Amazingly, birds are everywhere! You do not have to travel to a distant rainforest or join an exotic safari just to see some birds. There are some exiting and beautiful surprises waiting around the corner.
Often it is as simple as just paying attention. When you do, you will see unexpected new species appear in familiar places you thought you knew well.
Start at home
Your garden or local street is the best place to start. It is an excellent spot to familiarise yourself with some common and easily identifiable species. This knowledge will come in handily when you venture further afield. As you spend time with your local birds, you will start to notice their habits, you will connect sounds and calls and possibly stumble on a few new and unexpected species.
This is also the place to get to grip with your binoculars, cameras, books and apps. You do not want to fiddle with your gear or frantically page through your bird book when you are away on a once in a lifetime trip and a rare bird briefly appears.
Visit your local park
Your local park is the logical next step when you want to venture away from your own garden and street.
A lucky few live close to large parks with lots of native plants and extensive natural habitat, but for most people the park down the road will be a relatively small area with limited wildlife habitat.
Think of your local park as a bridge between your garden and birding locations further afield. Many of the familiar birds that you got to know from your garden will be there, but expect to see a few new birds as well, swelling your list of known species.
Regular visits to your local park will train your birding sense and gradually build a bigger pool of birds that you are comfortable identifying.
Further afield – Nature Reserves and National Parks
Once you become comfortable with your local birds you will want to look further afield. Look for an accessible nature reserve with a variety of natural habitats to maximise the potential number of species that can be seen.
This is the point where knowing your local birds will pay off. The framework of some familiar species will guide you and help make sense of any new species you may encounter. What does it look like? What family does that bird belong to? Where in my bird book did I see something similar
Water sources such as dams, rivers or just a garden birdbath are all normally great for birds. A range of species such as ducks, egrets, kingfishers, jacanas and many more depend on water for food, habitat and breeding sites. Other birds also need water to drink and will visit, sometimes multiple times a day when it is hot.
Habitat edges, that is where two types of habitat meet, are excellent spots to look for birds. Examples of habitat edges are the boundary between forest and grassland or the line where reedbeds and open water connect. Birds are often seen here as resources such as food or breeding sites found in the one habitat type might not be available in the other.
Well stocked birdfeeders will always have regular visitors and can be a great place to while away some hours.
Observe your surroundings and notice birds behaviour. Skittish pigeons may indicate a hunting raptor. The warning call of a squirrel may indicate that a predator is about. An exited group of seed-eaters may indicate the day-time presence of a roosting owl.
Plan your trip
The better prepared you are the luckier you will be. Do some research in advance to determine where to go, when to go and which species to target.
Please be sure to obtain the necessary permits, always follow any signs or instruction and respect private property. Importantly, do not disturb any wildlife, especially breeding birds.