Discovering the zoo in your backyard

This week's blogger Vince (student Environmental Sciences) writes about why bird-spotting is not what you think it is.

In these Corona times, we are all a bit more on ourselves. There is less space to see friends, but there is more space to explore activities by yourself. You discover activities that you thought you would never do before Corona times. There are people who were drinking 6 times a week and are now knitting together (maybe with some drinks) and there are people who loose themselves in gaming. There are people who do chores for those in need and there are people who are in contact with grandma's and grandpa's far more often than before. For me, one of these discoveries has been bird watching. Before corona, I had paid little attention to birds, especially birds in the Netherlands. I would have said that bird watchers are retired people, biologists and other strange creatures. However, now, I am becoming one myself. I don't even really know how it started, but one day I decided that I was going to learn more about birds, that I was going to go out and look for birds and that I was going to recognize them by sounds, movement, behavior and appearance.

Since then, I have discovered that there are so many different and special birds in the Netherlands and a whole new world opened for me. I have gone out many times during sunrises to look for common linnets (they are on the red list and they are in Wageningen) and I have stayed many sunsets around the Uiterwaarden to look for the bluetroat. The surroundings of Wageningen are amazing for bird watching. Go on an early morning into the Uiterwaarden, bring your binoculars and discover birds or go into the Arboretum and wait in a spot hidden between some trees and bushes for birds to come by. There is the forest and the heathlands, with different bird species everywhere. I was surprised by the amazing variety and colors of the birds around Wageningen and I think this hobby has settled now and will continue far beyond Corona times.

Walking around the Uiterwaarden during the sunrise with no one around is beautiful and gives me a sense of peace. Going out and do nothing except from walking around in nature and looking through your binoculars makes me very relaxed and makes me appreciate the beauty of what's around us. Corona isn't fun, but it gives you time to discover new things about yourself and the world around you. Things that you never knew you about yourself and which give you satisfaction. This reinvention can be positive and I think that this positivity is what we have to focus on in times like these and take it with us when everything goes back to normal.

Some general tips for bird-spotting:

  • Go out during sunrise and sunset, especially during sunrise. This might be early for you, but this is when birds wake up and when they will start looking for food
  • Always take your binoculars​
  • Buy a pocketbook about birds, pick one which has not only pictures. Although this is appealing, the same bird can look very different at different times of the year and there are always differences between males and females.
  • Good places: anywhere in the Uiterwaarden, the Arboretum, the Blaauwe Kamer, the forests around Wageningen, Wageningse Berg. Different bird species are attracted to different habitats, take this into account when you go out.​
  • Apps to download for recognizing birds (for Android, but check the Itunes store for Apple): Tuinvogels, Vogels, Birds of Europe. 

Do you have a unique, fun or exciting hobby you would like to share with us and the rest of the WUR community? Send an e-mail to with a short story and some photos and maybe you will be featured on this page!