Don uses 8 x 42's but I often use 12 x 50's for hawk watching, seabirds, and from our deck looking at the lake. Buy from a good retail store or online source. You can donate your old binos to a worthy cause, like theBirder's Exchange, where they will go to conservationists helping protect birds in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Curlew Sandpiper

Roseate Spoonbill, Ding Darling NWR, FL

3. Know Where the Birds Go
It's so much more fun to go where you can see cool birds. Birders keep tabs on where the birds are through hotlines, rare bird alerts, and by joining state birding email lists where birders constantly report what they see. We recently got to see this special Curlew Sandpiper because it was on the NH Birds birding list. Birders also know where the best National Wildlife Refuges, parks, state and national birding areas are. Why do you think we winter in Sanibel Island, FL (home of Ding Darling NWR)?

Peregrine Falcon (photo taken in FL)
Lobster Stew and Popovers, yum

4. Food is Fun
Hey, a hardworking birder has to eat, what with all that lifting of binos, so we love it when our birding takes us near good places to eat, or at least good food is involved. On our hawk watch, the first birder to spot a "kettle" gets one of Francie's cookies. When birding Acadia National Park, you can go to Jordan Pond House and have their famous lobster stew and popovers at picnic tables while watching such birds as Peregrine Falcons in the sky.

5. Take a Kid
There's nothing more fun than to hear a kid go "Oh, Wow!" when they look through your scope. The next generation needs mentors and we need them coming up in the ranks for the sake of the future of bird conservation.

My camera gear consists of a Canon 1D Mark IV camera, a Canon 300mm f/4 IS lens with a 1.4 teleconverter, also a Canon 500mm f/4 IS lens.

Yellow Warbler


6. Take Home the Bird — with a Photo
Learn how to photograph birds. When you take a photo of a bird you can enjoy that bird again and again in so many ways, such as studying the identifying marks, sharing it on your blog, facebook, etc., using the photo as your screen saver, making a print for your wall, etc. Learn to take photos for your own enjoyment, it doesn't have to be for a photo contest. Get a digital SLR camera and at least a 400 mm lens. Or use your point and shoot and hold it up to your scope for digiscoping. You can even do this with your binoculars. Or, if the bird is close enough, take the photo with your cell phone. Just do it, you'll have more fun.

2 Gray Catbirds at oranges in Snacks'N'Treats feeder

Purple Finch, female, l. and White-winged Crossbill, male, r. at our feeder

7. Kick it up a Notch at your Bird Feeder
Let's face it, the majority of people who enjoy birds do so at their bird feeders and in their yard. Anyone can bring in more fun birds by keeping well stocked, diverse, feeders and food. Try new treats like dried mealworms, and in warmer months, oranges, fruits, etc. One of our favorite way to enjoy birds is by seeing how many we can attract to our property through our efforts. We're up to 195 species so far.

Crested Caracara I photographed at Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival, Titusville, FL

8. Go to a Birding Festival
Birding festivals are already set up for you to have fun, how cool is that? There are sooo many birding festivals all over the country, you just gotta try one. There are great field trips to birding spots, vendors, speakers, and much more. Plus, festivals bring dollars to the local economy, thereby making the case to protect the birds and habitats of the festival focus.

Bundle up

9. Gear up, be Comfortable
Being uncomfortable can spoil the birding fun. Birders go out in all types of weather and locations. Dress right for the birding activity. Check the weather, check with the bird trip leader, festival, etc. to find out what you will need. We always try and dress appropriately and bring extra clothes (if we are using a car). Invest in good shoes for the right use (we use Tevas, Keene, Merrells, etc.) Wear a hat; it keeps you protected from the sun, plus keeps your pupils more dilated allowing you to see better through your binoculars.

10. Marry a Birder
Hey, that's what we did 30 yrs. ago and we have had waaay, waaay more fun. More on that later. You can see our blog posts here, at Birding Is Fun, on the 5th of every month, and at our own, Stokes Birding Blog at other times. See you soon, and keep having fun!


  1. Wonderful post and tips. My wife is getting converted to a birder, lots of fun getting to bird with her.


  2. this is really fun! and birds are so amazing!

  3. Well written post. You brought out the fine points of birding and really made it sound fun. Get photos too. I just love Ding Darling NWR but I have only been there once. Time to go back. Perhaps this year.

  4. @Lillian - fantastic post! I love those tips and agree with all of them. My wife is appreciating some of the birds now!

    Thanks to those who have commented here! We love our readers!!!

  5. Thanks to all who commented and Katie, I'll see you at Ding!

  6. Wonderful post! I very much enjoyed reading all the terrific tips ... so very true! Happy birding!

  7. Thanks a lot for your informative and useful tips. I understand what I have to do at first is to buy very good binoculars. Tenth tip, it is too late. All of your photos are stunning!
    Best wishes,

  8. I really laugh when I read your post. Everything is so true... Well I did not get fortunate to marry a birding pal thought, but it is still possible to manage family birding ;-)