Have you ever been out birding and asked yourself “where are all the birds?” I have. Sure some days are better than others for birding depending on the time of year or weather conditions, but some days you just have to put the odds in your favour. Birds are more active first thing in the morning and later in the afternoon so these are excellent times to head out. Naturally though not everyone can go out at these times, so you must make the most of your time when you can get out.
The first thing I do when birding is use the wind in my favour. Perching on a branch that is constantly swaying in the wind is difficult for birds and expends energy so concentrate your birding in protected areas. Look for an open field adjacent to and protected by a wooded area or in the wooded area itself. Finding a food source is another key to locating birds. Songbirds in the wild feed on insects, fruit and seeds. At this time of year you can find many species of bird feeding on the seeds of the goldenrod plant. Chickadees, Sparrows, Juncos, and Finches can all be found clinging to and feeding on this abundant wild plant. Dogwoods and Buckthorns produce fruit that are a favourite of many birds as well. Coniferous trees such as spruce, pine, and cedar not only provide food from their seeds but their branches are excellent cover from the weather and predators.
Birding near water is always a great idea. Check out your local lake, river, or pond for excellent birding opportunities. The water itself can not only be a great spot to find waterfowl, but eagles, herons and songbirds can always be found close to water. Following a river is by far my favourite place to go birding. Many native species of fruit bearing trees and shrubs grow along their banks so they are the perfect mix of food, water, and shelter. My days with the highest counts have always been along a river regardless of season or weather conditions.
Remember when birding to use your ears too. Listening for their various calls and songs is an excellent way to locate active birds. Once you have distinguished where the sounds are coming from you can move into a position for viewing and counting. Wear quiet clothing. Jackets and pants that make noise when the material rubs together is a great way to scare off birds. Always walk slowly and quietly to avoid alerting your presence. Watch where you are stepping. I learned early in my birding days that the sound of a snapping stick under my foot can really clear the area of wary birds. When trying to approach a bird do not walk directly to it. Take a zig zag course towards the bird and avoid looking directly at it . By keeping track of it out of the corner of your eye as you approach, you will be able to get much closer.
Keep these things in mind next time you head out and watch your days count totals increase.