Was it one of your new year resolutions to improve your knowledge about the birds that visit your garden? Are you keen to find out more about the birds that visit the UK over the coming year and would you like to find out more about the best places to birdwatch in Yorkshire? If so, then over the next 12 months I’m going to help you on that journey. 

January is a great place to start. There are no leaves on the trees so it’s easier to see small perching birds. There is very little natural food left in the wild so you can easily attract more species to your garden and, in the wider environment, flocks of mixed species of birds can be seen together. This is very helpful for comparing sizes and distinguishing markings and behaviour. If you’d like to learn birdsong, mid-winter is a great time to begin with very few resident species on territory. 

There are many benefits to expanding your hobby. Birdwatching is a great way to get out in the fresh air, relax, unwind and appreciate the sights and sounds around you. A perfect way to de-stress. 

Birdwatching and ornithology also provides an amazing educational pathway into a range of other ‘ologies’. My love for ornithology has increased my knowledge of geography as I learn about where birds breed and which countries they journey through on migration. I’ve picked up a little about climatology and meteorology as I’ve watched global weather patterns to predict when birds will move and when we might get dramatic ‘falls’ of birds. Through this knowledge, I can understand how climate change is affecting what I see in the field. I’m able to interpret my observations and how our actions are affecting the creatures that share the earth with us. My understanding about ecology, bioecology and autecology, the ecology of individual species, has improved as I’ve looked at habitat and what attracts particular birds to certain parts of the world. When studying water birds, hydrology helps me to understand presence and absence of particular species. In fact, when I think about it, every part of birding takes me further into another subject area. 

An understanding of botany enables me to identify the plants that provide food and shelter for our avian friends. Entomology tells me about the insects that birds eat and how their life cycle is intrinsically linked with bird behaviour and I have a long-standing interest in the internal biological processes involved with breathing, singing, reproduction and moult in birds. Even the changing daylength has an effect on the hormonal cycle of birds. 

All these themes are there to explore and it’s lovely to see my students develop from wanting to learn bird identification to asking some amazing questions that relate to other ‘ologies’. There are so many threads to a bird’s life that are worth learning more about. The next time you’re out watching birds, have a think about how they got here. What food did they need to eat to ensure their feathers developed to keep them waterproof and aerodynamic? How do they survive the long, cold winter nights? Your natural curiosity will take you to a deeper understanding of birds and all the other sciences involved in their life story. 

There are plenty of books and websites out there to help your progress but to get you started I’m offering Yorkshire Reporter readers a new year discount on my Start Birding group classes. Quote YR2020 by email linda@startbirding.co.uk or call 07778 768719 to get your first two-hour guided birdwatching session for £10 per person.  

Visit www.startbirding.co.uk or Start Birding on Facebook and Twitter 

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