This is the twenty-first in a series of articles from the staff of the Nature and Wildlife Discovery Center that will provide resources, ideas, and suggestions for families during the “Stay-at-Home” phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. Watch for future articles with outdoor activity ideas for students and families. The public can help the nonprofit NWDC get through this challenging time by making a donation at https://hikeandlearn.org/donate-covid-19-pandemic-relief/. Membership information also is available.
As our daily lives continue to be affected by an ongoing pandemic, now is the perfect time to pursue new hobbies, especially those that take us outside in nature, where there is plenty of space to spread out and practice social distance. With over 500 bird species that are native and migratory residents here in Colorado (putting our state in the top 10 for biggest bird lists), birding is one activity that can be entertaining and educational for the whole family, and you can do it from just about anywhere!
You don’t have to be an ornithology expert to enjoy birding. Do you have a bird feeder, bird bath, or plants that attract birds to your backyard? If you spend time observing your feathered visitors when they swing by for a snack or a drink, then you are already bird-watching and well on your way to birding! (The big distinction between the two is that if you happen to notice birds while you’re in nature, you’re bird-watching, but if you go out in nature specifically to see and hear birds, you’re birding.)
One of the most beneficial characteristics of birding is that it requires us to slow down, be patient, and really connect with nature to observe some of the shyest species that live among us.
It can be a huge stress reliever to drop the hustle and bustle of human life and just be one with the birds, and that’s something we can all appreciate during these unusually stressful times.
It doesn’t take much to get started as a beginning birder. Colorado.com offers a list of simple tips for getting started here: https://www.colorado.com/articles/colorado-basics-birding. Some of their suggestions include:
1. Choose a natural hotspot to see the most variety – some prime birding locations in Pueblo include NWDC’s Pueblo Mountain Park and River Campus along the Arkansas River (monitored by the Arkansas Valley Audubon Society, http://www.socobirds.org/), Lake Pueblo State Park, Runyon Lake, Lake Minnequa, Fountain Creek, and even our local city parks!
2. Plan to go in the early morning or later evening (as close to dawn and dusk as possible) to see species when they are out and about gathering food.
3. Prepare to tune in to nature and stay in one spot for longer than planned. This is a great opportunity to encourage children to practice quiet time, patience, and using all of their senses to observe their surroundings; they just might be rewarded with a rare species sighting along the way!
4. Follow the American Birding Association’s Code of Ethics for birding best practices. Simply put, don’t trespass on private human property or on precious nesting grounds and habitats of the birds you hope to see. Where possible, stay on paved and marked trails so as not to disturb the natural environment. The best birders have a true respect for our flighted friends and their fragile ecosystems!
5. Pack a small set of binoculars, a notepad for recording your sightings, a birding field guide booklet or field app (like the ones listed below), and neutral-colored clothing appropriate for the weather.
In our world of advanced technology, there are a number of smartphone apps that can help you identify and track your bird sightings:
– The Audubon App (https://www.audubon.org/app) allows you to identify bird species based on size, color, bird type, activity, habitat, wing shape, tail shape, and song. You can download their offline field guide so that you have access even when you’re in natural spaces with no Internet connection. Audubon.org also has just released an Audubon for Kids weekly adventure list, so you and your kids can explore different bird activities each week! https://www.audubon.org/get-outside/activities/audubon-for-kids
– The eBird App (https://ebird.org/home) is another great tool for tracking your sightings and also finding out which hotspots and species are in your area. Nature & Wildlife Discovery Center hopes to resume their guided fourth Saturday Bird Walks in partnership with the Arkansas Valley Audubon Society when it is safe to do so. Future birding events and other updates will be posted on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/nwdcco/.
Jasmine Shepherd is a Colorado native and the sales and marketing coordinator at Nature & Wildlife Discovery Center. She was raised in Pueblo and has been hiking and biking the trails at both of NWDC’s campuses since her childhood. She can be reached at [email protected]