Birder's Guide

DEC 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 37 of 51

Warming Up to Winter Birding W inter birding is exhilarating. Some birders move south for the winter, in search of a warmer climate, perhaps not coincidentally in the path of south- bound bird migration. Other northern birders stay put in hopes of seeing an Arcticnesting bird as it overwinters near the areas they call home. And some birders even head north, aiming to meet up with these hardy birds of frozen shores, forests, and felds. No matter how thrilling winter birding can be, all it takes is a set of numb fngers or a shivery core to put a wet blanket on the experience. Staying warm on bitter cold winter days can be a challenge, but there are methods to staying warm. "Bitter cold" is a relative term. To some, a mild winter day of 20°F is frightening. Personally, I break out the shorts on days when the air is near its freezing point in late winter to enjoy watching early spring raptors moving overhead on southerly breezes. Having spent the past 11 winters along the western tip of Lake Superior, I've found some tricks for keeping cozy and warm on even those coldest winter days. Throughout the past several years of leading birding trips throughout northern Minnesota, there have been many times when birders and I met up on a morning with temperatures near -20°F Those bitter cold days produced some . spectacular birds and sparked some warm and amazing memories. Winter birding is about being in the moment with the birds. When you stay warm, you realize how to survive and stay well in the coldest conditions; and, by doing so, you connect with the birds that spend their winters coping with these dangerously cold conditions, day after day. Base Layer: Synthetic and Wool Surviving winter birding starts at the core. The clothing layer that touches your skin can make or break your experience. A lightweight, long-sleeved/long-legged set of long underwear is an important base layer. Different clothing materials can alter the warmth and comfort that you experience. One of the most commonly available materials is synthetic fabric, which often has a polyester base. These synthetic materials are great for insulation. The fbers trap air and keep it close to the skin. Contained air = insulation. There is a catch, though. Synthetics do not breathe well and can cause your skin to become clammy throughout the course of a long day. Another factor to consider is the duration of your outdoor birding experience. If you're planning to be on the road for several days or weeks, synthetics will expose another weakness; they will develop an odor after several uses. Hand washing them on the road is always Photo © by Alvin Burrows 36 Birder's Guide to Gear | December 2013

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