This is an invitation to explore the benefits of birdwatching as a hobby.

In the spring of 2017, I was a few months pregnant. My husband and I wanted to get out of town for the weekend, and we wanted to do something outside if the weather allowed. The weather in May in Minnesota is sometimes chilly, but always such a pleasant relief from the frigid, dark, and snowy winter months.

We had started bird watching a couple of years before, so we were happy to discover that something called Warbler Weekend was happening in Lake City in a couple of weeks. Lake City is just over an hour’s drive from Minneapolis along the Mississippi River.

The Mississippi Flyway, about 2,500 miles from central Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, including the full length of the Mississippi River, acts as a highway for migrating birds. From Black-Capped Chickadees to White-Breasted Nuthatches, to Black and White Warblers, birds fly hundreds or thousands of miles to nest and find food seasonally.

What is Warbler Weekend?

Warbler Weekend is an annual event organized by the St. Paul Audubon Society. Birders from around the area come to Lake City for two days of watching migrating birds along the Mississippi River. The event includes snacks and a presentation on Friday evening followed by meals, meetings, and multiple guided birding outings around the area.

The event attracts both novice and experienced birders and birdwatching enthusiasts. At this particular event, my husband and I brought the median age down at least ten years, but these were our people.

Basics of Birding

For me and my husband, birdwatching became a hobby that we enjoyed after we lived in an apartment with a big tree outside the window. My husband is from Los Angeles, so the backyard birds he encountered in Minnesota were very different than the types of birds he saw back home.

Birding or birdwatching is an activity where people watch birds. It really is that simple. People do it in a variety of places for a variety of reasons, but when you boil it down to the basics, that’s it.

At an event like Warbler Weekend, people come prepared to observe and record encounters with migrating birds. Birdwatchers come equipped with tools like binoculars, a field guide for the area, bird identification app, a notebook and something to write with, a scope for spotting birds, and maybe even a camera.

Benefits of Birding

Birdwatching has many benefits for people who partake in the activity. Benefits can be physical, emotional, mental, and even social. Some benefits, according to Bird + Wild and my own personal experience, include:

  • Increased physical activity
  • Reduced stress
  • Better sleep
  • Opportunities to focus on the present moment
  • Reduced loneliness
  • A sense of achievement
  • Increased self-esteem
  • Increased respect for nature and your surroundings
  • Increased knowledge
  • A sense of community
  • Increased familiarity with your area
  • Opportunities to travel to new areas

Birding is a unique opportunity to engage with nature wherever you might be. It’s a chance to connect with other people who share that hobby. It’s a low-intensity physical activity that anyone can do with the right tools. It’s also a fun hobby that you can do anywhere, basically.

All of the benefits mentioned here were really useful for me as a pregnant person. While this particular outing was early in my pregnancy, I was able to enjoy the benefits of birding throughout my pregnancy. My husband also got really into the collection aspect of birding. He even said that birdwatching was a bit like trying to catch Pokemon.

An Invitation

If you think any of the benefits outlined here seem interesting or useful for you, I encourage you to try birdwatching in your area. You could go for a walk around the block and simply try to notice the sounds of birds around you. You could sit in a park and observe bird activity. Or you could relax near a window in your home and observe backyard birds.

Birding is an activity for anyone interested in trying it out. And anyone can experience the benefits of birdwatching. Who knows? Maybe birdwatching will be your new favorite hobby!

Birdwatching Resources

This post is also available on Medium.