Going birding doesn’t always have to be an hours-long affair. Finding time to look for birds can be as easy as stopping by a park on your lunch break and walking around it for a few minutes or observing what birds stop by your backyard in the morning. Here are a few quick ideas how to fit an appreciation of birds into your daily routine:
Check out your backyard or nearby window (5 – 10 min)
You’d be surprised at the variety and number of birds you can see just by regularly checking out your backyard or a nearby window. Make a habit of spending five to ten minutes a day standing at your window or backdoor looking for what birds drop by. Even basic backyards or window views with minimal greenery will attract birds at the right time of day (in the morning or later in the afternoon before sundown). Keep your eyes on nearby trees, plants, and on the ground to spot local birds. If you’re an eBird user, you can even set up a yard “patch” and keep track of all the species you see at home.
Keep a pair of binoculars in your car (0 – 5 min)
I can’t tell you how many times I wish I would’ve taken my own advice on this one. You never know when an opportunity to look at a new bird is going to present itself. If you can swing getting a second pair of binoculars, keep the second pair in your car to always be prepared. There have been many times I’ve pulled into a parking lot or got back to my car at night and I see something perched nearby or flying around just a bit too far to see with the naked eye. Having binoculars on hand ensures you’ll get an up-close look at to have a better chance at identifying what you’re seeing.
In addition to keeping a pair of binoculars in your car, you oftentimes may see raptors perched on streetlights, large egrets flying across the sky, or other birds as you make your way around town. Just don’t be distracted while you drive, better yet, enlist a passenger to help keep an eye out for birds while on the road.
Take your dog out for a stroll (15 – 30 min)
While I normally don’t recommend having Fido with you while you bird, taking advantage of the time you may already be spending outdoors to see what in the neighborhood is a great way to familiarize yourself with the neighborhood birds and get some exercise.
Put up a bird feeder or hummingbird feeder (5 – 10 min)
Adding a bird feeder near your window is an easy way to bring birds up closer to your house and attract birds that may not normally show up in your yard. Depending on the type of food used (e.g. black oil sunflower seeds, suet), it will attract different species. Once set up, take a few minutes each day to do a “feeder watch” and discover visitors as they arrive for a meal.
Pop over to the park during your lunch break (30 – 45 min)
If you have the luxury for a one-hour lunch break in the middle of your day, use some of it and stop by a local park near your workplace to take a quick walk around the park. Once you have been there a few times, you’ll know where to look and listen for birds and will see more each time you go. I’ve done this myself going to Denman Park and have seen a surprising amount of birds and activity there (notably watching thrashers work their way through underbrush).
See what’s in the neighborhood on your way to the bus/train (5 – 15 min)
Any regular trip through your neighborhood on foot is a chance to look for birds. When you’re on your way to the bus or train, put your phone in your pocket and your eyes to the skies. You’ll be surprised at the bird you may see when you look for them.
All of this to say, bird wherever you go. Birding doesn’t have to always be a planned, hours-long affair. It can be a quick trip to the backyard or a glance out of a window. Look for opportunities to appreciate the wildlife that is all around you and your life will be that much richer. And don’t forget to report what you see on eBird!