Birdwatching for Beginners
South Padre Island is a prime destination for enjoying wild life, especially birdwatching. The natural marshes, dune meadows and intertidal flats combine to make a unique habitat that draws wildlife of all kinds. This unique habitat also provides the opportunity to see some rare birds. Head to SPI’s Birding Center to watch beautiful bird species and take advantage of these tips to make the most of your birding experience.
1. Get a Guide
A guide book will help you know what type of birds to expect and what species of bird you’re looking at. This list by the World Birding Center is a good start, although it does not have photos. If you really want to get into the birding game, try the Peterson Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America or the Sibley Guide to Birds.
You can easily spot birds from the birding center’s walkways, but to get the best views, rent or buy a pair of binoculars. The birding center has binoculars available to rent for $8 each. If you opt to buy, be ready to shell out for a nice pair. Binoculars quickly run up into the $1000 price point, but a good pair is worth the investment. For a birder’s take on what makes a good pair of binoculars, read this guide.
3. Dress Appropriately
The weather on SPi is mild year-round, but you still need to protect yourself from the sun. Wear sunblock, a hat and sunglasses. Make sure your shoes are comfortable for long periods of walking and standing and in late fall, winter and early spring, dress in layers.
4. Ask Questions
The workers and volunteers at the birding center know the land and the birds. They’re a great resource for questions about where specific bird species tend to live and what is around during certain times of the year. The Birding and Nature Center also has a guided tour every morning at 9:30a.m.
5. Capturing the Moment
Photographing wildlife is not easy, especially birds, not least because they can fly away. In bright, daytime lighting, your phone will do a decent job. Choose subjects that are close to you and aren’t moving.
There are a few things you can do if you have a camera and want to try a little wildlife photography. Choose a high shutter speed to help clearly freeze a bird’s movement and if possible, use a telephoto lens. You can’t exactly stick a camera in a bird’s face, so have patience and move slowly. Check your photos as you take them to make sure they’re not too dark or overexposed. Finally, make sure your phone is on silent mode. You don’t want a sudden noise ruining the perfect shot.
Even if you’ve never been birdwatching before, you’re bound to see some beautiful birds on South Padre Island.