Observing wildlife in nature is a rewarding experience that requires little more than patience. However, investing in (or borrowing) the right equipment and following a few key tips will help make your wildlife watching excursion as successful as it can be.
Binoculars are one of the most helpful tools a wildlife watcher can have. The best all-purpose binoculars are those with power and dimensions of 7 x 35. This size gathers a lot of light, allowing for use in both the mornings and evenings. First locate the object you wish to see up close with the naked eye. Then without moving your eyes, bring the binoculars to your eyes and focus.
Keep your distance
If an animal seems nervous, back off. The goal of all wildlife watchers should be to observe nature without disturbing or altering it.The most common mistake people make is trying to get too close to wildlife. A spooked animal might become injured or killed trying to flee, or it may abandon a nest or quit feeding. Never chase a wild animal. Watch the animal’s behavior; when it returns to normal activities you are at a safe distance. Never feed wildlife.
Silence is golden
Move quietly and encourage your companions to do likewise. Not only will this lessen the wildlife disturbance, it will also you to see more wildlife. Choose a good vantage spot and sit for a while. Take in the sights, sounds and smells that this place has to offer.
Leave baby animals alone
It is fairly common to see young animals by themselves during spring. Although they may appear to be orphaned or abandoned, this is rarely the case. The parents of the young are likely standing by, just out of sight.
Do unto others…
If you arrive at a site that already has other people watching wildlife, be considerate as you approach. Slamming your car doors, talking too loudly or moving too quickly may frighten the wildlife and ruin the experience for everyone.
You must have permission from the landowner before you can enter private ground. When visiting public lands, be aware of and respect all property boundaries.
Do your homework
Prepare by glancing through field guides and reading up on the wildlife you hope to see. Knowing about the needs and behavior of animals will make spotting and identifying them easier and will also help you avoid disturbing them.
Pay attention to the time of day…
In general, animals are more active in early morning and late evenings. This is when even nocturnal animals are still active and may offer opportunities to see them.
…and to the season of the year
Many species appear during certain seasons at particular sites. Some animals hibernate while others concentrate into small wintering areas that may offer close-up opportunities for the patient viewer.
Consider the weather
What we consider bad weather may make perfect opportunities for watching some species. Some animals are more active while others may decide to stay put and wait for better weather before resuming their normal activities. Before a storm, some animals come out to feed. After a storm, when the rain stops, the skies clear and the wind dies down, many animals become very active.