Author Archives: Fat Birder

What are the best birding websites?

If you ask an Artificial Intellegence what are the best birding websites in the world… all the answers will be American websites… why? Because AIs are mostly based in the US and the world wide web is massively biased toward the US and US stuff. But, if you’re looking for the best bird watching websites with a global perspective and without bias towards the United States, there are a few great options to consider.

BirdLife International: This organisations website provides comprehensive information on bird species and conservation efforts around the world. You can search for birds by country or species, and the site also includes news updates and educational resources. It says of itself: Our Mission is to conserve birds, their habitats and global biodiversity, working with people toward sustainability in the use of natural resources. If BirdLife International didn’t exist, you’d have to invent us. People are destroying and consuming nature at a devastating rate. Birds are our early warning system. 

eBird: Managed by the the US Cornell Lab of Ornithology, eBird is a platform where birders from all over the world can report their sightings and contribute to a global database of bird distribution and abundance. The site provides real-time information on bird sightings, as well as tools for analysing data and creating custom maps. It says of itself: eBird began with a simple idea—that every birdwatcher has unique knowledge and experience. Our goal is to gather this information in the form of checklists of birds, archive it, and freely share it to power new data-driven approaches to science, conservation and education. At the same time, we develop tools that make birding more rewarding. From being able to manage lists, photos and audio recordings, to seeing real-time maps of species distribution, to alerts that let you know when species have been seen, we strive to provide the most current and useful information to the birding community.

Fatbirder: A UK-based, comprehensive directory of birding websites and resources, Fatbirder provides links to birding organisations, trip reports, and other useful information for birders around the world. The site is organised by country and region, making it easy to find information on birding destinations EVERYWHERE. It says of itself: Fatbirder is the premier birders’ web resource about birds, birding and birdwatching. Whether you are looking for facts about hummingbirds, songbirds, shorebirds or raptors in your backyard or are planning a trip or birding tour anywhere in the world Fatbirder is the site for you.

Avibase: Managed by Canada’s premier birding organisation, this database provides information on bird species and their distribution around the world. You can search by species or location, and the site also includes photos and audio recordings of many bird species. Avibase is a great resource for birders looking to learn more about the birds they are likely to encounter in different parts of the world. It says of itself: Avibase is an extensive database information system about all birds of the world, containing over 59 million records about 10,000 species and 22,000 subspecies of birds, including distribution information for 20,000 regions, taxonomy, synonyms in several languages and more.

BirdGuides: This UK-based website offers bird identification tools for birders in Europe and other parts of the world. It features a database of over 900 species, with photos, descriptions, and range maps. It also offers a sightings service but the current version is behind a pay wall.

Bird Forum: Created by a UK birder, this is an enormous resource because there are hundreds of participating birders across the world ready to contribute and answer other birder’s questions. Not always the gentlest of critics, but that doesn’t detract from its wealth of information.  It says of itself: BirdForum, the internet’s largest birding community with thousands of members from all over the world. The forums are dedicated to wild birds, birding, binoculars and equipment and all that goes with it.

Birding Pal: Created by a Danish birder, this site connects birders with local guides in countries around the world. You can search for guides by country or region and read reviews from other birders who have used their services. The site also includes information on birding hotspots and species found in each area. It says of itself: Bird Watching Club for World Travellers Travel globally, bird locally. Meet local Birding Pals at their favourite birdwatching hotspots.

Cloud Birders: Based in Europe and run by a number of different nationals, it is one of the two best birding trip report sources on the net (the other being Fatbirder). This is constantly updated with the latest reports by commercial birding tour companies AND ordinary travelling birders. Over 21,500 reports to choose from!

Best Birdwatching Apps

If you’re looking for the best bird watching apps to help you identify birds, here are some options you might find useful:

eBird: This app (and website) was also created by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and is a great tool for birders to keep track of their sightings and contribute to citizen science. It also has a feature that allows you to explore bird sightings in your area. This is a popular app in North America but increasingly adopted by bird watchers worldwide. It offers real-time information on bird sightings, location maps, and allows users to log their own sightings. It covers all continents, and its database includes over 1 billion bird observations.

Collins Bird Guide: This app is based on the popular Collins Bird Guide book and features photos and detailed information on over 700 bird species found in Europe. It also includes range maps, songs and calls, and a quiz feature to help you test your bird identification skills. Certainly the best fieldguide for European species.

The Sibley eGuide to Birds: This app features detailed illustrations by David Sibley, one of the world’s top bird illustrators. It covers North America and Europe.

Birds of Southern Africa: This app is focused on bird species found in southern Africa. It covers over 950 species and includes photos, calls, and distribution maps.

iNaturalist: While not specifically designed for bird identification, this app and website allows users to upload photos of any species and receive identification help from a community of naturalists and scientists.

Merlin Bird ID: This app, created by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, is designed to help you identify birds based on their appearance, location, and behaviour. It covers over 5,500 species of birds from around the world. It’s a great tool for bird identification. It offers a species ID wizard that helps users identify birds they’ve seen based on their location, size and colour. It covers North and South America, Europe, and parts of Asia, Africa, and Australia.

iBird Pro: This app covers over 900 species of birds from around the world, with detailed illustrations, photos, and descriptions to help with identification. It also includes bird calls and songs. It provides detailed information about bird species, including photos, maps, and descriptions. It covers North America, and most of Europe, and Australia.

BirdsEye Bird Finding Guide: This app is designed to help birders find and identify birds in their local area. It includes range maps, photos, and information on habitat and behaviour. The focus is North America but it also covers some birds from around the world including Europe, Asia, and Australia.

Audubon Bird Guide: This app includes information on over 800 species of North American birds, with photos, descriptions, and range maps. It also includes bird calls and songs to help with identification.

BirdNET: This app uses machine learning to identify bird sounds, making it a great tool for birders who are interested in birding by ear. It currently covers over 1,000 species from around the world. This is an AI-powered app that can identify bird species by analysing recordings of their songs and calls.

Australian Birds: This app provides information on over 900 bird species found in Australia. It includes photos, sounds, and maps.

Birding China: This app is designed specifically for bird watchers in China. It covers over 1,300 bird species found in the country and provides photos, descriptions, and distribution maps.

Birding Africa: This app is specifically designed for birding in Africa and includes information on over 2,300 bird species found on the continent. It features photos, sounds, and range maps for each species, as well as a bird list manager and a sighting log.

Birding Field Guide: This app covers over 800 bird species found in Europe and includes photos, songs and calls, and detailed information on bird behaviour, habitat, and distribution. It also includes a search function and a bird checklist feature.

Peterson Birds of Europe: This app is based on the Peterson Field Guide to Birds of Europe and features photos, sounds, and detailed information on over 700 bird species found in the region. It also includes range maps and a search function to help you find the birds you’re looking for.

The Role of Citizen Science in Bird Watching and Conservation

By Guest Blogger Fatbirder : 

Not so long ago there was only citizen science. In ancient Greece people made observations and recoded them and, on their basis,  sciences began to be established. Some advanced rapidly like mathematics, others slowly and over centuries there were many false steps. Just before the industrial revolution when the principle of empiricism was formed (testing out hypotheses to see if something could be repeated over and over with the same outcome) all scientists were gifted amateurs wealthy enough to be free of the need to earn their daily bread. Gilbert White, a country vicar kept a diary of his observations of birds… in one sense the first real ornithologist, in another a private citizen doing his bit to advance knowledge.

Today, citizen science is a collaborative effort between scientists and the public to collect data and observations about the natural world. In the case of bird watching and conservation, citizen science can play a critical role in understanding bird populations and their habitats. If you’re a bird watcher or interested in conservation, you may have heard of citizen science or even done your bit to contribute.

Across most developed countries monitoring populations of birds and their movements is almost entirely a voluntary pursuit. Ringers in the UK; banders in the US, carefully trap birds, make notes on their condition and release them back into the wild with a small metal band around their leg. When birds are re-trapped or their corpses found these rings give information that does end up in the hands of professional scientist who analyse the data. But without an army of volunteers this just could not happen on a worthwhile scale.

But it’s not just this intense activity that can cull data from observations. As citizen scientists, many people participate in bird surveys, such as the Christmas Bird or New Year Counts, where volunteers across the country count birds in their local area. Regular counts of water birds on mudflats and estuaries (Webs counts) across the UK add more to our knowledge of bird movement, and their conservation, feeding or breeding needs.

You can also participate in eBird, a program where bird watchers record their sightings online. Initiated by Cornell University in the US, this has now expanded and can be added to by birders across the globe. These data are used by scientists to track changes in bird populations over time and to identify areas that are important for conservation.

Citizen science can also help scientists better understand bird behaviour. For example, the North American NestWatch program allows volunteers to monitor bird nests and record information about the birds’ behaviour and success rates. This information can be used to identify factors that affect nesting success, such as habitat loss or predation. In the UK and Europe work on bird Atlases is a constant effort with publications every decade or so showing which species thrive or decline over time. Because this is done scientifically by ordinary birders with 10 kilometre squares being intensively studied the changes can be traced back to local conditions. Have agricultural practices changed, what was the impact of weather and so on.

In addition to contributing to scientific research, citizen science can also be a valuable tool for education and outreach. By taking part in bird surveys and other citizen science programs, participants can learn more about the natural world and the challenges facing bird populations. They can also help spread the word about the importance of conservation and inspire others to get involved.

Overall, bird watching citizen scientists play a crucial role in conservation. By working together with scientists, bird watchers and other members of the public can help protect and conserve wildlife for generations to come. Birds being ‘indicator species’, monitoring them actually takes the pulse of all species sharing their habitat.

Some activists march, others lobby politicians, but birders have been leading the fight for decades by volunteering their time and establishing many of the facts that scientist use to inform us all of how we can help to save the worlds biodiversity and beautiful wildlife.

As ‘Citizen Smith’ used to say in the TV Comedy of the 1970s… Power to the People!

The Benefits of Bird Watching for Mental Health and Well-Being

By Guest Blogger Fatbirder

There can be no doubt that Bird watching can reduce stress and anxiety. Mindfulness to reduce stress is very much like a birdwatching session where you leave your troubles behind and lose yourself in the tranquillity of nature. In other words it can be a meditative experience.

Gardeners and anglers report very much the same feelings… stress is left in the office or workroom when you drift into the arms of mother nature. Of course you think about the activity you undertake and that concentration also pushes away the stresses of everyday life. You disconnect from the negative and relish the positive experience of being in natural surroundings focussing on your chosen representatives of nature. Birds seem to be transcendent. Maybe it’s their seeming freedom as they fly through the air. Maybe it is their sheer beauty; who could not be moved by the enchanting mass movements of starlings in their sky ballet before roosting. The kingfisher’s colour and the swan’s grace all heighten our sense of beauty and no doubt trigger the release of endorphins.

If nothing else birding provides a break from our apparent addiction to technology and habit of looking at some sort of  screen all day long. We rest our eyes and slow up our thoughts and with it lower our blood pressure! So birdwatching definitely boosts your mood and overall sense of well-being. It provides an encompassing aura of calmness and relaxation. It promotes mindfulness and being in the moment. Anything which you love allows you to experience the present not dwell in the past or speculate on the future. One’s spirit soars with the swallows and swifts and dances to the tune of a blackbird’s song. Binders cannot help but appreciate the beauty of nature.

Birding can be a solo activity allowing you to concentrate on healing yourself. But you can connect with other bird watchers too. The convivial company of like-minded people is another way to relax. Birders cross every divide from politics and religion to gender orientation and race, we just don’t care about differences, we just share the love of birds and the pursuit of tranquil nature.

Birdwatching encourages physical activity and being outdoors – we combine exercise with meditation healing mind, body and spirit while fostering a sense of curiosity and of wonder.

It expands us too, as we learn new things about different bird species, their behaviour and natural history. At one extreme you will be immersed in nature and careless of ambition and on the other hand you may well feel a sense of accomplishment spotting rare birds, species you’ve never seen or behaviour that is new to you.

Isaac Walton, author of the Complete Angler in 1653 wrote words to the effect that every day spent fishing was a day added to your life… the same can definitely be said of birdwatching!

The Ten Best Birding Spots in Norfolk

Guest Blogger Chris Lotz of Birding Ecotours :

Norfolk is well known as one of Britain’s best birding counties. Vast reedbeds and marshlands provide a huge amount of bird habitat all along the north coast right next to the sea, as well as in the Broads National Park in the county’s eastern interior. Freshwater and brackish scrapes and lakes, as well as many rivers and broads, also provide great habitat.

The Norfolk coastline incorporates The Wash with its tens of thousands of waders, winter geese and other birds, the north coast and the east coast – migrants and vagrants are brought in by northerly and easterly winds respectively to these coastlines.

The inland region called The Brecks is a rewarding birding area with heaths and forests, a world apart from the coasts and marshlands, and with a completely different suite of birds.

Snettisham Nature Reserve

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) Snettisham Nature Reserve protects a piece of prime habitat in The Wash. The expansive mudflats here support staggering numbers of wading birds such as Red Knot Calidris canutus and Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica and in winter endless flocks of wildfowl such as Pink-footed Geese Anser brachyrhynchus. During a high spring tide, tens of thousands of birds are forced closer and closer to the beach as the mudflats become flooded, and they wheel around, many of them heading for the lagoons, these occurrences are rightly named “Snettisham Spectaculars”.

Dersingham Bog

Nearby Dersingham Bog, Sandringham is a wonderful, atmospheric place to observe large numbers of European Nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus and Eurasian Woodcock Scolopax rusticola as they display at dusk in late spring and early summer.

Titchwell Marsh

Moving east, one of Britain’s best bird reserves, RSPB Titchwell Marsh, hardly needs an introduction. Like its rival in Suffolk (Minsmere), Titchwell has an extremely wide variety of habitats: woodland, reedbeds, saltmarsh, a fresh marsh, a brackish marsh and a saline marsh, and finally the sea/beach/dunes. It’s easy to spend a full day in this reserve, and then to go back the next day too.

Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve

My favourite woodland (although actually far more than only woodland!) birding reserve in Norfolk, Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve (run by the Hawk and Owl Trust) is then in easy reach, a bit inland from Titchwell and the next site, Holkham. This must be the easiest place in the county to find Eurasian Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula and usually Brambling Fringilla montifringilla among much larger numbers of other finch species.  It was famed for holding both Marsh & Willow Tits, sadly the latter has vanished.

Holkham National Nature Reserve

Back to the north Norfolk coastal area, Holkham National Nature Reserve and Holkham Park justify a full day. This is a large area also with extremely diverse habitats which is good year-round. Make a number of winter visits to look for the “Shorelark” form of Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris, Snow Bunting Plectophenax nivalis and scarce seabirds such as Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis and rarer grebes.

Cley Marshes Reserve

Moving yet further east, Norfolk Wildlife Trust (NWT) Cley Marshes Reserve is, like Titchwell, one of the most famous birding reserves in England and hardly needs further introduction. It has one of Norfolk’s best seabirding sites which is also the start of the legendary (for vagrants) long haul to Blakeney Point, and vast wetlands. Sheringham just to the east, is a rival to Cley as a sea-birding site, and boasts nearby venues for Firecrest Regulus ignicapilla and Dartford Warbler Sylvia undata.

Winterton Dunes

Moving south along the coast from there and one reaches Winterton Dunes National Nature Reserve which is a great place for newly arriving migrants and vagrants off the east coast.

Hickling Broad

This brings one into close proximity to arguably the best birding reserve within the Broads National Park, NWT Hickling Broad (one of many great reserves). If you’re only going to visit one broad, this is the one to go to. But there are many other incredible broads to explore and a 2-week holiday visiting different ones will be productive – Rollesby and Ormesby broads being just two of many others well worth a visit.

The Brecks

Moving to south-western Norfolk is The Brecks. Sites not to be missed here are Santon Downham for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Dendroscopus minor and many others, Lynford Arboretum for Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes and other desirables, Weeting Heath for Eurasian Stone Curlew Burhinus oedicnemus and Cockley Cley raptor watchpoint for Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis.

Welney Wetland Centre

 Also in far western Norfolk near the Cambridgeshire county line, is the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) Welney Wetland Centre. Winter swans form a real spectacle in the area, as do a large number of other waterfowl and shorebirds.

How To Build A Bluebird Nest Box

Guest Blogger Fatbirder

Building your own bluebird nest boxes can be a fun and rewarding project. Here are the east to follow steps:


  • 1 x 6 or 1 x 8 cedar board (roughly 5 feet long)
  • 1 ¼ inch exterior screws
  • 3/8 inch dowel
  • Wood glue
  • Hacksaw or handsaw
  • Drill
  • Drill bits (3/8 inch and 1/16 inch)
  • Sandpaper
  • Stain or sealant (optional)


  • Cut the cedar board into the following pieces:
  • Two 9 x 5 inch pieces for the sides
  • One 6 x 5 inch piece for the front
  • One 9 x 6 inch piece for the back
  • One 4 ¼ x 5 inch piece for the bottom
  • One 4 x 5 inch piece for the top
  • One 3/8 inch dowel, cut into two 4 inch pieces
  • Drill a 1 9/16 inch hole into the center of the front piece. This will be the entrance hole, so its important to get this measurement right as if it is too small the birds will not be able to use it, and too big they might get ousted by bigger species or attacked by predators.
  • Use the 1/16 inch drill bit to create four drainage holes in the bottom piece.
  • Sand all the pieces of wood until they are smooth.
  • Attach the bottom piece to one of the side pieces using wood glue and exterior screws.
  • Attach the front and back pieces to the bottom and side piece using wood glue and screws.
  • Drill two 3/8 inch holes on the front and back pieces, about an inch below the roof. Insert the dowels into these holes, making sure they are level and perpendicular to the front and back pieces.
  • Attach the top piece to the box using wood glue and screws. If desired the top can be covered in a waterproof material such as tarpaulin to keep rain out.
  • Apply any desired stain or sealant to the wood, making sure to let it dry completely. It’s important to only paint or stain the exterior as some paints and stains can give off fumes that are harmful to birds in the nest.

Hang the box on a pole or attach it to a tree trunk. Make sure to mount it at least 5 feet off the ground. If on a pole this will need to be rocksteady not move about in bad weather.

Your bluebird nest box is now ready to be used! Keep in mind that bluebirds prefer open fields and meadows, so try to place the box in an area with plenty of open space away from the house to minimise disturbance.

You need to complete the project well before spring to allow the box to weather and lose the odours of paint etc. Siting it also needs to be before birds are about so it becomes part of the landscape when they arrive.

With any luck birds will find the box and move in, returning year after year.

Bird Watching Ethics

How to Observe Birds Responsibly by Guest Blogger Grumpy Old Birder

Bird watching is a rewarding and enjoyable hobby, but not every birder puts the birds first. Every sphere of life has a few idiots or abusers and it’s up to us good guys to mitigate their damage. Much more prevalence, and with equal potential for harm is ignorance. A few bad apples and lots of good guys, and a few people who don’t know better. My experience of this latter group is that with a little gentle encouragement they are happy to do the right thing. We strive to observe birds responsibly and ethically and avoid disturbing or harming them. For those of you who have yet tread the righteous path here are some tips for practicing responsible bird watching:

  • Respect bird habitats: Do not disturb or damage habitats where birds nest or rest. Obvious of course, but maybe not always clear. When out in the wild stay on designated trails, and avoid entering restricted areas – they are restricted for a reason and a careless act could cost the next generation of a recovering species. Obviously, I’d want everyone to respect and preserve all of the natural world, heaven knows we already destroyed much of it! Don’t forget your own backyard could be good habitat too, avoid all pesticides and herbicides and only use organic fertilizer, and that in moderation.
  • Keep a safe distance: We have binoculars and spotting scopes to see birds as if they are close, so we can view birds from a safe distance. Approaching them too closely can cause stress, nest desertion and polish off already exhausted birds. Photographers, this means you too! Get the longest lens you can afford or settle for more artistic photos, but don’t chase down something to get that ‘perfect shot’. Might look good on your computer or hung on your wall, but that bird you flushed into the talons of a predator won’t be around to admire them.
  • Avoid disturbing nesting birds: Do not approach nests or disturb birds during the nesting season, it’s not only bad behaviour but in many places its illegal. Fifty years ago small boys might have gone ‘nesting’ but we are grown up, responsible adults too. Observe from a distance and avoid making loud noises or sudden movements. If you accidentally find you have approached too close to a nest do not stop and stare either back away slowly or take a turn away.
  • Do not feed wild birds: Feeding wild birds can alter their natural behaviour and diet, and can even cause harm to them. It is also illegal in some areas. Don’t be daft, we are not talking about your backyard or the feeders at your local nature centre. Feeding a population of birds with the right foods at the right time is a good thing, scattering seed to get a photo etc is not. If you habituate birds to it and then stop you can do a lot of damage. Some birds with take any free offering and it might do damage to their nestlings.
  • Respect other bird watchers: Be considerate of other bird watchers and avoid disturbing their view or getting in their way. There is nothing more annoying than being at an appropriate distance and keeping still to carefully view special birds only for some oaf to blunder in front of you, often chasing the bird away. By the same token if you have had a good view and there are others waiting in the hide or behind the blind, let them have a turn… don’t hog the best spot.
  • Follow regulations and laws: Familiarise yourself with local birding regulations and laws. Follow any restrictions on bird watching or access to certain areas. Follow the country code. If you leave that farmer’s gate open he will be less likely to let birders on his land. Remember… take only photos, leave only footprints.
  • Do not use recorded bird calls: Using recorded bird calls to attract birds can disrupt their natural behaviour and mating patterns. Why do calls attract birds? Either they think there is a potential mate, or a rival. Either way they will waste precious energy if you try to call them in. VERY limited use, outside of nesting season might be acceptable, but remember, if you do, so may many others and the accumulated effect will be bad.

Enjoy your bird watching but respect others and protect birds and their habitats.

The Basics of Bird Watching: A Beginner’s Guide

 Birding Basics by Guest Blogger Fatbirder

Bird watching is a popular hobby that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds regardless of how deep their pockets are. It’s a great way to connect with nature. When you learn about different species of birds, and observe their behaviour and habitat you will build up a knowledge of all-round nature too. In fact, almost all birders love all aspects of nature and get a kick out of seeing any animal and fungi, plants and landscapes.

Lots of websites out there set out the basics you need to get started. However, they are not always accurate in what they say. The truth is all you actually need are the senses you were born with and a love of the natural world. There are plenty of things that will enhance your enjoyment but my advice is to start with the most basic of kit, once you get frustrated you will want to move on to better gear and will more clearly understand what you need as well as what you can afford.

Here are some recommendations drawn from magazines and websites and my take on them:

  • Get the right equipment: All you need to get started is a good pair of binoculars and a field guide to help you identify different species. You may also want to invest in a spotting scope for longer distance viewing. Better still borrow some binoculars and get an inexpensive fieldguide. When you buy get the best you can afford… but prices isn’t always the guide to quality. Read lots of reviews and narrow down to a few pairs then try them out. ALL good retailers will be happy to let you. For most places there are lots of fieldguides so, again, read the reviews before deciding. Some of the best are available as apps which include sound recordings and carrying your phone is easier than a big book!
  • Choose a good location: Parks, nature reserves, and other natural areas are great places to start bird watching. Look for areas with diverse habitats, such as forests, wetlands, and meadows. Great advice but… start where you are. Look at the birds in your backyard and neighbourhood. Even cities are home to quite a range of birds. The better you know familiar, ‘everyday’ species the more you will notice when something different turns up. It always helps to assume that the birds you see are the common ones, don’t look for rarities until you know the more mundane birds.
  • Learn to identify birds: A good field guide will have pictures and descriptions of different bird species to help you identify them. You can also download birding apps or use online resources like eBird to help you identify birds by their appearance, behaviour, and vocalisations. Yes learn, but start with the common stuff in your garden and local park. Get really familiar with WHY a species is what it is; its ID features. Use your birding friends – we love to share and show off our knowledge. You will soon understand how certain birds ‘general appearance and behaviour’ makes it easy to ID a bird that flies past fast or you only catch a glimpse of. When something flashes by that isn’t familiar you’ll know to chase after it J
  • Observe behaviour: Birds have unique behaviours, such as singing, mating, nesting, and feeding. Observe their behaviour and try to understand what they are doing and why. The more you understand about a bird the easier it is to identify it. Finches come to your feeders because they are seed eaters. Seed eaters need a short strong beak. Raptors have long talons and curved beak tips to capture, kill and devour prey and so on.
  • Record your observations: Keep a journal or use an app to record your bird sightings, including the species, location, date, and any interesting behaviour you observed. Its entirely up to you… some birders are ‘listers’ and want to know how many birds they’ve seen, where and when etc. You don’t HAVE to unless that interests you. I like to know the date I saw the first swift each spring or heard the first cuckoo, but none of this is essential to enjoying the hobby.
  • Join a birding community: Joining a birding group or club is a great way to connect with other birders and learn from their experience. You can also attend birding events, workshops, and festivals to improve your skills and knowledge. Some of us are joiners, others loners, its up to you to decide. I love the tranquillity of birding alone, others enjoy convivial company. Both can help you learn whether its others knowledge passed on to you, or your own observations. Sharing can be fun, but so can taking time out with nature your only companion.

Remember, bird watching is about as much your enjoyment as it is about learning about nature. There are only two rules… Take your time and have fun exploring the fascinating world of birds and always put the welfare of birds before your own wants and ‘needs’. I hope you enjoy falling in love with nature and wonderful birds and that you will do all you can to make that possible for generations yet to come.

The ten most wildlife friendly plants for backyards

Guest Blogger FatGardener

Whether you have a country estate; a suburban yard or nothing more than an urban  balcony window box, you can sustain wildlife if you think carefully about your plantings. Obviously, food sources are great but also bear in mind that critters need cover from predators, pets and people. The world needs pollinating insects, and birds and mammals need all sorts of invertebrates to sustain them. There are many plants that can attract and support wildlife in your backyard, but here are my top ten that are especially beneficial:

Common Milkweed Asclepias syriaca: This plant is essential for monarch butterflies, which lay their eggs on the leaves and rely on the nectar for food. From Mexico to Canadas wilderness Monarchs breed and migrate, breed and migrate so need food sources to enable this movement.

Sunflowers Helianthus annuus: These bright, cheerful flowers are not only beautiful, but they also attract bees and other insects. If you leave the seed-heads into winter they will sustain goldfinches and other seedeaters.

Coneflowers Echinacea purpurea: These colorful flowers are native to the eastern seaboard and Europe and are a favorite of bees, butterflies, and birds, and provide a good source of nectar.

Black-eyed Susan Thunbergia alata: Another favorite of pollinators, this native flower is easy to grow and adds a splash of color to any garden.

Goldenrod Solidago species: There are many species of golden rod native to north America. They are a great source of nectar for bees and butterflies, and its seeds are a favorite of birds. With a long flowering season this can provide food at times of scarcity.

Wild Bergamot Monarda fistulosa: This aromatic perennial member of the mint family is also known as bee balm as it is a magnet for bees and butterflies. What’s more, its leaves can be used to make a delicious tea and its blooms can grace any flower bed or herb garden.

Salvia Lamiaceae: This member of the sage family has beautiful, colorful flower spikes that attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees in profusion. There are a wide range of cultivars in a range of sizes and colours suitable for planning almost anywhere.They are drought tolerant too ,so great for those long, dry late summer and early fall months.

Butterfly Weed Asclepias tuberosa: This bright orange flower is a great source of nectar for butterflies and bees as it produces copious amounts. Another milkweed it is an essential food source for monarch butterfly caterpillars.

Blueberries Cyanococcus: These are a widespread and varied group of bushes that not only produce delicious fruit for humans, but they also provide food and shelter for birds and other wildlife.

Serviceberry Amelanchier: This small tree is a member of the rose family and has a lot of different names such as Shadbush, sugarplum and chuckley pear covering around 20 different species. They bear a profusion of flowers and then produce edible berries for us, but also provide food for birds and other wildlife.

Remember, planting for wildlife is about providing food and good habitat that encourages wildlife to come in and stay. Flowering plants produce nectar and pollen, berry bushes are important food sources and shrubbery and trees are needed for roost and nest sites for birds and cover for may speces.

Birding and Angling – Harmony and Dispute

Guest Blogger FatFisherman

Many anglers enjoy wildlife in general and birds in particular and become knowledgeable and passionate conservationists. However, its not all harmony as both passtimes can impact on each other.

Birders and anglers may fall out over the use of certain equipment or techniques that may harm bird populations. For example, some anglers use leadshot in their fishing gear, which can be accidentally ingested by birds and cause lead poisoning. Carelessly discarded fishing lines and hooks can have tragic results maiming or severely injuring birds even leading to avian mortality. Birders obviously view this as harmful to the environment and the bird population and some would ban sport or leisure angling entirely, others call for better regulation or behaviour.

Additionally, birders may object to anglers disturbing prime bird habitats or nesting birds while fishing, which can disrupt breeding and nesting activities. The lack of country code awareness is not confined to some anglers and most are more likely to be sensitive to wildlife needs.

On the other hand, anglers may be concerned about birders disturbing fish habitats or disrupting fishing spots, which can reduce the fish population and impact their ability to catch fish. Anglers may also view birders as getting in the way of their fishing activities, especially if birders are occupying prime fishing locations.

Overall, the conflicts between birders and anglers usually revolve around the conservation of natural resources and the impact of human activities on wildlife populations, or the impact of certain fish-eating birds on fish populations.

Yes, fish-eating birds can have an impact on fish stocks. Fish are an important part of the diet of many birds, including species such as pelicans, cormorants, herons, gulls, and terns. While the effect of birds on fish populations varies depending on the species and the location, in some cases, bird predation can have a significant impact on fish stocks.

For example, in some cases, large colonies of birds can consume large quantities of fish, which can reduce the population size of certain fish species. Additionally, bird predation can have indirect effects on fish populations by affecting the behaviour of the fish, such as causing them to change their feeding or breeding patterns, or by affecting the distribution of fish in certain areas.

For example, gooseanders (also known as common mergansers) can affect salmon levels in certain situations. Gooseanders being large fish-eating birds that are found in freshwater and coastal areas of North America, Europe, and Asia, are known to prey on a variety of fish species, including salmonids such as salmon and trout.

In areas where there are high densities of gooseanders, their predation on salmon can have a negative impact on salmon populations. In some areas of Scandinavia and North America, researchers have observed declines in salmon populations that were associated with high densities of gooseanders.  However, it’s worth noting that the impact of gooseanders on salmon populations can vary depending on a variety of factors, including the abundance of other predators and the availability of alternative prey for the birds. Mono-species fish stocking may mean other food fish are not present for fish-eating birds. Additionally, some research suggests that the impact of gooseanders on salmon populations is far less significant than other factors, such as habitat degradation or overfishing. Overall, while gooseanders can have a negative impact on salmon populations in certain situations, the relationship between these two species is complex and context-dependent.

Cormorants are also seen as very destructive by some anglers. There is no doubt that cormorant species once found near oceans or only in small numbers inland have become much more common at inland lakes and often with several hundred pairs fishing and raising young this can have a major impact on fisheries.

Ospreys taking trout or salmon in the wild has sometimes turned into ospreys taking food from commercial salmon and trout farms.

However, it’s important to note that bird predation is just one of many factors that can affect fish populations. Other factors, such as habitat loss, pollution, overfishing, and climate change have significantly more impact on fish populations.

Freshwater anglers sometimes report birds stealing bait: Some birds, such as gulls, and herons, are known to steal bait from anglers. This can be frustrating for anglers who have spent time and money obtaining the bait.

However, it’s important to note that many anglers also enjoy birdwatching and appreciate the natural beauty of birds in their fishing environments. Additionally, there are laws and regulations in place to protect birds from harm, so anglers should take care to avoid harming birds while fishing.

The impact of commercial fishing on bird populations can be really bad. Sand eels are an important food source for many marine predators, including seabirds like puffins, which feed almost exclusively on sand eels during the breeding season, and a decline in sand eel populations can have a significant impact on puffin populations.

There have been reports of declines in both sand eel populations and puffin populations in certain areas. Overfishing of sand eels has been identified as a potential cause of the decline in some regions. Sand eels are a popular bait fish for commercial and recreational fishing, and their populations can be depleted quickly by intensive fishing. In addition to direct overfishing, climate change can also play a role in the decline of sand eel populations. Changes in ocean temperatures and currents can affect the distribution and abundance of sand eels, making them less available to predators like puffins.

The decline in puffin populations is a concern in itself, but also because these birds are important indicators of the health of marine ecosystems. Efforts to protect and conserve sand eel populations, such as limiting fishing quotas and creating marine protected areas, may help to support the recovery of puffin populations.

All in all most birders and anglers get along fine and are sensitive to each other’s passions… but conflict can occur and we have to be cognisant of the reality of the situation rather than be in denial… that is the first step to conflict resolution.