Beginning Backyard Birding

With the ongoing stay-at-home order, the Restoration Team at Laguna Canyon Foundation is getting a little antsy. Normally, we spend our days in the field, planting, weeding and otherwise restoring the native habitat. Now, we’re doing anything and everything we can to continue to enjoy the outdoors and learn about our local ecosystem.

With more office time on our hands, we divided into two teams with the task of learning, compiling and sharing anything we’d like to know in the world of Plants and Birds. I was assigned to Team Bird and immediately knew what I wanted to learn: How does one become a birder extraordinaire? Turns out, it takes a lot of time and practice! But I’ve learned some tips and tricks that I’d like to share to help kickstart your backyard birding experience:

  1. You can bird any where. As the shelter-in-place order got stricter, the accessible places to go birding seemed to shrink also. I had started with walking at a local lake, then a park, and ended up turning to the safety of my own property. To my surprise, I saw many beautiful bird species in my backyard, many that I had never noticed before!
  2. Having a reference guide helps a lot. Whether you choose to consult a physical guidebook, an app on your phone, or a website compilation of local birds, having something to reference will be key in identifying the birds you see. There will inevitably be those “little brown birds” that turn out to be such a fun challenge in trying to put the correct name to them. Since it’s springtime, you may have the pleasure of seeing quite a few bright and beautifully colored birds as well! I recommend noting the size, color, posture, markings, bill shape, and behavior of the bird to help in the identifying process.  Natural History of Orange County, California is a good reference. is a fun way to increase birding skills.
  3. Think like a bird. Like all creatures, birds use their senses to survive. Each of their songs and cries are unique forms of communications, so be cautious if and when you use bird recordings, which can throw off a bird’s mating, protection and hunting activities. Learn more here.
  4. It’s a wonderful opportunity to slow down and be quiet and still. The greatest thing I’ve gotten out of starting a birding practice is how this activity allows me to be quiet and still. You’ll see and hear things you’ve never noticed before. It’s a time to learn and virtually network with other budding birders.

While we miss being outdoors and working with our volunteers, we are grateful that so many of them are sharing their shelter-in-place photos, poems and experiences with us.

Photos by: Adam Verrell, Robin Matthews, Alyssa Moreno, Josie Bennett, Cameron Davis, Chuck Wright