Happy as a lark: DIY connecting with our feathered friends

Hearing the birds chirp and chatter in the spring, when the wind dies down long enough, brings me a sense of well-being. If the birds are having a good tweet, then I figure all must be well. Spotting a hawk, finding a hidden nest or seeing your first hummingbird of the season can make the day feel a little more special.

I've never considered myself a bird watcher, or birder, but recently I took a second look at the birds and I have to admit that I am intrigued. In fact, I might just start binge watching. Taos is home to so many different kinds! Some are permanent residents while others come and go with the seasons. It's a wild mix of international and domestic travelers, unique local varieties as well as endangered species.

But it's not just the birds that have attracted my attention, it's also those who have flocked together in appreciation and support of birds.

Birding groups provide a variety of resources that are as diverse as the birds themselves: kid friendly smartphone apps that help learn about and identify birds; opportunities to participate in community science; live eagle cams; local birding forums and more.

Birdwatching offers an instantaneous connection with nature, a diverse community to engage with and a genuine opportunity to help local ecosystems through community science.

Wow, I knew birdwatching was a thing, but feeling a sense of peace and belonging while helping the earth? And all I have to do is sit there and check out the birds? What kind of superpower is this?! Okay, I'm in.

One thing I really appreciate about birding is that it can be as simple as just sitting and watching birds or can go as far as contributing to bird counting data that helps provide protections for national and local wildlands.

A good pair of binoculars or a smartphone camera can aid in seeing details that help to identify birds, but they aren't necessary to enjoy birds. Getting started is as easy as looking out the window, sitting on the porch or, if possible, taking a trip to a local park to watch.

Learning to observe goes beyond science. It instructs us about focus, patience and the happenings in the world around us. Teaching kids to make observations is an invaluable life skill and can be naturally inspired by birdwatching.

If you want to learn to identify the birds you are seeing, Merlin Bird ID app is a great place to start. It's FREE, kid friendly, and aids community science efforts directly. Kids can look up bird photos and birdsong samples, upload a picture of a bird to help identify it and use the app offline. Identifying a bird is a fun challenge and can be quite satisfying too.

Another way to learn more about the 500 (wow!) types of birds in our state is by exploring the interactive birding maps on the New Mexico True website. There are also birding field-guide books for identifying birds. Kids can make their own birding field guide scrapbook-style from their own observations.

One online birding treasure a friend told me about is the Big Bear Bald Eagle Cam. You can view a nest of two bald eagles 24 hours a day. It's mesmerizing! My whole family likes to check in on the birds regularly.

On a local level, Taos Land Trust is introducing bird watching and community science as they actively work on bird conservation. Bird conservation helps everyone by preserving our local wildlands. They offer a series of free videos created from workshops given by local bird expert Robert Templeton that provide amazing birding information. Check out their website to learn more.

Life over the last year has been a special kind of stressful, and finding a simple, family friendly activity that allows for sitting and being in the moment has been a huge bonus. Birds are a part of our everyday landscape in New Mexico and birding is an activity that creates connection while offering an accessible pathway to positive action and good feelings.

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