Have you ever fancied yourself as a birdwatcher? Whether you own a pair of binoculars or not, many people are aware of the birds they regularly see visiting their garden, or in the local park. Some people will go out of their way to search for birds on a morning walk, while others may even fly across the country just to catch a glimpse of one species they have never seen before. The secret world of birdwatchers really is just as diverse and varied as the world of birds, but for a beginner who is interested in learning more, it is often hard to find out what the next step is. Here at Bintel, we have been supporting the Australian birdwatching community for over 30 years, and know all the little ins-and-outs of not just binoculars, but of the hobby itself. Our sales employees include both amateur and professional birdwatchers, and once customers get talking to us, we often find that a small word of advice can go a long way for those just starting out. It is with this in mind that we bring you this guide to getting started!
1: Every birdwatcher needs a book!
Whether you just want to know what that small orange and grey bird is out your back window, or you’re an expert trying to distinguish between two small brown birds in the distance, all birders needs to own a field guide. Living in Australia, we’re lucky in that there are a wide range of books available, for a wide range of budgets. Flicking through a thick field guide covering every species in the country can be daunting at first, but with a bit of practice, you’ll be able to remember which page the parrots are on, which sections to check if the bird is walking on the ground, and how to narrow down your options to just one or two possible species. Some of the most popular field guides in Australia are listed below,
- Regional Field Guide to Birds by Pizzey et. al – a small, compact option for those who want to start small, these guides cover Australia in discrete sections ($25 each, 4 volumes)
- Field Guide to the Birds of Australia by Simpson & Day – a superbly illustrated book covering every species in Australia, with compact text accounts and distribution maps ($40)
- The Field Guide to the Birds of Australia by Pizzey et. al – the full version of the regional field guides, Pizzey has been a favourite amongst Australian birders for many years ($45)
- The Australian Bird Guide by Menkhorst et. al – the newest and most comprehensive field guide ever produced, but not actually in stores until May! In production for over a 10 years, the authors and illustrators are well-respected Australian birdwatchers, with decades of experience under their belts ($50)
2: Now, where do I go looking for birds?
Anywhere! Birds are all around us, and can be found even in the most desolate places, where specially evolved species eke out an existence. Try visiting the nearest national park (the bigger the better), or look up your local area on google with the additional term “birdwatching” at the end of the search phrase – you may be surprised with what comes up. In most capital cities, from Sydney and Melbourne to Darwin and Perth, it’s possible for local birdwatchers to see up to 200 species in one year without travelling more than 50 kilometres!
If you’re really keen, there are lots of excellent websites dedicated just to finding birds – free portals like eBird (http://ebird.org/content/australia/) allow you to search for a particular species, and find out where it has been seen recently on a map. Open your field guide to a random page, and pick a bird you want to see, then look it up on eBird – maybe there’s a reliable site just around the corner! Rare bird alert pages such as Birdline (http://www.eremaea.com/) highlight the most recent sightings in each state of the rarest birds, some of which might only be seen in Australia once every 5 years!
Finally, there are of course, books. Particularly if you are about to embark on a trip, maybe caravaning around the country, or visiting relatives in Tasmania, books such as Dolby & Clarke Finding Australian Birds ($45) will tell you where to go, and what to look for! Most sites have small hand-drawn maps for accuracy, or detailed descriptions of where some of the special birds may be found.
3: What do I do if the birds are too far away?
Well, I’m glad you asked! It so happens that our specialty at Bintel is helping you choose which binoculars are right for your purposes. To truly become a birdwatcher, you need to own a set of binoculars, but they don’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. Ideally, a lightweight model with waterproofing, and a relatively wide field of view will do the job for most birdwatchers, but there are of course plenty to choose from. The full-time staff here at Bintel are well in touch with all of our optics, and have field tested too many models to count! As a result, we have tailored our product range to include only the very best, and are very happy to chat to you any time should you require any advice or assistance in choosing. See our staff picks here, or have a quick look at our top three beginner models below.