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 64 of 67

material. At a stop on the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail, listed as a good place for Painted Buntings, I was told by a knowledgeable ranger, "We haven't seen a bunting here in over a decade." More importantly (if you bird alone), the stops may not have been vetted for safety. Twice, at sanctioned birding trail sites, I felt uncomfortable and retreated to my locked car. Plan on Paper Birding trail brochures are great supplemental information, mostly for their driving directions, but to fnd the really birdy locations, order an ABA Birdfnding Guide . Each detailed guide is written by experts from the area who provide detailed maps, instructions, and tips to fnd specifc birds. The paper format is excellent for advance route planning and doubles as a stand-alone backup. Reports from eBird are great…unless you stray into areas with no mobile data coverage. Just as a DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer is an important supplement to a car GPS, a Birdfnding Guide will save your trip if—or rather, when— your mobile device goes dead. Pack Digital Resources Depending on your birding geography, you may not need to pack heavy paper feld guides. Today, many feld guides are available as smartphone or tablet apps, letting you pack more optics and snacks. (For a discussion of the transition to eguides, see "eGuide Me: Birding Without Paper Field Guides", Birding, September 2012, pp. 54-59.) If you're already familiar with a paper guide, such as The Sibley Guide to Birds or National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, then it's best to frst transition to that guide's digital version. Both of these apps are excellent, although I fnd the Sibley app more streamlined and easier to use in the feld. The Peterson Birds of North America app is best for comparing plates of species, and benefts from the larger screen of an iPad or iPad mini. Locate the Best Habitat Finding birds in a new geographical area means fnding the best habitat. Of course, "best habitat" depends on your target species. If Shiny Cowbird is on your wish list, you may have to excuse yourself from the family reunion for a stop at the Piney Acres Mobile Home Park. The listservs will help you with that. If you only have a short time, and want to see a large number of species, then you want a place designed—or, in the parlance, managed—for wildlife. That means a wildlife management area (WMA) or national wildlife refuge (NWR). Nothing beats a WMA or NWR for one-stop birding. These lands are specifcally managed to attract wildlife, creating diverse habitats with ample food supplies. Sure, Fulvous Whistling-Ducks sometimes show up in residential ponds—but you're much more likely to fnd them by heading straight to a food-rich waterfowl management area. In addition, most WMAs and NWRs have several-mile auto tours that maximize accessibility. These specially designed routes let you effciently cover a lot of area, with premium views and habitats, all without worrying about local risks such as snakes or ticks. If you're visiting a coastal area, don't forget to plan ahead using tide tables. An app such as AyeTides makes it easy to schedule a shorebird hotspot for a low tide, or even better a falling tide, which keeps the shorebirds closer as they feed on the newly-exposed mudfats. If you really want to experience birds of a new area, try a campground for a night or two, particularly during spring to midsummer. Seriously! By "living outdoors" you increase your birding time and up the odds on those elusive nightjars and owls. Rent an RV, pack a tent, or toss a sleeping bag into a car big enough to use as a minimalist camper. You may not sleep much that night, listening to all the nocturnal sounds, but it's a performance capped off by the dawn chorus. to see them, you may want to explore a new way to keep track of them. Without diminishing the value of an old-fashioned feld notebook, there are several excellent digital options to keep your tallies and notes on a mobile device. Lifebirds Journal and Birdwatcher's Diary are two apps for recording sightings in the feld. And if you use eBird, the BirdLog app is a big time-saver, letting you upload your sightings directly from your smartphone . For photographers, a camera geo-tagger is a great way to keep track of what you saw while on a whirlwind birding tour. If you use a Canon or Nikon DSLR body, both companies sell a tiny GPS accessory device, for about $200, that connects to the camera's hot shoe. This tiny gizmo automatically records the precise time, latitude, longitude, and altitude into each photo's EXIF fle. Many of the newest generation of point-and-shoot ultra-zooms also include a built-in GPS receiver. By geo-tagging all your shots, you'll never forget where you saw that Clark's Nutcracker or Yellow-billed Magpie. Tally Ho! For most of us, traveling to a new birding spot is a treasured opportunity: time off from home obligations or business meetings when you can immerse yourself in new bird sightings, behaviors, and sounds. By organizing your travel with a little upfront work, and adding a few lightweight digital resources, you can maximize that precious time in the feld. ABA's Birding News is a new aggregator site for one-stop browsing of all the birding listservs. Record Your Finds Given all the new birds you'll see, and the new digital tools you'll be using August 2013 | Birder's Guide to Travel 63

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