Birder's Guide

MAR 2014

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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70 Birder's Guide to Travel | March 2014 70 Birder's Guide to Travel | March 2014 espite that introduction, if you've never taken a pelagic birding trip, you're missing out on one of the most incredible feld trips you'll ever experience. Nothing on land compares to watching the globe-trotting birds of the open ocean as they ride the air tur- bulence of waves in an energy-conserv- ing fight called dynamic soaring. This should be on every birder's bucket list! Mal de Mer Let's tackle the elephant in the room frst. There is an old joke about the two stages of seasickness: First you think you're going to die, then you wish you would. I can personally vouch that this is no joke. Unfortunately, fear of seasick- ness (or anxiety over the embarrassment of being seasick) convinces too many birders to forgo the adventure and re- ward of pelagic birding. Seasickness is not a sign of weakness nor a landlubber tip-off. It's simply a wave frequency that doesn't jibe with your inner ear. Everyone, including round-the-world sailors and offshore anglers, experiences seasickness some- time. There are tricks for prevention. Medicate or Not? I live and work on boats, and don't take seasickness medi- cation. But when it comes to a pelagic birding trip, I'm all in. Even a one-day pelagic can set you back several hun- dred dollars with travel and lodging. I'm not about to gamble that on a bad wave frequency. For me, it's 10 bucks of trip insurance. Three popular solutions are acu- pressure wrist bands, Dramamine or Bonine pills (over the counter), and Transderm Scop patches (prescription). Acupressure wrist bands are pretty much worthless, unless sugar pills cure your migraine. Dramamine may make you severely drowsy, to the extent that you'll sleep through the day on a bait locker. But, like any drug, its side ef- fects vary with the individual, so test it frst on land. You may not experience this side effect. Bonine is well regarded in the boating community, and many of my friends use it regularly in rough conditions. My prevention of choice is Trans- derm Scop (scopolamine), a tiny patch you place behind your ear which costs about $20 each. Choose a pharmacy that will sell patches individually so you can purchase only enough for a test and one or two trip doses. (If you've never used a Scop patch, try it frst on land to check for reactions; some re- ported side effects include dryness Ocean birding is a different world. Fast-moving distant birds, in frus- tratingly similar combinations of gray and white, continually dip out of sight behind ocean swells. Fractal wave patterns hypnoti- cally confound your sense of distance and size. Oh, and did I mention the foor moves as you target and focus your binoculars? Taking the right precautions and properly preparing for your pelagic well before you step onto the boat can mean the difference between getting a killer shot of a Flesh-footed Shearwater and being bent over the stern providing chum for the albatrosses. Photo © Ryan Shaw D 10-Pelagic Prep.indd 70 3/4/14 1:27 PM

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