Daniel Schwen

Green Tips: Bird Watching

Green Tips | April 26, 2018

Tips for Spring Bird Watching

Start a nature or bird journal:

Some of the best thinkers, Aldo Leopold, Henry David Thoreau, and so many more, kept them, so why not start one yourself? Record the day, time, your location, any observations, or even sketch what you see. Why not pick up a copy of A Sand County Almanac to get inspired?

Invest in some binoculars (and a camera!):

Gear isn’t everything, but it can help. Check out this great guide from the National Audubon for more tips.

Find a good guidebook:

There’s more variety for field guides than ever before. There are even apps you can download (iBird, Sibley, Audubon, just to name a few). As for books, look for a format and layout that works for you, something that you can easily bring or pack with you on hikes and walks, and something with images and maps relevant to your interests.

Do your research and learn about flyways:

In addition to the guidebook, make sure you know the area where you’re going. If you’re looking for a particular kind of bird, like a tufted titmouse, research their preferred habitat. During spring migration, find out what birds fly through your area so you can position yourself accordingly.

Know where to go (and where not to go):

Make sure to plan your bird walk on public land or in a park. Watch for posted areas and never walk on private land without permission.

Or, watch from home by making your yard bird-friendly:

Watch from your window or porch. Grow some native plants like milkweed or sunflowers, or shrubs and trees, like the red elderberry or crabapple, which create a natural habitat for birds and butterflies.

Keep a low profile:

Check out the American Birding Association’s Code of Birding Ethics for a complete list of do’s and don’ts for birders. Always respect bird habitat and the land you’re exploring. Never leave trash behind or walk off trails.

Tips for where to watch:

  • Want to see some bluebirds? Take a trip to Mine Kill State Park (about 40 miles south of Cobleskill, NY) and walk the 2.5 mile Bluebird Trail. This is considered some of the most prime viewing for New York’s state bird.
  • In the mood for something bigger? One of the most famous spring hawk-watching sites in the east is located on the shore of Lake Ontario, about 14 miles east of Oswego. Observers at Derby Hill often see as many as 40,000 raptors pass between early March and the end of May, most of them Broad-winged Hawks.
  • In the NYC area? This Saturday, April 28th, check out the Littoral Society’s Spring Migration Bird Walk at Jamaica Bay Refuge at 11:00 AM.
  • New York City’s Department of Parks and Recreation has some great suggestions for bird watching in and around the big apple. Also, check out NYS’s Bird Conservation Area Program for more tips about where to view birds this spring.
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