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Bird Watching Tools for London Birders

Nature London’s Guide to the Natural Areas of London and Region is a tremendous resource for local birders. The sixth edition of the book was published in 2020 and includes useful listings for well over 100 area locations.

Some Londoners simply love watching the birds at their feeders, in their yard, and in their neighbourhood. There is a lot of enjoyment in this bird watching. Others wish to broaden their birding experience, knowing that if you visit other habitats, you will certainly see different birds. So what’s needed to do this successfully?

The easiest answer to that question is simply curiosity. After all, one of the many brilliant aspects of bird watching is its ease of entry. That said, a decent pair of binoculars will enrich your birding experience. Don’t concern yourself with getting a spotting scope, however. They certainly can be useful, but mine stays in the trunk of my bird mobile for all but a few days every year.

A tremendous resource for London birders is the sixth edition of the Guide to the Natural Areas of London and Region published by Nature London. This guide lists the features of well over 100 publicly accessible natural areas located within 80 km of the forks of the Thames River. Why not challenge yourself to visit a new location in each month of the year? You’re sure to find a new favourite hot spot. The book is available for sale through Nature London or on loan from the London Public Library.

A birding field guide can also be helpful. There are lots to choose from. I have a well-used copy of the Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America, but any all-purpose guide that includes the birds of the Great Lakes region will be good.

If you like to keep things light and modern and accessible, there are many excellent birding apps. Among the most popular is iBird Pro. The Cornell Lab has also developed Merlin, an excellent app that is free to use. It is great for beginning birders since you can identify most birds by simply answering three questions. Almost all of the birding apps have recordings of vocalizations and multiple images of each species.

There are several excellent platforms that focus exclusively on vocalizations and other bird sounds. This aspect of birding is interesting and useful. Dendroica Canada is easy to use. Also useful are Cornell Lab’s Macaulay Library and Xeno-canto. Use of all of these is free.

Other digital resources are too numerous to list here but there are a few that are mission-critical. The Cornell University’s is an outstanding resource. As well as having in-depth, species-specific information about every bird that has ever been seen in London, Ontario, there is great information about feeding birds, identifying birds, bird courses, and bird cams.

One of the other top bird-watching resources is the eBird platform. This worldwide resource was launched in 2002 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at Cornell University and the National Audubon Society. Its primary purpose is to support bird science by hosting a repository for citizen science data. There are countless excellent byproducts of this, however. At our fingertips, we can look up or post recent local bird sightings, we can check the seasonal distribution of any species for any area, and we can track our own bird sightings. Keen birders can subscribe to daily rare bird alerts for Middlesex County or for any other geographic area in the world. The use of eBird Canada is free.

Finally, the experience for some might be enhanced by taking photographs of birds in their habitat. Most birders will simply use the camera function of their smartphone. Anyone who has spent time on nature trails knows however that some bird photographers will invest in all kinds of top photographic gear in their quest for perfect pictures

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