Summer is a fabulous time for taking a birding field trip, and the best birders know how to take advantage of summer birding and beat the heat at the same time without endangering the birds.
Summer Birding Benefits
Many birders think spring is the best time for birding when many birds are migrating and may visit unusual areas along their migratory routes. Summer, however, is an equally spectacular time to see amazing birds and bird behavior. During the summer months of June, July and August, the days are longer, giving birders much more time to be out in the field with good lighting to see birds, particularly since many species will be sporting their brilliant summer plumage. Birds are also nesting during these months, which can lead to fascinating observations of parent-nestling interaction. As young birds hatch, there are more birds to observe and they can be easier to spot in family groupings.
These factors make summer birding very attractive, but birders also need to be aware that birds can be very sensitive during their breeding and nesting seasons. A birder who ventures too close to a nest may inadvertently scare away the parent birds, causing them to neglect their young. A good birder, however, can take full advantage of summer’s birding bounty without causing any harm to the birds.
Tips for Summer Birding
Enjoying birding in the summer means more than just ensuring the birds are safe; birding is a great hobby and it can be enjoyable at any time of year if you are properly prepared for the season and you know where to find the birds.
To make the most of summer birding…
- Wear Proper Clothing: Lightweight, loose clothing in neutral colors is best for birders in the summer. Bright colors can make you more visible to the birds and may scare them away, while heavier fabrics are too hot for many summer climates. Long sleeves and long pants are recommended for birding in wetlands or near waterways to minimize mosquito bites and other insects, and long sleeves also help protect your skin from the sun.
- Choose Proper Timing: Birds don’t like to be out in the heat of the day any more than birders do. Early mornings when the air is still cool and late evenings as the sun is setting are the most effective times to go birding because more birds will be active and feeding, making them easier to see. Because summer days are long, these times also fit conveniently around many work schedules.
- Stay in the Shade: To minimize sun exposure and summer heat, choose birding locations with plenty of shade. Riparian corridors, thick forests and secluded canyons are perfect birding destinations that are cooler to enjoy but are still popular with warblers and many songbirds. The edges of lakes and rivers are also cool options to find shorebirds and waterfowl.
- Avoid Dangerous Locations: Some birding locations can be dangerous in the summer heat. Avoid open, unshaded areas in extreme heat, and always avoid dry river beds and other locations that are prone to flash floods. Always let someone know where you will be going in case there are difficulties.
- Use Proper Supplies: Every birder knows they need a good field guide and the right optics to see the birds, but summer birding requires some additional equipment. A hat with a wide brim can help shade your eyes and protect your face from the sun. Always wear strong sunscreen and consider using insect repellent if you will be birding near open water, marshes or wetlands. Finally, always take a bottle of water along, even if you are birding in a cooler location and not during the heat of the day.
- Do Not Disturb the Birds: It can be very tempting to get just a step or two closer to a nest or a fledgling bird, but doing so can cause the bird physical and emotional stress. Observe the birds from a safe – for them – distance, and enjoy the amazing range of behavior you can see. Furthermore, remember that young birds are rarely left alone for long, and though the parent birds may not seem to be nearby they are undoubtedly watching over their young and do not need assistance from good Samaritan birders.
- Be an Ethical and Polite Birder: Other wildlife will also be active and abundant during the summer, and many popular birding areas are also favorite locations for hiking, biking, camping and other activities. Follow proper birding etiquette and birding ethics to ensure that everyone, including the birds, can enjoy the season in the ways they like best.