Birding for Beginners in Martin County

Nestled along Florida’s picturesque coastline, Martin County is a haven for nature enthusiasts and birdwatchers alike. With its diverse ecosystems, including lush wetlands, pristine beaches, and expansive parks, the destination boasts a rich avian population that delights visitors year-round. From egrets and eagles to songbirds and spoonbills, there’s a broad range of beautiful birds to be found throughout our little slice of paradise. For those just beginning their birdwatching journey, here are some tips from the Audubon of Martin County.



1. Get Excited by Doing Research

So, there’s no rush. While aching knees or backs may eventually force your peers to hang up their skis or mountain bikes, birders can bird for as long as they can walk, roll, or look out a window! Take a moment to learn about what you’re getting into. Start by getting your hands on a field guide. Any book will do as long as it has pictures of each bird and maps of their range. Keep this book in a place where you’ll be able to leisurely flip through it for a couple minutes each day. What are the different kinds of birds? Where do they live, and in what seasons? Don’t worry at this point about how to identify anything, just focus on figuring out what’s out there. To supplement your field guide examination, learn some things about avian biology and the sport of birding. Learn about why birds are birds, and how they’ve evolved into such incredible creatures. Excited yet? Good, let’s go to step two.

2. Grab Your Gear

One of the best things about birding is how little equipment you need to actually do it, making in an inexpensive and accessible hobby for those just getting started. All you really need is something to hold to the eye to make those far-away little birds a bit bigger. In the beginning, you don’t need to worry about what kind of binoculars you’re using. All you’ve got is a pair of hulking, 14-pound black plastic behemoths from your mom’s house? Use them. Little opera glasses that you hold to your face with a stick? Those’ll work. One of those extending telescopes that fit in your pocket? Get ready to run through the woods like some sort of bird-watching pirate. If they make far away things seem a little less far away, use them for now before investing in a better pair. And that’s it! Some form of binoculars and that field guide you bought earlier are plenty to get started. As you get better, you may want to purchase nice camera or a spotting scope (for the really far-off birds), but they’re by no means required.

3. Get Out There and Explore

The time has come to actually get outside. The first experience is important; if you’re overwhelmed, or you don’t quite “get” what you’re supposed to be doing, you may not return for a second chance. So start with a plan. One of the best ways is to pick a bird and go find it. Use that field guide you bought or borrowed from the library and choose a bird you’ve never seen before—one that you’re reasonably sure lives nearby at that time of year—and go find it.  There are a lots of resources you can use to determine what birds have been seen nearby, like the “explore data” section of eBird or postings on your local birding listserv. Then just go out into the actual world and start looking until you find it. The accomplishment you’ll feel when your chosen bird is all of a sudden flapping or paddling or sitting in front of you, no longer a flat image in the book but a living creature—that feeling is what this is all about. You’ll recapture it with every new species you find. And that’s it, you’re a birder! There are a lot of ways to proceed from here—finding buddies to bird with; chasing your first rarity; taking your first trip out of state—but all those will come naturally once you’ve gotten started.

The Audubon of Martin County is an incredible resource, so feel free to reach out, explore their website, or visit them at Possum Long Nature Center. We’ll see you out there!

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