Birder's Guide

AUG 2013

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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check with your operator.) Sea water can splash onto the deck, making waterproof footwear the most practical option. And don't forget sunscreen—at sea, the sun refects off the water, meaning that you could get a sunburn on the bottom of your nose! FOOD AND DRINK • On some larger vessels, it is possible to order food from the kitchen, or galley. Menus can range from greasy hamburgers to freshly cooked tuna. On smaller vessels without a galley, you will need to bring your own food and drink. The operator will let you know. In any case, it is always good to keep something in your stomach, as an empty stomach will betray you with nausea! Pretzels or crackers stuffed in your pocket can come in handy for a fast snack. Carbonated beverages are also good. Beverages with screw tops are best to prevent spillage on a rocking boat. Snack on small amounts at a time that you can throw overboard in a pinch. You won't want to have your hands full of food when that lifer White-faced Storm-Petrel zips by the boat! STUDYING UP • Learn the best time of year for seabirds in the region you visit. Check the operator's website or blog for past trip reports or a printable checklist. The most recent new feld guide, Petrels, Albatrosses, and Storm-Petrels of North America: A Photographic Guide, by Steve N. G. Howell is highly recommended. As with land birding, knowing which species you might see at a given time of year can be the best preparation, especially with seabirds. the sighted birds are announced, although leaders usually have suffcient voice to get the word out. Many leaders coordinate among themselves and the captain with family radios or headsets. Chumming, the practice of baiting the water with fsh, popcorn, and/or fsh oil, is typically used to draw seabirds nearer to the boat. Often, the boat will make stops, which allows these wake followers to catch up so that birders have closer views. Don't forget the non-avian animals! Stops for whales, dolphins, ocean sunfsh, or sea turtles could be part of the day, too. Seabirds are drawn to feeding marine mammals, so these stops can lead to some of the most productive seabirding of the trip. OPTICS AND CAMERAS • Obviously, you'll want to bring your binoculars. Many birders prefer to use lowerpowered optics because of the movement of the vessel, as well as the seabirds. It is always a good idea to bring a handkerchief or lens cloth to wipe seaspray off your lenses. Spotting scopes are fairly useless on a small vessel, and are often not permitted at all. If you have a camera, bring it. Even a small point-and-shoot can capture an albatross sitting on the water a few feet from the stern. Larger lenses are becoming common on pelagic trips. Be sure to bring protection from spray for such equipment. SEASICKNESS • For most people, seasickness is the biggest concern on pelagic trips. It can be prevented for the vast majority of people simply by following this simple advice: Get a good night's sleep prior to your day at sea. Visit the dock the day prior, so that you know the location in advance. Fumbling around the morning of the trip causes anxiety, which will make you more tense on board. Avoid alcohol the night before the trip. Avoid using any colognes or perfumes. Absolutely do not skip breakfast, but do not eat greasy food. A full stomach is best. Take seasick medication at least an hour prior to boarding, or whatever the product label recommends. If using the Scopolamine patch, try it at home frst. It makes some people dizzy, so it may not be for you! Do not use it on a boat trip if you experience this. The morning of the trip, go easy on coffee and other liquids so that you don't have to use the head regularly. Once on board, stay out on deck in the middle of the ship, focusing on the horizon, with fresh air in your face. Avoid the front of the ship, or bow, which gets the most movement. Ask others to get your food or drinks from inside the cabin, if you do not feel well. Eat your pocket snacks. Do not read, including your feld guide, while on board. In fact, doing anything complicated with your hands that requires looking down and away from the horizon for an extended period is not a good idea. This includes fipping through your pictures on the back of your cam- HELPING SEABIRDS SURVIVE Seabirds are becoming increasingly threatened, and at a fast- TYPICAL TRIP • Most trips last for a day, although a few are overnight. Typically, the trip organizer greets folks at the dock and gives an introductory talk before the boat leaves the harbor. The organizer usually introduces the leaders, points out the location of the head, describes the "dos and don'ts" of the trip, and provides safety instructions. Some trips do not allow smoking, for instance. Most vessels have a public address system over which er rate globally than all other groups of birds. From the Ashy Storm-Petrel, endemic to of the California Current, to the oldgrowth-forest-nesting Marbled Murrelet, seabirds are facing declines due to a variety of impacts on both their breeding and feeding grounds. Learn more about the issues they face and ways you can help them at these organizations' websites: American Bird Conservancy , Island Conservation , and Oikonos . August 2013 | Birder's Guide to Travel 49

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