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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Page 61 of 67

Bird Like a Local: Tech Tips for Travel " theme of this article is to emphasize digital tools and internet resources that let us travel light, yet informed and well-equipped. 60 " C " hance favors the prepared mind," advised photographer Ansel Adams. The same holds for birding: Good travel birders don't stumble across great birds; they prepare ahead and adjust the odds in their favor. One strategy for fnding good birds in unfamiliar locales is to join a birding festival, where experienced guides choose the locations and show you the birds. There are now scores of these gatherings, ranging from big events such as the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival to smaller, focused gatherings such as the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Festival . The ABA maintains an interactive website where you can search festivals by country, state, and month . But if you can't time your travel for a festival—or if your idea of memorable birding doesn't start with piling into a van with a dozen strangers—you can go it alone. Here are some strategies for how to bird like a local in unfamiliar places. Given that the days of steamer trunks are gone, replaced by airline luggage restrictions and the confnes of a fuel-effcient Prius trunk, I assume you'll want to pack light. So one theme of this article is to emphasize digital tools and internet resources that let us travel light, yet informed and well-equipped. (For general tips on packing light, be sure to check out Alan Knue's article on p. 56). Perhaps you already own a smartphone such as an iPhone or Galaxy, or a tablet such as an iPad or Nook. These gizmos are worth their weight in gold circuitry when it comes to replacing feld guides, reference books, feld recorders, and notebooks. If you're thinking about buying a mobile device, note that there are more app choices for iOS (as in Apple's iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad) than for Android devices. Because of market forces related to developer tools and monetary incentives, this is unlikely to change in the immediate future. Within the iOS family, I prefer Birder's Guide to Travel | August 2013 my iPhone in the feld, tolerating its tiny screen for the portability. But the new iPad mini is an excellent compromise for those who prefer more screen view. Lurk on Listservs Listservs, or electronic mailing lists, have transformed travel birding. Now that many conversations among birders take place in a public internet forum, you can listen in and learn what birds are being seen where and when. It's like having a team of virtual birding guides working for you—for free! The best source for locating a birding listserv is ABA's new Birding News , which lets you read a listserv's recent posts and archives without subscribing. If you do opt to subscribe directly, sign up at least a month ahead, opting for "digest form" so you receive a daily consolidated email message. At this point you are "lurking"—watching rather than participating—to get a sense for what others are seeing and for what is common and unusual to the area. Depending on your travel region, you may need to sign up for more than one listserv, particularly in a large state such as California or Texas. Listservs are costless, and listening is learning, so it's worthwhile signing up for all that are relevant. Post an RFI In addition to lurking on a listserv, you can actively post a query, or RFI ("Request For Information"). Posts should include the acronym RFI in the subject line, such as "RFI—Rosy-faced Lovebirds in Phoenix". Be sure to sign the bottom of your post with your full name, city, and state. RFIs are acceptable when not abused. Every person on the listserv (potentially thousands of birders) receives your question in their email inbox, so post your RFIs judiciously. Too often an RFI includes a visiting birder's list of their 127 mostwanted birds, including common species that can be seen at any ftting habitat. How

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