by Ken Lawless
Birdwatching is one of America's most popular outdoor activities. Those of us who love birds, have watched birds, in our back yards or at the local parks, raise and support their families. But every so often we have the urge to escape beyond these confinements and go out into the wild to watch birds in their native habitats.
If you haven't been on a bird watching outing before, the following tips will give you a good basic foundation of necessities you will need in order to best enjoy your time in the outdoors.
Often you will hear a bird before you see it. Learning to bird by ear is an important part of becoming a good bird watcher. The more time you spend in the field watching birds, the better you will become at learning to recognize the different mating calls and vocalizations made by your favorite birds. To hone up on your skills you can actually purchase CD recordings of the bird calls of literally thousands of birds. Use these to practice identifying different species by their songs and sounds.
Knowing the types of shelter and trees that your bird species prefer is the second key to finding their nests and setting up your stakeout. Some prefer to build their nests close to the ground, while others will find the topmost branches of a tree to build their home.
To have the best chance of spotting your bird species, it's important to know what times of the day it tends to feed. Most species prefer to start their foraging just before sunrise and will continue up to noon. Some, however, prefer later in the day and you'll find them just becoming active before sunset.
The most necessary piece of equipment you'll need is a spotting scope with a tripod. A regular telescope won't do. You need one with the proper level of magnification. As birding as become more and more popular, it's become easier to find many brands of birding binoculars made specifically for bird watchers.
Other Birding Necessities
To be prepared to spend the day outdoors with your bird friends, you'll need the following minimum supplies:
- A sunscreen of at least 15 SPF. This will provide moderate protection from the sun. For extended periods of time, go for an SPF of 30+.
- Water. You lose lots of water while hiking which can lead to dehydration. Take a canteen or bottled water. Drink lots of water before you start your hike and take periodic sips along the way.
- Insect repellant. For the best possible protection against mosquitoes and other insects, you should apply the insect repellant to both your skin and your clothing, according to the label instructions.
- Footwear. You'll be doing lots of walking and hiking and you'll want the most comfortable boots possible. In addition, if there's the possibility that you will be trekking through marsh or extremely damp conditions, you should take along a pair of knee-high rubber boots.
- Rain gear. Weather conditions can change quickly so you want to be prepared for possible rainfalls. A lightweight, waterproof, breathable piece of rainwear could be indispensable.
- Snacks. These are for you, not the birds. Take along some high energy store bought or home made granola bars, fruits, and nuts and you'll be good to go.
If you survive and enjoy your first outing and feel that you'll definitely be doing this again, then the manufactures of birding supplies will love you as you will undoubtedly be back in their stores to buy cameras, recorders, and other hight priced items in preparation for your next trip.
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