When you take a day trip to the field for birding, there are a few essentials you should pack in your backpack. This list can vary a little depending on where and when you are, but with these 10 items, you will never be unprepared.
One of the significant advantages of bird watching is its simplicity. There are no set rules or minimum requirements to be met. What really matters is spending some pleasant time outdoors. So, when comparing birding with other hobbies, its simplicity is further emphasised because very little equipment is needed, and the cost is much more affordable. Nevertheless, there are a few items essential for a birdwatcher to have in the field.
Here’s the list of things we suggest you always have with you:
1. Field Guide
No matter how simple or complex it might be, a field guide is the handiest tool for a birdwatcher. Therefore, you must have and carry one when you go outside for some birdwatching.
These books have bird descriptions, illustrations and, most of the time, maps of distribution for a specific country, continent or region. Particularly for beginners, the information and illustrations are crucial for field identification. That makes field guides indispensable for new birders.
Yet, even when you become comfortable with bird identification, you will regret it every time you leave it at home.
Field books are the birdwatchers’ best friends, and soon you will find yourself with entire collections of them at home!
Even though it is possible to birdwatch without them, binoculars are essential for a fulfilled birding experience. After all, that’s the only way we can get the birds closer to us.
You don’t need to have an expensive pair of binoculars. Particularly, if you are a beginner, you can start by borrowing a pair from a friend or second-hand deals.
3. Journal (or notebook) and pen
Birders commonly disregard field journals and notebooks. However, we don’t consider that the cleverest of the choices. A field journal, or if you prefer, a notebook, is a very useful tool to record your observations. We tend to trust in our descriptive memory, but there isn’t anything better than writing (or drawing) down what we are seeing. That way, we can then calmly compare what we register with the information on the field guide and get a more accurate identification.
Field journals are particularly important to beginners. They are an excellent way to learn about bird identification, as they “force” the birder to pay attention to the details of the birds. Thus, allowing them to learn faster about the differences between species.
4. Water and Snacks
Never leave without water. That’s a must! Also, consider taking some snacks too. Something like a sandwich, a piece of fruit, or a cereal bar will do perfectly. You never know how the day or experience will turn out, even if you had planned to spend only half a day outside. Believe us, if the day gets interesting, you can easily lose track of time.
5. Hat and sunscreen
Let’s face it. Health comes first. You are going outdoors, so you are likely to spend several hours exposed to the sun. Thus, a hat is an essential accessory for preventing health problems. Which also applies to sunny days in winter.
6. Other extras
Taking health into account, we consider a few more items like insect repellents, a small 1st AID kit or sunglasses important to prevent health problems. If in winter, instead, you might want to take with you a winter hat, some gloves or a scarf.
Moreover, birdwatching is not exclusive to spring and summer. So, a rain jack can come in handy too.
More than any other item on your list, these will indeed depend on where and when you are birding. Also, these extras are slightly more related to personal preferences.
7. Good shoes and comfortable clothes
Well, we know that these are things you are not actually carrying in your backpack and rather wearing. However, we want to emphasise their importance for a pleasant experience outdoors.
Nevertheless, carrying an extra pair of socks doesn’t hurt anyone, and you never know when you might need them.
Apart from the items above, there are a few more that you can take with you. The following items are not vital tools for birdwatching but will definitely make it easier. If you are a beginner, everything you have read so far is more than enough for you to enjoy this new hobby.
A camera is a handy extra gear to add to your backpack. But, that doesn’t mean that you have to buy one right away. In case you have a camera with a good zoom, feel free to take it with you. But if you don’t have a camera, that purchase can wait.
One of the advantages of a camera is that it allows you to analyse the species you spot, giving you more time and detail to make an accurate identification. However, the opposite is also true, i.e., a photo can also give you misleading information. That’s another reason for giving priority to field journals.
9. Telescope & tripod
Here’s a piece of equipment that you might be tempted to buy as soon as you start going outside and see other birders using it.
A scope is difficult to resist and is indeed an incredible help, but not an essential one. And definitely not for a beginner. First of all, you have to start as basic as possible, focusing on studying guides and practising in the field, getting familiar with the common species and basic identification techniques.
10. Voice recorder
Finally, another gear that you might consider taking with you is a voice recorder. You can use it to record the sound of a bird and study it later at home. Yet, keep in mind, this is a completely different level of identification and, therefore, might be too advanced to consider at a beginner level.
On the other hand, nowadays, any smartphone can replace a voice recorder, so its purchase might not be necessary at all.
Either way, no matter the device you use, it is important to mention that you must not use it to attract birds.
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