AllCampgrounds Nature-Watching Series: Getting Started in Bird Watching

June 21, 2010
Filed under: Nature Tags: ,
The American bald eagle, a “rite of passage” for many bird watchers

The American bald eagle, a “rite of passage” for many bird watchers
Photo by: Rob Sylvan (Stock Exchange)

A while back on AllCampgrounds, we got started with a great new series where we’ll show you just where to go to enjoy some of nature’s most spectacular creatures while you enjoy your tent camping or RV camping vacations. We got started with some of the top camp grounds in the nation for seeing bald eagles and other rare and amazing birds, but there’s just one thing missing: a guide to getting started in this fascinating hobby. After all, everybody should be in on the fun. So, we’re going to talk Birding 101 today.

Basic Equipment for Beginning Birders

Virtually all campsites have some bird population, but if you’ve ever tried to “sneak up” on one, regardless of species, you know that getting a good look can be tricky. Some basic equipment and skills can go a long way toward enjoying your birding trek. The first thing you’re going to need is a strong pair of binoculars, and in this case, a good, long-term investment often beats out a bargain. You’ll need to be able to see your quarry clearly from hundreds of feet away, and they have the advantage of flight – low-end binoculars are tempting, but not if you can’t make out the birds!

The other thing you’ll need to get started is a printed field guide to the local birds. Some of the camp grounds we showcased before do offer detailed descriptions and photographs of nearby species, along with their habitat and dietary preferences; but if you plan to identify your finds, you’ll need to carry a birding guide with you out in the great outdoors. A good birding guide will also offer tips to finding the notable birds in your area, state, or region, with full-color illustrations so you know just what you’re looking at. Some smartphone applications can simulate this, but full-sized pictures are best.

Optional equipment includes a bird call – one that sounds like the birds who live in the area, naturally – and a rough-and-ready camera suitable for outdoor photography. Luckily, camera technology is so advanced these days that you probably won’t have to spend too much to get good shots of birds who are relatively close by. There are even some disposable cameras that do pretty good work in full daylight conditions (but forget about night photography or action shots if you go that route.)

Bird Watching Organizations to Help You Get Started

All campsites known for bird watching are bound to have some helpful information for beginners. But if you’re eager to go camping quick and get started right away, consider joining a bird watching organization. These are stacked top to bottom with eager enthusiasts who are always happy to share their hard-won knowledge with newcomers, and professional bird researchers are often involved. Try the American Birding Association, Association of Field Ornithologists, or the National Audubon Society.

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