Nature activities on holiday : birding as a family

Birding is fast becoming the top summer hobby! This leisure activity which was once the preserve of keen ornithologists has gone mainstream, helped along by citydwellers’ growing wish to get in touch with nature. These days anyone can get into it! So let’s check it out!

What is birding?

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The idea of birding (birdwatching, or ornithology to use its scientific name) is just that: watching birds. The idea is to either seek out particular species or just observe the ones that show up, from afar, while walking or from a bird hide, with binoculars. And why not take photos of them or sketch them? You mustn’t disturb the birds, obviously. The aim is to combine a ramble, hike or climb with exploration of a habitat and its winged inhabitants. This activity is easy to do, costs nothing and gets you really close to nature. However, it sometimes takes some preparation in terms of finding out where the birds are to be found before you set off. This is an exciting aspect of birding that makes it feel like an expedition. So you can either go and try your luck, or set off having gathered information on the local bird population first. It’s the perfect combination for a holiday, and for families.

An activity with significant environmental benefits

Birding is bound to give you a better understanding of your environment, an opportunity to study the various species, endangered bird species and their distinguishing features. This awareness of the beauty and scarcity of animals in their natural environment takes us a step closer to safeguarding them. Getting on board, especially with a group of enthusiasts or an association, gets you involved in the conversation about local ecosystems and the will to take action to keep them alive. Lastly, ornithology is scientific in nature, with the particularity of relying on networks of enthusiasts. These are dotted all over, and allow you to access valuable sighting data for free and get involved in safeguarding, observation and tracking campaigns to assist the scientific community.

Birding – a calming effect, guaranteed!

Since getting close to nature in whatever way is good for your physical and mental health, birdwatching is an interlude whereby you recharge your batteries, calm down and reconnect with yourself. Many enthusiasts find that this activity, which calls for slow movements, quiet and concentration, has effects similar to those of meditation. As a family, the fun side of it takes the upper hand and offers some time out, where young and old alike can take their time and relish the peace and quiet. You can appreciate the beauty in the detail of plumage, a colourful beak or melodious birdsong. There’s a real buzz around the hashtag #birding, which brings devotees together via social media! Modern technology offers a great many tools, like apps that can identify birds by their calls (such as Birdnet and CuiCuimatique) or based on the answers to a few questions and photo submission (such as Merlin Bird ID).

Where should you go birdwatching?

Since it is the perfect thing for families seeking nature and opportunities to explore, it is going mainstream, and a great many specialist sites and associations exist. Just find out if there is something in place at your holiday destination. Or do it the other way round and pick your destination with birding in mind. St Michael’s Mount, for example, is well known for its large and varied bird population, as is the parc du Marquenterre, a bird conservancy in the Bay of the Somme. Then there are the mountains of course, with their birds of prey. You will also find information on specialist websites such as Birding France or Birding Places. Fortunately enough, searches with the term “birding” will take you to pages in English. You can narrow down your results, for example with “birdwatching in [your area of interest]”. Or run a search for “ornithology” and you’ll be directed to sites like Ornitho Media where sightings are recorded by location. Otherwise, just see what shows up on your walks!

Birding is much more than a hobby. It’s a window onto a world to be safeguarded and explored. An opportunity to learn in a very down-to-earth way how to spot, identify and admire remarkable species and immerse yourself in ecosystems in areas that you get to explore at the same time. The cherry on the cake is that birding fosters environmental awareness in the whole family. You can keep it going once home from your holiday, because birding is also something you can do in the city!

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