Birds are a wonder of nature. They are beauty and grace in motion. Humans have always looked at birds through their own eyes or through binoculars with a sense of awe and wonder. In ancient Roman times, they were thought to be omens. It was believed that their flight patterns and calls were actually foretelling the future.
Even today, scientists look to birds for the answers to questions. Their patterns of flight and changes in their numbers can be a signal of important environmental changes. It is no wonder then, that bird watching has been a pastime that has sustained in popularity through the ages.
Bird watching is just what it says it is. It is the observation of birds, usually in their natural habitat with some type of equipment such as binoculars. It is an activity that can be done practically anytime, anywhere or special trips can be taken to seek out specific species. Certain areas and certain times of the year are better than others.
Woodlands, coastal areas and wetlands are excellent places to see different species. Weather also plays an important part in the activity. Wind conditions determine such things as drift migrations. This activity should not be confused with the actual scientific study of birds, which is known as ornithology.
Bird watching as an activity dates back to the late 1700s. After a rise in interest in the collection of artifacts such as eggs and feathers, protecting the animals became a priority. Observation rather than collection became fashionable in the 1800s. The term itself began to be used around 1901 with the publication of a book that helped watchers identify different species.
This help in identification along with the advent of the use of binoculars caused a rise in popularity. Birding was centered primarily in the east, specifically the eastern seaboard for much of the early and mid 20th century. Today it is done throughout the country and the world.
Bird watching can involve simple to complex equipment and technology. Binoculars are the first tool of the trade. They help birders observe the details of their subject. Many also use a spotting scope. This is basically a small, portable telescope. It is used for long distance observation. Auditory enhancing equipment is also important.
Sounds can be as important is visuals in locating a subject. Some type of recording device is often part of the tool kit. Many combine this activity with photography. Cameras with zoom lenses help capture the exciting moment on film to be enjoyed again and again.