Before starting, Chris van der Heijden worked for BirdLife in The Netherlands. During his birding travels through Europe, he came up with the idea for Birdingplaces: why was it so hard to get good birding info in most countries? Would it be possible to unite European birders online and create a site guide for birding in Europe? Yes, it was possible. That’s how Birdingplaces was born in 2019.

Since I entered my first site guide (for Beljarica) in the very next year, 2020, with some 50 more in the meantime, I’ll go through the typical site page. Every site guide starts with a status, from an absolute must to nice if you are nearby, followed by a 5-star system rating.

Then comes the Description of the area (e.g. habitats and birds to look out for). How detailed the description is depends largely on author’s choice and knowledge of the area, and it varies a lot among the areas and among the authors. In addition, for some sites, usually the larger reserves, Birdingplaces mostly gives you more of a general idea, while the smaller sites tend to be described in more detail.

The next field is Access. It is not clear whether it refers to getting there or to moving around within the area, so unless the second is self-explanatory, I usually explain both.

The next section is a table where an author of a site guide ticks all that apply under the following: Terrain and Habitat (e.g. Forest, Wetland, Mud flats, etc.), Conditions (e.g. Open landscape, Dusty), Circular trail (Yes/No), Is a telescope useful, Good birding season and the Best time to visit, Route (e.g. Wide path, Unpaved road), Difficulty walking trail, Accessible by (Foot, Car), Birdwatching hide / platform (Yes/No), and Links (where I usually add the eBird checklist page).

Then comes a link to a wider map, showing the nearby birding areas, followed by an embedded map of the site depicting the route and bird hides, parking, restaurant, visitor centre, etc. For driving directions or coordinates, zoom in on the map and click on the “P” (parking) sign.

Underneath the map are the photos of 5 local specialty birds, followed by a longer illustrated, but not complete checklist (usually a few dozen more attractive species). And the page ends with a photo gallery, which I mostly use to show the landscape, habitats, road conditions or significant junctions.

Of course, this site guide may be used both at home and on location. When you arrive in an area, you can open the map of the birding area you are visiting on your phone and can easily follow the set route.

On Birdingplaces you can find thousands of areas for birding Europe and the Mediterranean. If you ever wondered what the best birding spots of Europe are, go to this page , from where you can continue to top-100 single country pages. New areas are described and added every day. Some birders from outside of Europe were quick to jump the train and show the very best of their countries, so we have quite detailed coverage of birding areas in e.g. little-visited Cuba or endemics-rich Namibia, as well as the well-known New Zealand.

What is hiding in the future? I expect an exponential growth similar to that of eBird when it went global. Actually, the right move would be to incorporate these two sites, because what is missing at eBird are hotspot descriptions, how to move around and which route to take. What is missing at Birdingplaces are complete checklists and bar charts.

Personally, I have a little publishing project of my own in mind: I am using Birdingplaces to organise my writings of Where to Find Birds Around Belgrade and am looking for a publisher. If you are in a publishing business, feel free to contact me. 

Written by Dragan
Dragan Simic is obsessively passionate about two things – birding and travelling in search of birds, and that has taken him from his native Balkans to the far shores of Europe and the Mediterranean, southern Africa, India and Latin America. His 10,000 Birds blog posts were Highly Commended in the International Category of the 2015 BBC Wildlife Blogger Awards. Birder by passion and environmental scientist by education, he is an ecotourism consultant, a field researcher and a bird blogger who always thinks that birding must be better behind that next bend in the road, and that the best bird ever is – the next lifer. He tweets as @albicilla66