Home > Wildlife News > Birding > Bird Watching for Beginners

If you are new to birdwatching, should you take the plunge and sign up for a guided tour? Stephen Moss of Somerset Birdwatching Holidays outlines the many reasons why going on an organised birding holiday might be the best thing you ever did!

I’ve just spent a wonderful weekend birdwatching on my local patch: the Avalon Marshes in Somerset. We saw three species of egret, listened to calling cuckoos and booming bitterns, caught up with eight different species of warbler, watched dancing great crested grebes, and marvelled at acrobatic hobbies tearing through the blue skies above.

What made this really special for me was that I wasn’t alone. My colleague Graeme Mitchell and I were leading a tour for three novice birdwatchers, each of whom was discovering the joys of birding for the very first time.

For me, showing them around the places I love and know so well was a delight. I really loved seeing their faces as they watched common and familiar birds (at least to me) such as a singing skylark, a willow warbler just returned from Africa, and a stunningly beautiful teal posed perfectly in the spring sunshine.

Photo credit: Marsh Harrier, Somerset Birdwatching Holidays, Kay Mitchell

As a tour leader, the reward I got from seeing these birds through their eyes was enormous; and it was clear from the heartfelt thanks we received at the end of the trip that our guests had enjoyed it too.

I like to feel that we have now converted three more people to a love of birds. And if that sounds a touch evangelical, then that is quite deliberate. I see my role as trying to convince people whose interest in birds is in its early stages that if they embrace birdwatching as a hobby, their lives will be immeasurably better!

So what better way to develop your new interest than going on a bird watching for beginners holdiay, either in the UK or abroad?

I appreciate that this can seem to be a pretty big step. After all, none of us feels entirely comfortable when we are amongst other people who know – or appear to know – a lot more than we do. The fear of being ‘found out’, or the sense that you might be out of your depth, is a powerful deterrent to signing up.

And yet if you are toying with the idea of going on an organised tour, then I would urge you to dive straight in, book a trip to somewhere you have always wanted to go, and enjoy what will hopefully be a life-changing experience.

Photo credit: Stephen Moss, Somerset Birdwatching Holidays

To see if I can convince you, let me explain the reasons why…

  • Expert Help: Tour guides love showing other people birds, and will go out of their way to help you identify the new species you are seeing and hearing…
  • The Social Side: You’ll be with a group of like-minded people, of all ages and backgrounds, who share your interest in birds, Lifelong friendships – and even marriages – have begun on a birding tour…
  • Safety & Convenience: Bird tours are a safe, convenient and easy way to travel to exciting new places and see new and memorable birds…
  • Choice: Bird tours range from a short break in the UK to a month in Australia or Antarctica, and many options in between…
  • Passion & Knowledge: Most bird tour companies are run by passionate birders, who are either based in the tour location itself, or have extensive knowledge gained from many visits there…
  • Sustainability: Bird tour operators practice what they preach. They do their best to be sustainable in their operations, employ local guides, stay in eco-friendly accommodation, and engage with local people…
  • The Bigger Picture: Because of this approach, you’ll get a real insight not just into the birds of a new location, but also the places you visit and the people who live there…
  • Other Things to See: Birding tours often cater for non-birding friends or partners, who have a passion for other aspects of a country, such as its ancient monuments, food, culture and history…
  • Next Steps: A birding tour is a fantastic way to kick-start your new-found interest, and begin to turn it into a lifelong passion…

Over the years I have been on a number of bird tours, and have also had the privilege to lead trips in the UK and abroad. From this experience, my five top tips are:

  1. Start with a short trip close to home, where you can get a taste of the way birding tours work.
  2. Then try somewhere easily accessible, such as one of the classic holiday destinations, which are often excellent places for birds. Mallorca, the Algarve, southern Spain and the Greek Islands are all great places for beginners, as they offer a combination of reassuringly familiar birds from home and exotic species such as bee-eater and hoopoe.
  3. If you have always wanted to visit a particular country, try doing so from the different angle of a birding tour. You’ll be amazed at what you discover.
  4. If you have other interests, such as history and culture, there are many destinations that provide both: for example, Egypt, Jordan, Iceland, Morocco, Poland and Hungary, to name but a few.
  5. Once you have been on one or two short tours, go for the trip of a lifetime! Trust me, a safari in East Africa, a trip around Australia or a cruise to Antarctica will blow your mind – and you’ll see plenty of great birds.

So what are you waiting for? Check out the list of local wildlife specialist offering birding tours, contact them directly for best pricing and let them know you are a beginner!

Stephen Moss
Birder, author and wildlife TV producer, who leads beginners’ birding tours for Somerset Birdwatching Holidays.

Originally Published: 13 Feb 2020
Marsh Harriers

Recommended Articles