Lifestyle Wildlife

Everything you need to become a beginner birdwatcher

I’m a woman in my thirties and I love birdwatching. I’m often accompanied in the hide by retired white men but I would love that to change and for more people to get into birdwatching.

This is my starter kit for the beginner birdwatcher as I think it is such a relaxing, interesting and rewarding activity in our modern world.

1. Compact binoculars

This was the first pair of binoculars I ever owned but its definitely worth doing some research as everyone’s eyes are different. It’s handy if you get a pair with a strap so that you can carry them on your shoulder. Around your neck can get sore after a while!

2. Compact camera

Wildlife photography can be a time-consuming and expensive hobby. As a beginner birdwatcher I wouldn’t worry about any of that, but it’s useful to have a small camera with a zoom to snap pics of any new birds that you see. I’ve tried to use my smartphone but even on my latest phone the zoom is not good enough to get a clear picture.

These pictures are useful as they are a record of what you’ve seen and it can help you identify a new bird, especially if it’s a wader or tricky brown bird. I’ve been birdwatching for years and I still struggle with waders and pipits.

3. Your smartphone

Having a smartphone is so invaluable to birdwatching for several reasons. You can use it to snap quick pics of birds, download a bird guide, listen to or record birdsong and take part in wildlife research surveys. I often use image search to compare the bird I’m looking at with photos to ensure I’ve identified it correctly.

I also use my notes app to make lists of birds that I’ve seen so I have a record. If you want a handy list of all the birds that have been recorded in the UK, you can download it from the British Ornithologists’ Union.

4. Pocket guidebook

There will be times when you don’t have 3G signal or battery power so it’s worth carrying a small guidebook. I like this one from the RSPB as it’s really clear and easy to use as well as being small. If you have a smartphone and a battery pack then you may not need a physical book and you can use an e-book or birding app.

5. Bird seed

If you have problems with mobility or you want to take some better photos, then try attracting the birds to you. This is a good multi-purpose bird seed if you want to see a few different species but it’s worth trying different mixes. I find that sunflower seeds are popular with the birds in my garden. Many birds also love dried mealworms and suet.

To keep my hands free when I’m birding, I usually attach my phone to me using a carabiner and I use a strap for carrying my binoculars on my chest. This means I can grab my camera as soon as I spot a bird but you will find what works best when you go out birding with your kit for the first time.

I tried out a few parks and reserves before deciding on getting an RSPB membership because I really like their reserves. If you search RSPB on my blog then you can see my reviews of the places that I’ve visited. It’s helpful to try at your local park or reservoir before committing to anything though. I hope that you really love birding and that you find it as relaxing and fulfilling as I do.

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