7 Things to Pack When Birding

7 Things to Pack When Birding

By Thomas Docken

1. Binoculars


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 TunesBirdTunes-full

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.


5 Obvious Signs You Are a Fisherman

5 Obvious Signs You Are a Fisherman

By Brian Long

1. You always have a rod and tackle box.


No matter what vehicle you own, it is never without a tackle box and a rod. You keep these in there for the “just in case moment” of the possibility of making it to a fishing hole on your daily routine. This might sound strange to some people but to anglers it happens more than we can admit. It’s not that we accidentally come around a shore line, but that when the weather is right we don’t want to miss a minute of fishing.

2. You have Coon Eyes.


The permanent sunglass tan lines don’t disappear even during the winter months. The people who you are around most can’t tell if you are wearing sunglasses or not.

3. Vacation is never vacation.


When you plan vacation it isn’t based locations where you will be able to relax, it is based upon fishing reports and opportunities. Really, what is the point of going somewhere else if you don’t get a chance to fish? There will be no sleeping in, no fancy suppers, and no sitting on a beach chair. Your time planning the trip will be finding your spots, researching carters, and packing gear.

4. You Can Tell a Lie.


That fish that got away? Yes it was a state record, and it was the third state record you caught that day. The fish you caught 3 years ago grows an inch every time you talk about it. You can make up anything to avoid telling someone your secret spot. You don’t care what anyone says, you couldn’t keep them of your hook a week ago in this spot.

5. The Only “Good” Pictures You Take Are Ones with Fish in Your Hands.


Snapping a picture at a wedding? You can’t get out of there quick enough. Holding a proud angler? You can’t take enough pictures. You also know the best way to hold that fish so you can say it is whatever size you want, depending on who you’re talking to. These photos are the only ones you would consider framing as well, don’t worry about your family.

Brian is an outreach naturalist at The Outdoor Campus. He coordinates our Step Outside program as well as any other outreach for outdoor education. He is also, clearly, an avid fisherman.


Parks with Paige

by Paige O’Farrell

Hiking is one of my favorite outdoor activities to do throughout the year. While I’ve always enjoyed hiking, I never really knew about the amazing hiking available in the Sioux Falls area. I thought all of the good hiking trails had to be in the mountains. However, over the past couple of years, I discovered that some of the best hiking trails are right around Sioux Falls!

Good Earth at Blood Run

Good Earth is by far my favorite place to explore around the Sioux Falls area. The park is located on the east side of Sioux Falls. The park offers a wide variety of trails that wind through forests, prairies, and riverbanks. Not only does the park draw people in for its hiking trails, but the area is filled with rich Native American history and culture. Blood Run is one of the oldest sites of human activity in the United States.


Gitchie Manitou

Gitchie Manitou is almost directly across the Big Sioux River from Good Earth. This Iowa state preserve shares much of the same Native American history as Good Earth. The preserve is the perfect place for a short walk outside. The trail is not very long, but offers gorgeous views. The shaded trail winds along the Big Sioux River and small rose quartz outcroppings. Some highlights of the preserve include an old rose quartz building and a large pond.


Blue Mounds

Blue Mounds is located in Luverne, Minnesota. The park is popular for campers, climbers, and hikers. The park is made up of a variety of different landscapes. On one hike, you can hike high above the surrounding area through the prairie, down along the edge of 100-foot quartzite cliffs, and along the Mound Creek. You’ll never run out of new sights to look at!


Newton Hills

Newton Hills is located in Canton, South Dakota. The park offers a wide range of activities such as: camping, hiking, fishing, horseback riding, and swimming. The miles of trails take you up and down the wooded hills in the park. The overlook tower is one of the highlights of the trails. The tower allows you to see down into the valley, above the tree tops.

Arrowhead Park

Arrowhead Park is on the east-side of Sioux Falls. This park is extremely popular for families. A vast majority of the trails are paved and easy to walk. The trails leads you around various quartzite ponds and through the prairie. This park is also popular with dozens of geese and ducks. Many people visit the park to feed or watch the birds.



These are just a few of the many parks around the Sioux Falls area available for people to explore. I highly recommend that everyone visit these parks. Not only do they offer amazing hiking trails, but they can also give you insight into the rich history of the area. Hopefully, this inspires you to get outside and find your park!

Paige is a naturalist intern at The Outdoor Campus. She is studying Sports, Recreation, and Park Management at South Dakota State University.

“Neature” Photography

by Abbie Blank-Libra

So, you want to take photos? Outside? Well, you’re in luck, because I have a few tips for this kind of thing! We’ll call it outdoor photography—creative, right? 🙂

Whenever I travel, I view my journey as an opportunity to capture the scenery through my camera lens. This way, I can look back at my photos and say—well, that was pretty neat!

Whether you are on vacation or taking photos of the flowers in your backyard, here are a few tips that may help you achieve the photos you are looking for!

Don’t just point and shoot! Taking a photo is similar to shooting a gun (you know, just not  as dangerous). The shooter has to take time to aim the gun, or camera in this case, at the target he or she would like to shoot. And just as with hunting, it takes practice. Most people who try hunting or shooting a gun for the first time do not hit the bulls-eye on their first attempt, and that’s okay! You don’t have to be a pro right off the bat.  Same goes for photography. As a photographer, you may not get the shot you want on the first, second, or third try! Or maybe you will and you could give me some tips!

These are the tips I have for you:

  1. Look for color! Color brings emotion into a picture, and can make it more enjoyable to look at 🙂
  2. OR: Take a photo in black and white. You may appreciate this new perspective!
  3. Find a fun texture (like bark on a tree) and get a close up.
  4. Use natural lines to lead a viewer’s eye—like a trail or a bridge.
  5. Frame your subject using the branches or leaves on a tree! The subject could be your friend, a bench across the pond, or maybe a deer in the field.
  6. Shoot from a different perspective. Lie on the ground, step on a ladder, or create an angle you may not normally see!

Now if we want to make things a bit more technical, keep reading!



Rule of Thirds (above): Rather than placing your subject straight in the middle of the photo, move it to one of the intersection points on the grid below. This makes the viewers’ eyes travel farther across the photo and gives them more of an idea of what may be surrounding your subject!


Think of it this way…

Aperture is also referred to as the f-stop. Imagine the pupil of your eye—it grows as your eye is exposed to less light. Therefore, a large f-stop lets less light in.

If your eye is exposed to bright light, the pupil becomes smaller. The smaller the f-stop, the more light it is letting in! You can see the lens in this photo acting like the pupil of an eye.


Think of it this way…

ISO is like the curtain during a play. As the curtain (ISO) gets higher, the more light you are able to see. As the curtain (ISO) gets lower, the less light you are able to see.


Think of it this way…

The shutter acts like your eyelids.  If you are blinking quickly, your eyes are letting less light in. As you slow down your eyelids, more light is able to come through.

If your photo turns out dark, it needs more light. You will have to “blink slower,” or slow down your shutter speed. And if your photo is too bright, do just the opposite!


If you made it all the way to the end of my post, way to go! I hope you learned a little something about photography, because it can become a lifelong passion! 🙂


Abbie is a recent graduate of Augustana University, currently on the lookout for a job as a teacher in the Sioux Falls area. Abbie has spent the past three summers working as a naturalist intern at The Outdoor Campus. She enjoys the archery and paddling classes the most!

What is Orienteering?

What is Orienteering?

It’s registration day for classes at The Outdoor Campus, and you come across a class titled “Orienteering.” Unless you are an outdoor expert or you have signed up for the class before, most people don’t know what orienteering is.

So what is orienteering?

According to Orienteering USA, orienteering is a competitive international sport that combines racing with navigation. It is a timed race in which individual participants use a specially created, highly detailed map to select routes and navigate through diverse and often unfamiliar terrain and visit control points in sequence.

Originally a training exercise in land navigation for military officers in Scandinavia, orienteering has developed many variations. Among these, the oldest and the most popular is so-called foot orienteering, orienteering while running or walking on foot. Typically, when people use the term orienteering, this is what they’re referring to. But now people also orienteer on skis, mountain bikes, and even in canoes!

It is essentially a big, elaborate scavenger hunt.

How is the course set up?

A standard orienteering course consists of a start, a series of control sites that are marked by circles, connected by lines and numbered in the order they are to be visited, and a finish.


The control site circles are centered on the feature that is to be found; this feature is also defined by control descriptions (sometimes called clues, a list of which you’ll receive along with your map, or printed on your map. You can see some examples of these clues in the photo above.

To verify a visit, the orienteer may use a punch hanging next to the flag to mark his or her control card. Different punches make different patterns of holes in the paper.


Hopefully this gives you a better idea of what orienteering is and maybe you will find it in you to register for one of our classes. It’s a fun way to get outside and helps kids learn how to read and follow a map. To register for our classes you can log on to our website or give us a call at 605-362-2777. (Class spots for the rest of the summer are limited. Fall registration starts August 10 at 7 a.m.)



Tips to Avoid Getting Rained Out

Tips to Avoid Getting Rained Out

By Alex Osborne

It happens to everyone at some point, you plan an exciting day outside only for it to be drizzled out by rain; it’s a buzz kill and a down right drag. Here are some tips I’ve picked up to help you predict the weather and avoid being surprised by the elements this summer.

1. Get to know the system


There are two fundamental things you need to know if you’re going to try and predict the weather; the first is that most major weather systems in North America move west to east. The second is that low pressure systems bring rain. It can be kind of difficult, but with a little practice you’ll be able to recognize the signs of a low pressure system in your area.

2. Look for feathered friends


Watch the birds. When rain is imminent, birds will fly lower to alleviate the pressure on their ears. If birds fly high in low pressure it hurts their ears. Just like when you swim too deep in a pool.

3. Red in the sky means high


A reddish tint to the sky in the west during sunset means that a high pressure system is stirring dust into the sky and that dry air is moving toward you. The opposite can be said for a red sky in the east when the sun is rising, this would indicate that the dry air is past you and that a low pressure system is moving in bringing with it the possibility of rain.

4. Check your smoke


My next tip involves one of my favorite things on a cool summer evening, fire! Chances are if you’re out camping you’ll have some logs burning. This is an easy time to try guess if rains coming or not simply by watching the smoke. Smoke that swirls, curls, and descends means low pressure and that rain is coming. During high pressure, smoke will rise steadily.

5. Look up at the clouds


My last tip for you outdoorsmen and women is to get to take the time to get to know your clouds. Not only is it a neat thing to teach the kiddos, but it will help you predict the weather too. Nimbostratus clouds mean that rain is imminent while towers of cumulus clouds are a strong indication that rain is on the way.

Those are all the tips I’ve learned over the years to try and get a jump on the rain. I hope they can help you stay dry this summer and avoid and ruined plans.

Alex is the horticulture intern for The Outdoor Campus this summer. He is currently at Dakota Wesleyan studying Wildlife Management.