I recently started birdwatching with a map. Birding has been a hobby of mine for years now, though I would probably qualify as an amateur still yet. My backyard is one of my favorite places to watch birds. But I also like to get out and go bird watching. I have a few favorite spots to go to. But I am always afraid I might be missing birds. Here is a technique I have been trying to find good spots to bird watch.
Get a street map of the city where you want to go. You may be in a large city where that is already easily decided. I live in King County, Washington where small cities flow together smoothly. In one trip, I can go through several cities in a short period of time.
What are you looking for on your map? Consider what birds you want to see on your adventure. There will be some standards that are almost everywhere and some pleasant surprises.
Look for rural settings and farm areas. The green fields, bushes and trees are likely to be heavily populated with birds. In King county I can usually count on seeing starlings, swallows, crows, robins, Canada Geese and even ducks if it is wet out. Northern flickers, blue herons, various hawks and eagles can be found in these areas. Recently, I have discovered grouse in a farm community.
If your area is suburban look for dead end streets with big, vacant fields. When the weather is wet water birds will flock to such an area. In wet and dry seasons song birds will flock to fields. Add berries and wild fruit and you’re likely to be very lucky. I find lazuli buntings and chickadees, cedar waxwings and finches regularly on a dead end street in my city, as well as various ducks and shorebirds like killdeer and plovers in the rainy seasons.
Look for rivers, lakes and ponds and parks. Many times these are close to each other. Water attracts more than water birds. Many species of birds prefer to be near water sources, especially if there are also trees, hedges and tall grasses. Before I started birding I never noticed that ducks like to pick up a current of a river and ride it for a bit before flying back to their starting point and riding the waves again! Now I eagerly search the streams of my town to watch this entertainment.
Are you going to be near a business area? If it is a downtown with high rises and paved streets you can look for starlings, pigeons, crows and gulls. These may seem like common birds but they are fascinating. Gulls are so hard to sort out there are actually charts of how to identify them. There are several varieties of black birds, including grackles and starlings. Doves hang out with pigeons. Various sparrows join the crowds.
If warehouses dot the street map you will find some landscaped areas for the public and employees. There will be trees, lawn and even small ponds. These are great places to see various birds. Song birds, sparrows, and finches are not afraid of people so some of them will make their homes in these areas.
Railroads mean pigeons, starlings, crows and hawks to me. In the rainy season plovers and some shorebirds might visit.
Of course, remember that all these properties, farms and warehouses are private properties. Respect the owners, residents and employees. Stay out of marked spaces and be careful where you point your binoculars! Pull over out of traffic to avoid snarls if you want to take just a minute to look for birds. Keep your map handy while driving. Most of all, enjoy your birdwatching!