Urban bird watching

I gather that urban bird watching is becoming a thing, which is excellent news on many fronts. Bird watching is a lovely, de-stressing sort of activity, good for calming people. Awareness of wildlife tends to mean we take better care of it, and urban birds require urban trees. People bird watching are going to be people who support green spaces in urban environments.

If you have a garden, then adapting the garden to suit birds is the easiest way to see them. A bird feeder, a bird bath, a shrub or two to provide some shelter and they could come to you. However, in areas where gardens are tiny and sterile, birds are rarer. It may require working with your neighbours, or looking further from home.

Parks are an obvious place to seek birds, but big expanses of cut grass are not much of a habitat for anything. You’ll find birds where there are trees and hedges – often that means the edges of parks. It can also mean the edges of roads. Canals tend to be good. Derelict sites with plant matter on them can be much better places for wildlife than parks. Urban trees are always worth keeping an eye on.

In an urban environment, bird watching is a much more visual activity. When I’m watching in semi-urban and rural spaces I’ll often find birds by hearing them first, but in city spaces there’s usually too much background noise. While pigeons turn up at ground level, most urban birds will be higher than your line of sight, which means changing how you move through urban spaces.

Of course to be a bird watcher, you have to not be tuning out your environment and not mostly staring at your phone. You have to be present and paying attention. Not paying attention is, for many people, the key to making town and city life bearable. However, it’s when we start paying attention to the environments that we create that we might start doing something about them. Perhaps the new movement of urban bird watching is the first step towards changing cities.

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About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

4 responses to “Urban bird watching

  • Siobhan Johnson

    That’s why I love where I live – there is so much green space, even on a two foot square piece of crap land that no-one admits to owning is full of wildflowers and bushes. We’ve seen all sorts, my favourites are the kestrels and sparrowhawks. Green spaces have so many benefits, it’s such a shame that it’s always put onto a backburner.

  • Christopher Blackwell

    I once worked as a key maker in Mall Kiosk out in the parking lot. As the Mall was failing, I had plenty of time on my hands, I read a lot, and watched the seasons change in the parking lot. Three of the four walls were glass windows.

    We had the usual small trees planted in parking lots, so I watched them go through their yearly changes. I watched them lose their leaves in fall and the leaves get blown across the parking lot. I knew when the first buds appeared and saw the early leafing out, and finally the leafed trees.

    Birds were our only wildlife, and mostly English Sparrows. So I watched their yearly cycle, noting when they started to get noisy, their mating period, when they started flying by with twigs as they built their nests in the trees. I did not see the young, but I saw their parents fly to and from with food,also making use of anything edible that the humans dropped on the pavement.

    As the temperatures heated up in Los Angeles County, people began to park their car under the trees for shade to keep them from getting too hot. Then after shopping, they always seemed surprised and upset by all the bird shit on their cars. The drivers never learned.

    So the weather changes were also there to watch, from the chilly winter usually very brief, to the windy and stormy periods, sometimes with an inch or two of rain, to the warm sunny days, and then the heat. Sometimes if we had a strong Santa Anna wind blow out to sea, I would actually see the hills and nearby mountains that surround the San Gabriel Valley, instead of the endless
    smog. I would also note occasional planes, and the Goodyear Blimp as it moved slowly through the air. Lower down, it was the different people, and the coming and going of the cars during the day.

    Eventually I was fired because I could not look busy all the time even when there were no customers, my stock was ordered, and everything tidied up.

  • birdlady612

    Great points. We plan our gardens and plantings around the birds and other wild critters that frequent or yard. We have quite a bit of wildlife as well as lots of birds that visit us and call or yard home.

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