Birdwatching will make you happy! You can do it almost anywhere and it doesn't have to cost much. What hobby can compete with that? A study even showed that increasing bird diversity by ten percent increases individual life satisfaction just as much as a ten percent salary increase. What could be more logical than going out more often and looking for birds? The good thing is that you don't have to be a pro to do it, beginners will become just as happy when birdwatching!
In the following article, I will show you where and when you can go birding and how to collect your first moments of happiness as a birdwatcher. There are many informative links to help you get started. A very important point is that you do not disturb the birds during your observations and "do not go over bird corpses" during your observations. There is a separate chapter on this at the end.
Birdwatching is healthy and at any age is a great way to spend more time outside in nature. You can do it alone, in which case it's almost a bit meditative, or in a group. It doesn't have to be the Camargue or the Danube Delta. Even in Germany there are many places where you can watch birds. Even in the cities!
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Everything can, Nothing must - the Equipment
What do you need to start birdwatching? First of all your own eyes, ears and attention. With that you can start. Very simple. What else you need are some snacks, water and a bit of patience. It's best to dress in muted colors. Bright colors or white can startle the birds.
Do you have binoculars or a camera with a telephoto zoom? Great. Take it with you. If not, it doesn't matter. You'll see birds anyway. It's helpful to have a small notebook and a pen to write down the species you've seen. Of course, you can also do this on your smartphone. There are even apps that you can use to report your observations and thus contribute to the data collection of bird research projects, such as Naturgucker.de.
Bird Identification Books and Apps
The best identification book I ever held in my hands is the Cosmos Bird Guide*, also known as "Svensson". It is available as a book and as an app for Android and iPhone.
Learning the bird calls is extremely helpful. You can use it to increase your sighting success even more. The apps can be a good help with this as well. The website Vogelstimmen.de offers thousands of free links to recordings of various bird calls.
The best Places for Birding
You don't have to go far to make your first successful birding trip. Even in the city park next door, you can see many different species. Most often you will see blackbirds, great tits, blue tits, robins, great spotted woodpeckers, nuthatches, jays, magpies, and of course sparrows, woodpigeons, and crows. Cemeteries with old stands of trees are also a good place to watch birds.
If you have the opportunity, you will be able to see many more species in the forest, in the fields, and along the water and the coast you will be able to discover many more species. With each new habitat you explore, your personal species list will quickly grow longer. You can find tips on good observation areas, including a list of species, in the Naturguckerdatabase. You can also enter your own observations here.
It is always worthwhile to keep an eye out for birdwatching towers or to research them on the Internet beforehand. For Brandenburg, for example, NABU has a clear map of birdwatching towers.
You can also find good places for bird watching in Germany on the Birding-Germany website.My personal favorites are:
- Linum and Darß: cranes and geese during bird migration season and in the evening the cranes fly in. A great place to watch cranes during migration time is the Kranorama in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.There are also photo huts for rent here.
- Havelland: Great bustard courtship in spring. There are also two observation towers here. More information can be found at the association Großtrappenschutz.
- Mecklenburg Lake District: good chances to see white-tailed eagles and ospreys.
- Helgoland: here is the only colony of gannets in Germany.
If you are interested in bird photography from the photo hide, check out the site of Ranger-Tours.
You want to turn your own garden or balcony into a bird magnet? Then you can start by setting up a watering hole or, in winter, a feeder. Many birds are happy about a suitable nesting box, which you can either buy or build yourself. It is important that you hang up the right box for the respective bird species because there are cavity breeders or half cavity breeders, small and large birds. You can find a large selection in the NABU Shop. Here you will find building instructions, also from NABU.
When is the best Time for Birdwatching?
In the spring and early summer, native breeding birds are most active. They attract mates with their songs and then feed their young. At this time you will have quick sightings. In autumn and spring, you can observe many migratory birds. It can also happen that you see a rare species from the far north. At this time it is especially worthwhile to make trips to water bodies and wetlands. In winter, the migratory birds are gone. On the other hand, we often have winter visitors such as waxwings, redwings, and whooper swans. Other species, which are usually seen less frequently, are now more common, such as the alder siskins, tail tits, or bullfinches. In parks, many people hang titmouse dumplings or feeders. There it sometimes goes high and a longer stopover is then very worthwhile.
The best time of dayto watch birds is between dawn and late morning. This is when the birds are most active foraging for food.
Guided Birdwatching Tours
Is there an environmental association active in your area? Maybe they offer guided birding tours. Especially for beginners it is helpful to have an old hand talking and sharing his experience.
In Berlin, for example, NABU offers various birding tours. Here you can find the homepage of NABU's birding tours.
Birding-Tours offers organized trips or weekend excursions into the world of birds.
If you are looking for Happiness, you have to find Birds!
Nature influences human happiness in many ways. In particular, seeing or hearing birds increases mental well-being. At least that's what a 2022 study by researchers at King's College London found. Another study said that people who heard birdsong while hiking felt better than hikers who did not hear bird calls (California Polytechnic State University, 2020).
The German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research also looked at the effects of species richness on life satisfaction in 2020: 10% more bird diversity in the environment increases life satisfaction just as much as a 10% salary increase.
The findings of the above studies clearly show that protecting birds and bird habitats is a worthwhile investment in human well-being. But first and foremost, bird conservation is about the birds themselves. You'll learn how to protect birds in our own birding efforts in the next chapter.
Are you looking for binoculars? I'm very happy with the handy and even waterproof Zeiss Terra ED 8×42*.
It is quite easy to watch birds responsibly. And if you follow a few things, you will be rewarded with better sighting results at the same time.
- Watch the birds from a distance. Do not approach them. Use binoculars or a zoom lens to watch the birds. Especially keep your distance from nests.
- Listen for warning calls from the birds. If so, you are too close to the birds or to a nest. Eggs of ground-nesting birds can be nearly invisible. Some birds, like Arctic terns, also attack humans if they get too close to a nest.
- Stay on designated trails and observe restrictions. Some areas are closed during breeding or bird migration seasons.
- Keep your distance from reed beds on lakeshores, both from the land side and from the water side by paddle boat.
- Leave feathers, eggshells, and fallen bird nests in nature.
- Do not feed the birds. Feeding can affect their health, change their behavior, and may expose them to further danger.
- Be considerate of other birders, especially at observation platforms or huts. Don't spread your stuff out unnecessarily or block everyone else's view.
- Be quiet! Put the phone on silent.
- If you are traveling in a car, pull over to the side if you want to watch a bird from the car. Do not endanger other road users and do not block traffic.
Birds as Weathermen
Who does not know them, the clever farmer rules: "Fly the swallows in the heights comes a weather, that is beautiful" or "swallows low in the flight - thunderstorm comes".
Birds have a good sense for weather changes. They react to changes in pressure, light or an electrical charge in advance with their songs, cries, feeding, and nest building. They also adjust the dates of their annual arrivals and departures to weather conditions. It is even said that birds are alert to weather deterioration through their so-called rain calls. A study of the rain call of the chaffinch showed that the ratio of a song to rain calls decreased with the sudden onset of unfavorable weather. A prediction of rain by the chaffinch, however, was not confirmed.
Book Recommendations for Birdwatchers
You want to dive deeper into the hobby of birdwatching? Then I have three book recommendations for you. You can order the books* with a click on the pictures at Amazon. If you buy a book or another article via an affiliate link, I get a small commission and you help me to keep filling Fernweh-Motive with interesting articles. The product will not be more expensive for you.
Do you have any comments or suggestions about my article? If yes, then write me a comment!