Start Birdwatching Today: The Few Tools You Need To Be A Birdwatcher

House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) by Nikhil

Surprisingly when I put “open” and “eye” into my Bible search with e-Sword to find a verse for this article, I found 49 verses that had both words. The reason for a verse with your eyes being open, is that is your first tool you need as a birdwatcher when you go birding is your eyes. Here are a few examples:

  • Gen_21:19  And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; …
  • Num_22:31  Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way…
  • 2Kiing_6:17 And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.
  • 2King_6:20 … that Elisha said, LORD, open the eyes of these men, that they may see. And the LORD opened their eyes, and they saw; and, behold,
  • Psa_119:18 Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.
  • Mat_20:33 They say unto him, Lord, that our eyes may be opened.

I know these verses do not apply to birding or birdwatching, but I think they reveal some truths that do apply. The LORD or God opened their eyes. Would it be wrong for us to ask the Lord to open our eyes to see His marvelous creation, especially the birds. Once their eyes were opened, they saw different things. We are going to see different birds on different outings.

Also, Christ said in the Sermon on the Mount: “Look at the birds of the air:…” (Matthew 6:26 ESV)

The second “tool” that is very useful is your ears. Some people cannot see because of blindness or poor sight, but does that keep them from birding? No!  Fanny Crosby was blinded early in life, but in my opinion, she was a fantastic birder. She may not have seen, but she “heard” the birds. When I first started my research for Birds in Hymns, of the first 44 hymns I found 10 were written by Fanny Crosby! Here are two examples:

  • “Happy am I, the bird is singing” – Tried and True
  • “And the bird in the greenwood is singing with glee” – Praise the Giver of All

Listening to the sounds around you can reveal hidden treasures. Birds sing, call, alert other birds of danger, make sounds with their wings, etc. Having our ears open to their sounds can help locate them. After awhile, with a little practice, you will recognize birds just by their calls and songs. Even if you never see the bird, the avian friend can be counted on your “life list,” but that is another article.

The first two tools, Eyes and Ears, could be summarized as “Awareness.” If you are not aware of the birds, you will miss finding them. Basically, those two tools are all you need.

Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea) Neal Addy Gallery

Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea) Neal Addy Gallery

Third: To find the birds and see them closer, a pair of binoculars are very useful. It is not required, but I use mine most of the time to observe better details that help me identify the birds. There are lots of articles in books and on the internet about which pair to buy, what strength they should be, how much to pay, etc.

So what should you buy? Every birdwatcher will give you different thoughts, but here is what I have. I use a 8 X 42 lens. “The first number is the power of magnification of the binocular. With an 8×42 binocular, the object being viewed appears to be eight times closer than you would see it with the unaided eye.” “The second number in the formula (8×42) is the diameter of the objective front lens. The larger the objective lens, the more light that enters the binocular and the brighter the image.” (Bushnell) There are things like the kind of lens, coating, field of view, etc. that you can get from their site and others.

My only other advise is not to buy a 10X or larger because it is harder to hold the image steady, at least for birdwatching.

The fourth “tool” would be a small notebook to keep a list of the birds you see. Even if you don’t know what they are at first you can still make notes of what they looked like, colors, sounds, beak shape, feet, wings, time and date, and other notes about your observing the bird. Later, that will help to identify the bird. More on “Lists” in another article.

The last main tool would be a Bird Guide to find out which bird you just saw. (Again, another article) You can use the internet to assist in that also, like What Bird.

There are other tools that are useful, but when you first Start Birdwatching Today, they are not a necessity, but in time, they also become very useful. Here are a few:

  • Camera – helps with ID
  • Spotting Scope – great for birds far away
  • Audio Tapes of Birds – to learn their songs
  • Handheld Electronic Devices – helps ID in the field

We are trying to keep this series simple, at least at first, so that you realize that you can “Start Birdwatching TODAY”

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The Series – Start Birdwatching Today

Informative Links:

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7 thoughts on “Start Birdwatching Today: The Few Tools You Need To Be A Birdwatcher

  1. Lee, this article is delightful! And, yes, you have made it seem simple for people who are just getting started. I have never considered myself a “bird-watcher,” but I have always delighted in watching and listening to them. My husband, who was raised on a farm way out in the country, knew many birds by their songs as well as their physical description. And for years, he would get up at 4:00 and 5:00 a. m., without fail, to sit out on a patio area behind our house just to watch the Hummingbirds at the Rose of Sharon trees.

    This article reminded me of a novel by Fannie Flagg. “A Redbird Christmas.” It is the only novel by her that I can say I truly enjoyed. It is a story of healing, restoration, and hope — on several different levels — and is centered around a community’s love for one Cardinal and a man’s discovery that birds are one of God’s most charming and life-enhancing creations. It’s simplicity in portraying things of such depth touched me so much the first time I read it that I have since read it every year for about 5 years. You may enjoy it.

    And lastly, I want to thank you for this article, because the scriptures concerning God “opening our eyes” have really ministered to me today. I am going through a period where I am desperately in need of specific guidance for my path and serious encouragement from the Lord, and as I read those scriptures, my faith was elevated to believe God for some of those eye-opening experiences today. Bless you for sharing.

    (By the way, did I tell you that “Hangin’ Out With God” and I are the same person? Sometimes I make a comment when logged in here and then think of something else to say to the same person when I’m logged in at the other site, but I don’t want to confuse people.)
    Blessings. Sandra

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  2. Thanks for posting this. Birding is not expensive and you can “take it with you” where ever you go. :)

    Talking about field guides, I sure wish there was a guide written from a Christian point of view. I use the guides as most of the evolutionary stuff is in the intro, but oh, it would be wonderful to have a guide where the authors give praise to the One who created the birds.

    Overall, I would like to see more books out there about birds and birding written by Christians. I pick up a memoir written about someone’s birding experiences or those who have rescued and kept different birds, but they also contain so much garbage, and not always limited to evolution. I found a really interesting book about a man who found a freshly hatched house sparrow out of the nest and kept it. I was about half way through and I just could not read it any longer. Maybe there are books out there and I am not aware of them. Do you know of any?
    God bless you. :)

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  3. Thanks for both your comments. Field Guides are hard to swallow the first few pages where they make the birds come from dinosaurs. Even evolutionist are questioning this, but they keep putting it there. You know, that would be neat to have a Christian perspective Field Guide where the Lord is given His proper honor.

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  4. Great advise. I need to get something to write things down with. I always think I’ll remember. Too much to see out there. It was also nice meeting you two at the lake. It’s such a small world. Hopefully, we meet up again. I’ll be heading out there again soon. Still looking for those baby swans.

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    • Hi Dina,
      Yes, I keep a small notebook with me almost 100% of the time while at birding. I have been known to write on chewing gum wrappers, receipts and what ever else I can grab when I forget. :) Trust you got some nice photos. Your photo of that GBH with a snake at Circle B is awesome!

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