By Thomas Docken
Having a good set of binoculars when birding can make a day birding more enjoyable. Most birds are skittish when humans come near. So keeping more distance between you and what bird you are looking at can increase the amount of time you can look at that bird’s characteristic. A wise individual once told me that when you buy binoculars “you get what you pay for.” Binoculars range in price from $10 to $300 any pair will work depending on the magnification and quality.
2. Bird Field ID Guide
There are many guides published that will help aid in bird identification. An idea to look for is a guide that is specific to your location. Many guides can be big and bulky having many birds from around the world making it difficult to find a bird right here in South Dakota. Another thing to look for is a guide that has pictures of male, female, and younger birds. The same species may look different depending on gender and age.
3. Bird Tunes
One thing I find helpful when you can only hear a bird and not see it is a bird song app. The app I personally use, Bird Tunes, has 674 species with different calls for what behavior is being carried out. Bird Tunes is $9.99, but there are free apps out that have songs of many birds you see in your backyard.
4. A Watch
A watch sounds like a silly item to need when birding but knowing the time of day that a bird stops at a certain location can be fun. Birds like other animals are creatures of habit and will stop at a bird feeder or sit in a tree and sing at specific times of the day. Knowing the time and location of a bird can be helpful by showing fellow birder what you had seen previously.
5. Proper Attire
When outdoors, it is always best to be prepared for the weather. You will want to judge your best attire based on what terrain you will be birding around. Such as, if you are looking for a type of bird that spends most of its time by the water consider wearing rubber boots or waders.
6. A Camera
Personally I use my camera as my binoculars so I can capture a picture of the bird at the same time. That way if I only get a glimpse of the bird I am looking at and have a picture I can look back at the picture I have taken. With so many different species of birds it is near impossible to memorize what every bird and their song is. I often take pictures of a bird I have never seen before and later refer to my field guide or the internet to identify the species.
7. Log Book
Logging any outdoor experience is good to do for future reference. Things to log about are camping trips, hikes, fishing, hunting, or birding. I log about the activities done and what other activities could have been done. I usually date and label the location the outdoor activity was done including the weather.
Thomas is a naturalist intern at The Outdoor Campus. He attends South Dakota State University as a wildlife and fisheries major. His favorite activities are hunting, fishing and birding.