How can I start bird watching?

A lot of very famous bird watchers began by just going outside and looking at the birds. They often had no binoculars and they borrowed field guides; which are books about identifying birds; from their local libraries. Sometimes these books didn't even have colored pictures of the birds just black and white drawings.

So really all you need is an interest, your eyes, ears and a brain and a notebook and pencil.

Go out and make notes about the birds you see, write down the size, the number of them, where you find them, what they are doing, how they feed and what they feed on. Listen to the birds, what sort of sounds do they make? What shape is the bird and what color, what do the feet look like and what shape is the bill? If possible make a drawing of the bird and note any special marks or feathers.

The most important thing about bird watching is that you really look and listen and however good your equipment if you don't do that you won't be a good birder.

Eventually though you will want to do more and learn more and get the right equipment. So this is what you will need.

Hat and water and comfortable shoes – this is Arizona, you don't want to get sunburned, dehydrated or get cactus in your toes.

Notebook and pencil – you will want to record all you see.A field guide

A field guide – or book showing you all the birds you are likely to see. There are lots of different types, go have a look in your library, or support us and buy one from our store.

Binoculars – binoculars are really helpful for the close up views of birds that you need to tell one small bird from another. Most bird watchers like binoculars that are 10 x42 or 8 x 42 but many of these are too big for children to use. Your binoculars should fit so you can look out through both lenses at once and your fingers should be able to reach the focus wheel without you straining your hand. Now, we've started to get technical already. It's really best if you get a chance to try out a few pairs before you go into the shop.

Cost – a good field guide can cost around $20. Check out our recommended guides and purchase one at our Nature Store. For binoculars you can get some really good pairs for under $150.

Now that's a lot of money to pay before you even know if you are going to keep up the hobby and here are some suggestions to let you try out bird watching without spending too much.

1) Join our Early Birds Club which is a club just for youngsters 7 to 14.
You can find details on this page of when and where we meet.

2) Come to one of our Family Bird Walks which we hold in the winter months at Gilbert Riparian Preserve and Chandler Veterans' Oasis Park.
Details of these are on our Events Page.

3) Look out for Nature Festivals – here are some held in the area every year; Tres Rios Nature Festival, International Migratory Bird Day Event at Rio Salado and Feathered Friends Festival which is held at Gilbert Riparian Preserve. Look out for these on our website as they all feature family bird walks where you can borrow binoculars and go out with an experienced bird watcher.

If you already have access to binoculars and someone is willing to take you out but you live too far from Gilbert Riparian Preserve to join our Early Birds Club then look out for the monthly challenges we set for the club members. You can try them at home and send in your homework to me, Joy Dingley, as I'd love to see it.