As an exercise, write down the different birds you can think of. If you've never done this, you may be surprised at how many there are. You may not know all the correct names but with a little research this can be done easily on the internet. Some of these may be daily visitors and others could be just passing through. Still others may nest in your region.
My husband and I both enjoy bird watching, we aren't fanatical about it but it is a past time we enjoyed in the UK and now here in Brazil.
Bird watching is a very popular activity globally and if you can get a sufficient quantity of birds into your area, you could be sitting on a money earner and not even be aware of it. I just Googled the term bird watching and that produced nearly 6 million pages. I think this tells you that this is indeed a popular past time for many people and well worth looking into to generate extra cash for your small farm.
ATTRACTING birds to Your small farm or homestead
Firstly, you are going to need birds. (this is a given but for those who were only scanning the first paragraph, I thought I'd mention it again.) The more bird species you can record the better. Where I live in Brazil, we have seen well over 120 different types. Some of these are common birds such as doves ( of which we have 3 types). We also have eagles, hawks and members of the egret family to name but a few.
Keeping a record, may seem time consuming but it will be beneficial if the birdwatchers want to know which birds they are likely to see at a given time of year.
Birdwatchers vary in their equipment of choice. Some people prefer a birding scope, others like binoculars and there are still others who only use a camera with a long lens. Catering to all of them needn't be difficult and they bring their own equipment.
Making Bird Hides
For your farm, hides don't need to be elaborate. Here on our farm we have reused old fishing cages. They are essentially just a large box which is open on one side. We have two, one which is made from plastic pipes and plastic mesh and the other is made of wooden slats and plastic netting.
By using this durable plastic netting, this makes the hide, airy, and lightweight. We put a green plastic chair in ours and a dark green camouflage net at the back so the birds can't see any movement inside. Ours are 2m X 3m. This provides ample space to sit down and use a tripod.
We attach palm leaves to the sides to disguise it so, although the birds know it is something new, they get use to it.
The key is to make a hide which is user friendly. It is likely you have items on your farm which could be reused or upcycled, as they say. Just remember it needs to be dark at the back.
Next to our house we have an area of scrub land which has shrubs, trees and is basically left to grow. This is a haven for bird life and other animals. We simply put up a camo net on the fence and made a few viewing points where we have noticed birds often sit.
For photographic purposes, we have also removed any small branches which would have blocked us getting a good shot.
Although the birds will take a while to become accustom to this new addition, it won't be long before they will accept it.
My husband comes up with some ingenious ways of tricking the birds. Here's a picture of a coconut on our wall. Can you guess why it's there?
This is to allow my husband to creep forward and lay down at the wall to photograph birds at the shore line. He is balding so a coconut looks the same as his head.
Paths and Walkways
Sometimes the visitors, although bird lovers, have no clue about life on a farm. You don't want them to climb into a field with a frisky bull, now do you? Moreover, if they don't stay where you have decided the best viewing spot is, they could in fact, frighten the birds. This will not only annoy other birdwatchers, but it could take some time for the birds to return.
The paths don't need to be anything fancy, just mowed with maybe a few markers to give direction.
Also depending on the size of your farm, you could provide a brochure with a map of the hides and perhaps even a key to which birds are seen at which location.
Provide water for them. This can be a bird bath to a lake. All birds need water to drink and many also use it to clean and some use it to feed themselves.
Here on our farm we have lakes. These attract many types of birds including 3 types of egrets, herons, limpkin, snail kites, moorhens, wattled jacanas, southern lapwings, grebes, ducks, stilts, sandpipers, 3 types of kingfishers and water tyrannts. Those are just the ones who are always eating or near the lake. Still others will wash and drink. We even have many including the kisskadee and tropical king bird which swoop down for a drink or to eat an unfortunate insect which has landed on the water.
The wider variety of trees you have the better. Check with your local bird groups (or online) for specific recommendations regarding the ideal nesting environment for birds which frequent your location. Different birds prefer not only different trees but also different heights. For example, the hummingbirds here on our farm, prefer the cashew trees and are always about 7 feet from the ground. Their choice of nesting material is the seeds from the reeds or cattails.
Once you start noticing the birds in your area, you too will discover things such as these. All of these little details can be used to promote your small farm as a bird reserve or an area for bird watching.
Some of the bird reserves I have been to feed the birds with bird seed. Then, they have benches near-by for people to sit and watch. Although this is okay, it isn't birds in their natural habitat which more purest birdwatchers want to see. Be that as it may, it does attract a wide variety of birds depending on what type of seeds are provided. If you live in an area which gets snow, feeding the birds is something which could be saving them as food is scarce at that time of year for them.
How to attract birdwatchers
Advertising doesn't have to be expensive, in fact some of it may be free. Put up notices in public places, you'll be surprised at just how many people there are who enjoy bird watching, especially if they don't have to travel far to see them.
Beyond your local area, begin posting on forums about birds. Asking questions from more experience bird enthusiasts will get you and you homestead noticed. Mention the birds you have and what you are trying to do. Although some forums can have some real ''jerks" on them, steer clear of the trolls and keep your main objective in focus. That is using the forum as a place to advertise and get your small farm known as a great place to see birds.
Go to your local schools and tell them what you are doing, they may add this to a field trip list. Once you peak the interest of kids, the adults are usually easy.
Go to your library and explain what you are doing, get them on board and suggest giving a brief talk about birds and/or bird watching.
Blog or Website
This will tie in nicely with other activities on your farm. If you don't have time for blogging daily, do a weekly round up of activities related to the birds seen during the week.
These are methods to get your farm found but how do you make money from them.
People will pay to enter. This can be a daily, monthly or yearly fee. Having a small area, even if it is just a kiosk serving refreshments is a good idea with a few picnic tables or somewhere for them to sit.
If you can provide accommodation, bird watchers are easy to please guests as they just want to see birds.
If you have any unusual birds or any which are in reduced numbers, you are likely to get a good turnout of people.
It is a sustainable business which you can grow with little capital but a willingness to learn and promote.