Bird Watching in The Time of Coronavirus & Social Distancing

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Pine Warbler on a Bird Feeder
Pine Warbler on a Bird Feeder

With the Covid-19 Coronavirus seemingly poking into every corner of everyday life, there is one pleasure we can continue to enjoy: watching birds. Whether taking a socially distant walk in a park or your neighborhood, sitting in your yard or simply looking out the window, bird watching can be a soothing activity in a stressful time. It can take your mind off things for a little while and give you a break from the current stresses of life. Here are some ideas for working some bird watching into your social distancing.

Path at Howard County Conservancy in Maryland
Path at Howard County Conservancy in Maryland

Take a (Socially Distant) Walk & See Birds!

All over the country, more and more businesses are shutting down every day to encourage social distancing. Dine-in restaurants, bars, gyms, yoga classes, theaters, plays and concerts are shut up and on hold. BUT. In some places, parks remain open.

Park buildings may be closed. Their events and classes might be cancelled, but in some places you can still go for a walk while practicing social distancing. Check with parks in your area on your local options. Keep in mind that if your local park attracts crowds, you are not social distancing and should avoid it at this time. Maybe seek out smaller less populated spots for a walk or look for less busy times of day.

Can’t get to a park? How about a walk in your neighborhood? In some crowded urban areas, people are being encouraged to stay indoors and you should follow that advice. But if your local sidewalks or neighborhood streets are not crowded, this might be a good time for a walk around the block. Keep your eyes and ears open for birds.

For another take on balancing birding and social distancing, check out Laura Erickson’s “For The Birds” blog post about “Social Distancing While Birding.” The idea is basically to think about what you are doing and (frankly) not to behave like a jerk if you do go birding in parks when facilities are closed.

Bird Feeders in Back Yard
Bird Feeders in Back Yard

Watch Birds in Your Yard

One of the very cool things about bird watching is that birds are everywhere. Whether you live in a city or town, a suburb or in a rural area, there are birds outside. This may be a time when you can spend more time with a pair of binoculars watching birds in your yard.

Even if you are being asked to remain inside where you live, you can still watch out the window. And many birds are on the move now and may be migrating through your area soon. You may see some very cool visitors if you pay attention.

Challenge yourself to watch birds for at least a little while each day. Try to ID the birds you see. (Consider counting them and reporting them to eBird.) Also pay attention to their behavior and how they interact with each other.

Want to lure more birds into your yard? If you haven’t already, consider putting up a feeder and filling it with tasty seed. Or add another feeder or try a different seed to attract new birds. My blog is full of information on feeders that I’ve found work well, baffles that keep squirrels out of the seed and information what seed and other foods to try.

Get Your Kids Into Bird Watching!

If your kids are home from school, bird watching can be something both education and fun to share with them. Your kids’ teachers or school system may be providing online resources to keep their minds active and learning. But don’t forget that there are other kids friendly resources online.

Check the websites of local (or not so local) parks, zoos and aquariums to see if they have nature activity suggestions for your kids. For example, in my area, the Howard County Nature Conservancy offers Nature Activities on their site including a printable scavenger hunt for kids.

Woodlink Squirrel-Proof Seed Tube Feeder
Woodlink Squirrel-Proof Seed Tube Feeder

Find Feeders & Seed When Social Distancing

Need bird watching supplies? Even with social distancing, you still have options. For example, early in this crazy time, my local bird store, Mother Natures, offered curbside pickup. You would place your order over the phone and they’d come out and load it into your car. This helped customers and store staff alike with social distancing. Now that non-essential stores are closed, they still have a delivery option. See what workarounds your local store might be offering.

Can’t get to a local bird store? If you need bird watching supplies, check online. Bird store chains and local stores in your area may also offer online ordering so supplies can be delivered to you. Amazon sells bird feeders and even seed and suet. You can also order Erva’s feeders, baffles, etc directly from them online using their retail website. Don’t forget hardware stores as a possible online supply source.

Yellow Warbler at Magee Marsh Ohio (2017)
Yellow Warbler at Magee Marsh Ohio (2017)

Learn About Birds Online

Use the time social distancing and staying at home to increase your bird knowledge. There are all kinds of very cool places to learn about birds online. Some of my favorites include Cornell Ornithology Lab’s All About Birds and Online Bird Academy pages and articles on Audubon’s website.

Particularly check out the online classes at Cornell’s Online Bird Academy. I’ve taken quite a few of them and have found them to be enjoyable and really helpful in getting better at bird identification and understanding more about bird behavior. They also offer free informative online videos about birds as well. (I’ve watched a few of these and they are very cool!)

Poke around on my blog too for articles about bird watching. And there are many more blogs about birds all over the internet. Some are put up by bird stores, some by local birding groups and some are personal bird blogs like mine. A little web surfing can take you to all kinds of cool articles about birds that you otherwise might not have found.

Osprey Nest at Jug Bay (2016)
Osprey Nest at Jug Bay (2016)

Seek Out Bird Videos Online

Also check zoo, aquarium and park websites and/or their social media for webcams or fun video clips of birds and other animals they may be posting. You may for example have seen the viral video of Wellington the penguin at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium taking a ‘field trip‘. It is sure to bring you a smile! Or check out webcams like this osprey nest webcam from Chesapeake Conservancy. While you might not be able to visit some of these places now, you can still get a peek at what some of the animals are doing.

Red-Bellied Woodpecker on Feeder
Red-Bellied Woodpecker on Feeder

Improve Your Bird Photography

You can also go beyond just watching birds and start (or practice) taking pictures of birds around you. If you don’t have a camera that works for bird photography, this might be a good time to research a future purchase. (My blog has articles about two particular cameras, Nikon’s Coolpix p900 and Nikon’s D7500. And I’m working on a follow-up article about my experiences with the D7500.)

You might also check out blog posts and online classes to hone your bird photography skills. My post about Creating Bird Photography Camera Settings also includes links for helpful sites online where you can learn how to take better pictures of birds.

Downy Woodpecker on Suet Feeder
Downy Woodpecker on Suet Feeder

Read About Birds Around You

Social distancing means spending more time at home which can give you more time to read. Amazon has tons of books about birds, bird behavior and bird identification, both printed and digital. Some are geared to adults and some to children. Spring is high season for bird nesting so one you might particularly check out is Into The Nest. (This link is to a book review I did on this book.)

If you don’t have a bird field guide to help you identify birds, you can find those on Amazon too. Or get a birding ID app for your phone. There are several birding apps that I really like and use all the time.

Practice Social Distancing. Stay Safe!

Bird watching can be a great way to get a break from all the scary stuff that is happening and sooth the soul. (Watch for more blog posts here in the coming days that do not contain the word “coronavirus”!) Whatever you do, please stay safe.

Nancie

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2 thoughts on “Bird Watching in The Time of Coronavirus & Social Distancing

  1. Thanks for all the links in this post. Turning off the news, computer, and watching birds is indeed a way to destress.

    At all times but especially now, I urge everyone to be vigilant about keeping feeders and feeding areas clean. Wash hands after filling feeders.

    We have a nesting setup on our back porch for the Carolina Wrens. My husband goes through work boots at a rapid clip. When boots need to be replaced it cuts a board and mounts an old boot to it. Cut a hole in the top of the board so you can hang it from a nail or hook under a porch. Sit back and wait for occupants. Our kitchen porch boot had 3 clutches last year. Last Wednesday the wrens started their first nest. My heart sings.

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