Aaron Weinstein, naturalist at CCNC
Contributions by
Emily Huang, resident birder at CCNC

There is no doubt that springtime brings about liveliness and energy. Just think about when it hits 70 degrees for the first time all year — it’s hard to have a bad day when the weather is that nice. Animals feel this rejuvenation too, making spring one of the best seasons to experience wildlife and the outdoors.

In days of self-quarantine, moments outdoors are even more crucial to our mental health than ever before. Birding is encouraged as a way to stay healthy during these stressful times, while still allowing social distance. By appreciating time outdoors and interacting with nature, anyone can find a much-needed break from their daily stress.

Birding is a popular hobby that brings you closer to wildlife. The primary tool for a birder is a pair of binoculars, which allows you to get up close without startling your subject. Although some birders decide to invest in expensive camera lenses, high-quality binoculars, and field guides, you don’t need all of these tools to enjoy the hobby.

Now is a great time to go out birding. Warmer weather initiates nesting season and presents the opportunity to see both residential and migratory birds as they breed or rest before continuing on. During this time, you can see Eastern bluebirds building nests. You’ll also have the opportunity to see passersbys, like blackpoll and Tennessee warblers, as they continue their journey northward. It may also be the last time to see certain species that winter here but move north for the summer, like snow geese and tundra swans.

There are a variety of apps and programs that can assist you in identifying and recording your observations. A common practice amongst birders is to develop a “life-list,” which is simply listing the species you have observed, and apps can be extremely useful for this. eBird is the most commonly used website/smartphone app for birders. Users take part as citizen scientists whose observations contribute to bird conservation research. Merlin Bird ID and Audubon Bird Guide are additional online resources to assist in identifying bird species.

Birding is all about location. From parks and forest preserves to parking lots and urban areas, Rockville has access to a variety of habitats that are home to a diverse population of birds. Beginner birders will do well starting in easy-to-access places to build an understanding of species in the area. In fact, your own yard is the perfect place to begin your birding efforts.

Croydon Creek and Redgate Park are fantastic places to start with confidence, since over 100 bird species have been recorded at each. When considering time of day, early in the morning tends to be the most active time for migrating and mating birds.

Whether birding is your primary goal or simply an extra dimension to the occasional hike, it is an incredibly rewarding experience that can lead from songbirds to soaring hawks while giving you a sense of well-being and offering relaxation in uncertain times.