Better Health Through Bird Watching

If You’ve ever looked at a bird and admired it, you’re a birdwatcher!

Article by Barbara Huggins

Photography by Sondra D. Cotton, Bernice V. Coles, Kay Meng, Mark Schroeder

Originally published in Media City Lifestyle

Ever since my interview with Debbie Beer, president of the Birdwatching Club of Delaware County (BCDC), I have taken longer to admire the birds I come across in my life.  It is hard not to after hearing and feeling her passion for this hobby.  During our conversation, we discussed how someone can get started with birdwatching, how she started on this journey, how birdwatching can impact conservation efforts and even how the hobby itself can become even more welcoming.  BCDC has a lot of great activities and initiatives that their members can participate in, and it is clear that they care deeply about their community. 

Anyone, anywhere can be a birdwatcher and the hobby can be passionate or easy-going.  You can travel to the nearest state park, or you can be just as likely to see many birds in your backyard because they are everywhere!  Debbie lives in the suburb of Springfield and has documented 110 types of birds in her backyard alone.  BCDC is a welcoming club - all of their activities and outings are free to anyone who would like to participate.  They enjoy helping new members discover the beauty of birds. 

Here are a few things Debbie recommends for new birdwatchers:

  • Join a local club in your area such as the Birdwatchers Club of Delaware County (BCDC) or join a birdwatching field trip.

  • Multigenerational - Anyone of any age can participate!

  • Binoculars are handy to have but they do not need to be high-end or pricey to get the job done.  In fact, some libraries will lend them out. Some bird watchers can spend hundreds of dollars on binoculars, but you can easily start with less. Start with something offering at least 8 times magnification, A 25-30 mm lens is lightweight, but a 40 mm will allow more light.

  • Son't want to be out and about? A bird feeder can be a great gathering place for birds. 

  • Places to see birds in Delaware County: Haverford Reserve, Ridley Creek State Park, Tyler Arboretum, Hildacy Preserve, Marcus Hook Municipal Park, John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, and Governor Printz Park. Many of the parks have various ADA Accessible features - Call ahead to get more information. 

There are so many benefits to birdwatching.

  • When asked about the benefits one of the first things Debbie said is that quite simply one of the best benefits is the interconnectivity one can feel simply by being still and taking time to watch beautiful birds.

  • The Trifecta: Nature, Exercise and Social.  Many physical and psychological benefits of birding are highlighted in the book, "Ornitherapy" co-authored by Holly Merker.  Holly is an outstanding birder, educator, and founding member of BCDC Rose Tree Park HawkWatch, the only official hawk-watching site in Delaware county, and part of a national network of hawk watchers documenting raptor migration.”

  • Conservation - There are many activities that seek to conserve and restore wildlife habitats and bird populations so that birds will always be able to be admired and observed.

About the Birdwatching Club of Delaware County

Debbie Beer exudes passion and excitement about bird watching.  This passion has brought her all over the world and has driven her commitment to lead this local club.  When asked how she got started she said that her “spark bird” was at a park and spotting a bald eagle.  After that, she was hooked!  A spark bird is described as a bird that sparks one’s interest in birdwatching.  Here are a few tidbits about BCDC:

  • They hold 1-3 field trips a month in and outside of Delaware County - the calendar is up to date! 

  • Meetings are held the 2nd Wednesday from 7:30 - 9pm of each month September to June featuring speakers about all types of topics: Trips, Habitat restoration. These are currently running virtually and feature a different speaker. 

  • Newsletters are shared twice a month to keep members up to-date and informed about birdwatching and how they can stay involved. 

  • Participates in a number of volunteer bird counts and conservation activities throughout the year. 

What’s happening in April / Spring? 

  • City Nature Challenge, Philadelphia  - April 28th  - May 1st. cncphilly.org
  • Philadelphia and neighboring counties will be competing against other cities in the world to see who can find the most species in their regions.  You can take part by taking pictures of anything wildlife: Birds, plants, critters etc and then uploading them to www.iNaturalist.org 
  • BlueBird Nest Box Monitoring - April 1st through July. 
  • Bluebird nest boxes are built and then mounted so that bluebirds have a place to nest.  Throughout Pennsylvania, volunteers monitor and count bluebirds and their fledglings so that each year the population of these birds can be conserved.  
  • New Birds Arrive everyday throughout the Spring season as birds migrate to where they will be nesting.   Delaware County is a prime location because it is in the pathway and also has great habitats such as the Delaware river and Chesapeake watershed.
  • Flycatchers
  • Orioles
  • Thrushes
  • Warblers
  • Breeding raptors like Osprey
  • Wading waters will host birds like green herons and great egrets

There are plenty of events that happen throughout the rest of the year so sign up for DCBC’s newsletter or contact them directly.!  Thank you to Debbie Beer and all of the attributed photographers from DCBC for their help with this article.

To find out more information:

  • Delaware County Bird Watchers Club - bcdelco.org
  • In Color Birding Club - incolorbirding.org - A Philly + birding club for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) birders and their allies. 
  • Ebird.org  - A place to document the birds you find! 
  • Book: Ornitherapy co-authored by Holly Merker -  ornitherapy.com
  • National Geographic’s “Field Guide to the Birds of North America” or a Sibley Guide specific to your region

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