How to start birdwatching in Toronto
When looking for nature and wildlife, we often think we need to plan day trips and long hikes through provincial parks and conservation areas. But, while stuck at home over the past year and a half, a lot of people have been discovering all the incredible wildlife available to them right here in the city. This has led to a newfound hobby for a lot of Torontonians: birdwatching.
As a bird researcher and lifelong bird lover, Emily Rondel has noticed this increased public interest in the hobby.
“While people were at home, they started realizing ‘oh, there are wild creatures around where I live.’ That’s pretty exciting for a lot of people because it wasn’t part of their mentality about their neighbourhood [beforehand],” she says.
Though she has worked professionally at Birds Canada in the past, Rondel now labels herself as “mostly a hobbyist birder.” She is currently the President of the Toronto Ornithological Club.
Emily Rondel was kind enough to sit down with us and give us some insight into how to make the most of birdwatching right here in Toronto.
Birdwatching is a relatively accessible hobby, Rondel says.
“The thing that’s great about it is there’s a lot of different ways of doing it. So, unlike certain hobbies where there’s kind of a right way to proceed and a wrong way to proceed, you convert in whatever way you’re comfortable with.”
Binoculars may seem like an obvious piece of equipment, but plenty of birdwatchers prefer to go without. Unfortunately, a good quality pair, which makes birdwatching much easier, can get rather pricey. Rondel recommends Celestron as a brand that makes quality, serviceable products relatively inexpensively.
But not every set of binoculars is good for birding specifically. The ones used to see across the land on a safari in Africa will be different from the ones you use to see a small bird on a branch right in front of you.
“People often think the more powerful, the better, but not really. You need a certain sweet spot of magnification,” says Rondel, explaining that for birding, the sweet spot is eight to ten magnification. Anything outside that range will either not magnify enough or will magnify too much, making it difficult to focus.
In recent years, young people have found that birdwatching with a camera is an easy and fun way to bird. “They take photos of things, go home and figure out what they saw through looking at the photographs they took,” says Rondel. It takes the pressure off identifying the bird while it’s in front of you.