How to start birdwatching

So you want to start birdwatching, that's great! Learning a new skill can at times be overwhelming or confusing, resulting in people giving up in the early stages. This is why we created this handy step by step guide to give you a starting point on your birdwatching journey.

Get the right equipment

The main equipment used for birdwatching is a pair of binoculars together with a trusty bird identification field guide.
 
As a novice you may not want to invest a lot of money in expensive binoculars until you get more comfortable with using them and know which ones you prefer. This is because there are different types of binoculars, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. A number of people also use telescopes, however, again, as a novice you may not want to invest a lot of money in the early stages.
 
Make sure you use an identification guide suited for your area since different areas in the world will have different species and subspecies. For Cyprus we recommend using the Collins Bird Guide “Birds of Europe”. The Greek version of the guide can be purchased here.
 
Since birdwatching is an outdoor activity you will need proper clothing and protection to keep you going for long periods of time which are sometimes needed for birdwatching. The weather in Cyprus calls for a hat and regular sunscreen application in order to keep your head cool and keep protected from sun burns. Water is a must in all situations and especially in the summer where temperatures are high. Snacks although not compulsory are highly advisable.  
 

Prepare

Some studying of the field identification guide is a must. Bird identification will come with practice in the field, however for the skill to grow it needs some basic knowledge of the birds’ identification points.

Since a guide includes a lot of species, when you see a bird you will not be able to go through all of the guide in order to quickly find it and identify it. You have to be able to somewhat identify a general aspect of the bird in order to quickly find it in the guide at the corresponding pages. For example, although you may not know which finch you just saw, the fact that it looks like a finch will allow you to quickly find the finches in the guide and then find which finch species it was that you saw. Remember that females and males may have different colours in a species and the same applies with adults and juveniles.

Although this may seem difficult at first it becomes easier to do with practice. 

Know when to go

Different seasons mean different birds at different locations. With more than 200 migratory species making the Cyprus list, this means that a lot of them can only be found during the migration periods, in spring and in autumn.

This may mean that for these periods it may be better to go to areas that are migration 'hotspots', to get the most out of your bridwatching experience, while in the winter for example you may want to go to other targeted locations such as the wetlands where wintering Flamingos and wildfowl congregate in their thousands.

Know where to go

If you are looking for specific birds you have to know what their habitat is and target a location with that habitat type. For example in order to find a duck or any waders you have to go to a wetland. If you are unsure where a bird may be found, you can check the field guide for more information or check the local bird sightings of an area to see if it has any mentions of the bird you are interested in.
 
 

Join a field meeting

One of the best ways to learn a new skill is to do it with experienced people who have a passion for it. By joining a field meeting you can see how other birdwatchers locate the birds around them and how they identify them. They can also tell you which locations are good and at which time of the year and can share with you valuable advice that they have gained through their years of experience.

You may also find people that you may want to join and go birdwatching together because having company while birdwatching makes it much more enjoyable. You can check the field meeting schedule here. We would be happy to welcome you to one of our field trips!
 

Birdwatching has a steep learning curve however it is an invaluable skill for any bird lover that will reveal to you a brand new world of birds.

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P.O. Box 12026
2340, Nicosia Cyprus
(+357) 22 455 072

 
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