1) Put up birdfeeders in your garden
Sunflower hearts are great for attracting greenfinches, goldfinches and nuthatches. Fat balls tempt a wide range of species, including great spotted woodpeckers if you’re lucky. Also leave out a bird bath so birds can drink and bathe – make one from an upturned dustbin lid, raised up on bricks to offer protection from prowling cats. Note: bread isn’t a good food for birds.
2) Fix some nestboxes to trees or walls
These will encourage birds to nest. Boxes with a small entrance hole suit blue and great tits, while robins prefer an open-fronted design.
3) Get a field guide to help you identify common birds
The best for beginners is RSPB Children’s Guide to Birdwatching by Mike Unwin (Bloomsbury). The Usborne Spotter’s Guide: Birds by Peter Holden (Usborne) is also worth a look. An excellent introductory birding app for iPhones is Garden Birds of Britain and Ireland (NatureGuides). For younger children, wildlife sticker books are ideal (DK and Fine Feather Press publish good ones).
4) Buy some lightweight binoculars
The numbers refer to the magnification and size of lenses – 8×32 or 8×42 are good choices. There is no need to spend a fortune: £50–£90 will get you a decent bright pair of binoculars to start with.
5) Choose a local patch for your birdwatching
Try to visit it once a month. Parks, canal towpaths, riverbanks, reservoirs, lakes and woods are all good places for birds. Remember: you don’t need to travel long distances to see interesting bird behaviour. Draw a sketch map of your local patch and label where you see and hear different birds.
6) Find your nearest nature reserve
And make friends with the warden or ranger, who can tell you where to find the best birds. Pick up any information leaflets and check out the reserve website, if it has one. Ask if there are guided walks or activities you can join in with.
7) Practise your fieldcraft
Good fieldcraft is all about blending in and not be seen. Don’t make loud noises or sudden movements, or wear bright colours. Learn how to walk softly, without cracking twigs or rustling vegetation, and avoid showing your whole body against the sky, as this will frighten off shy birds.
8) Learn how to recognise common bird calls and songs.
You can get to know them on the RSPB website.
9) Make birding fun
In autumn go on an owl prowl after dark to hear hooting and screeching tawny owls, and in summer do the RSPB’s Big Wild Sleepout. For more ideas, check out www.projectwildthing.com and www.naturedetectives.org.uk
10) Get photos identified
If you take a photo of a bird and you’re not sure what species it is, post the picture at www.ispotnature.org where other users will be able to ID it for you.
Read more of Mya-Rose’s birdwatching adventures at Birdgirluk.blogspot.co.uk