For a birdwatcher, experience counts for everything – but it takes time to accumulate. Birding on your local patch will provide you with many hours of enjoyment, but eventually you’ll want to spread your wings.
I remember as a kid thumbing through my bird guide and drooling at the thought of seeing new species in different locations. As a crow flapped over my London garden, I fantasised about seeing a golden eagle gliding over a Scottish glen.



  • As a new birder, you may feel nervous about venturing beyond your local patch. One way to gain confidence is to join a local bird club, an RSPB or BTO group or just get together with some like-minded friends.
  • The benefits of group birding are that everybody learns collectively and there may be a more experienced birder on hand to explain why those coots are fighting or how to tell a sparrowhawk from a kestrel.
  • Local groups are also instrumental in conservation, often helping to manage local nature reserves. This can be a lot of fun, so get involved if you have time.
  • Eventually, you’ll be ready to think about visiting birding hotspots around Britain. My birding debut outside London was to Norfolk. I’ll never forget seeing my first avocet at Cley Marshes Nature Reserve and a gorgeous barn owl that drifted over our car. I was literally shaking with excitement.
  • You’ll start to see birds you’re not familiar with, so ask a more experienced birder to help identify them. Most are only too pleased to share their knowledge, but occasionally you may meet an unhelpful soul. Don’t despair – they’re rare.
  • If you go out with a group, try not to chat loudly – this will reduce your chances of seeing birds. And keep your eyes open wherever you are, not just in the hides: I once visited Minsmere RSPB Reserve once and watched a little gull fly over a group of babbling people – not one of them noticed it.
  • Some of the best reserves for beginners are the London Wetland Centre, Barnes; Minsmere RSPB Reserve, Suffolk; Conwy RSPB Reserve, Conwy; Musselburgh Lagoons, East Lothian; and Bog Meadows Nature Reserve, Belfast. Now, get going...



Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. The more mistakes you make, the more knowledge you will gain.


David LindoAuthor, birder and public speaker