Everyone needs a hobby. Our passions simply make life more interesting. Unfortunately, with the recession and economic challenges American’s face today, it can be difficult to indulge in an expensive hobby. Recreational vehicles, boats, and jetskis aren’t cheap. However, there is one hobby that has few barriers to entry, costs very little, and can provide hours of entertainment: birdwatching.
Birdwatching is dirt cheap. You don’t have to buy a lot of fancy equipment to take up birdwatching. At a minimum, all you need are your eyeballs and a place with birds to watch. Even the lowliest sparrow can be interesting to watch. If birds are used to being around people, they may even approach you. If you want to see birds up close, simply throw out some birdseed, sit still, and be quiet. However, if you want to get more serious about birdwatching and still save money, there are a few things that you can get to enhance your enjoyment of the hobby. But, none of these purchases have to cost much money.
Field Guide to Birds. First, if you want to identify birds that you see in your backyard or out in the field, you might want to buy a book about birds. There are a ton to choose from, but if you want to save money, I would suggest choosing whichever birdwatching book you find in your local thrift store. If you visit thrift stores regularly, you’ll undoubtedly come across a guide to birds. These can help you recognize birds, develop a list of birds in your area to see, and explain some of the typical bird behaviors that you’ll observe. Of course, if you don’t have a lot of cash, but still have an internet connection, the Audabon society offers the Online Guide to North American Birds. Finally, your local public library is likely to have plenty of bird watching books.
Budget Optics for Birders. Second, many people like to observe birds up close using binoculars or a spotting scope. This is one area that birdwatchers can spend a lot of money. But, here is a little secret that you should know. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on optics. Regular department store binoculars are generally just fine for a beginner to bird watching. It’s best to stick to known mainstream brand names like Tasco or Bushnell. Walmart.com has Bushnell Falcon 7×35 binoculars for just under $30. However, if you’d like to save even more money on optics, you can sometimes find good binoculars at your local thrift store for about $20. You just have to test them out in the store to make sure that they focus properly and that they are clear. Sometimes if binoculars get banged around, the prisms inside can become misaligned and you won’t be able to see well with both eyes.
Travel for Birding. Third, while it is fashionable for some birdwatchers to fly to the far-flung corners of the world to get a glimpse of an obscure bird, you can bring birds to your home to see you for far less money. All you need to do is make your outdoor birdwatching space more attractive to birds. It’s an easy task. Simply collect some combination of a bird bath, a bird feeder, bird seed, and some trees or shrubbery. The key is to attract local birds, identify them, and observe their behavior. Bird feeders and supplies are very inexpensive. For example, Bass Pro Shops sells a Woodlink Audubon Mixed Treat Window Bird Feeder for less than $12. While many bird watchers may want to buy a nice bird feeder or an ornamental bird bath, if you are on a tight budget you can repurpose other items. A pine cone smeared with peanut butter and drizzled with birdseed can be an effective bird feeder. A plastic trash can lid filled with water can become a bird bath. Instead of traveling to the rain forests of Latin America, you could simply walk out onto your patio or into a local park. A trip to your local dollar store or thrift store can yield many items that would be suitable to re-purpose as a birdbath or feeder.
Birder’s Journal. Finally, many bird watchers like to keep a journal of the birds they see. This is a good way to record what bird you saw, when, and what it was doing. You can do this with specialized software. You can also use a tablet computer. However, a small notebook from your local Dollar Store also works very well for this purpose. The key to keeping a journal about your birdwatching activities is to remember that it is your journal. You can fill it with scientific observations, quantitative figures, or even poetry about the birds you observe. Do whatever brings you joy!
Birdwatching is a fun and relaxing hobby that won’t stress your budget with equipment or travel costs. You aren’t locked into a competition with other bird watchers. You don’t have to buy anything. All you need to do is relax, be quiet, open your eyes, engage nature, and watch. That’s what dirt cheap hobbies are all about.
Online Guide to North American Birds, Audubon Society.