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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Page 87 of 91

Why We Travel 86 Birder's Guide to Travel | March 2014 experience: all the birds, of course, and at least a sampler of astronomy, entomology, conservation biology, and human culture. To be sure, certain birds are wonderfully emblematic of the experience: Virginia's Warblers livening the arid hillsides, Long- tailed Ducks yodeling offshore, the aria of a Wood Thrush in an eastern hardwood forest. I can understand going after those birds, those experiences. But I wouldn't enjoy "chasing" (or "twit- ching") those birds far out of range. I'd be miffed if I signed up for a tour of the north- east coast in winter, and the leader made us "chase" a moribund warbler or thrush being kept alive at some dude's heated bird bath in the suburbs of New York City. Nope, I signed up for the experience of coastal bird- ing in winter: clambering about the jetties, capering out of the way of the surf, a big bowl of clam chowder, and the constant laughter of the Long-tailed Ducks. One more personal peeve: "taping out" a bird. It's not an ethical thing for me, as I'm persuaded that the overall impact of playback—both on individual birds and on populations—is negligible. Rather, it's an aesthetic thing. It's personal preference, no more, no less. I'd rather not go on tours that use playback. All right, now you know some of my dislikes. What about my likes? I like birding without binoculars. When my companions and I go "bare-naked bird- ing", we see and hear stuff we tend not to notice when we're using binoculars. Our senses are put on heightened alert when we don't have the crutch of high-powered optics. We're more aware of behaviors, habitats, and so on. I know people who have paid good money to go birding with- out optics. I also like birding at night. With op- tics, though—for stargazing and for bird- ing. You can see owls and other birds just fne at night, especially if there's a bright moon—and it's even better if you have bins and a scope. I bring other gear with me at night: always an instrument for re- cording bird calls, often a small laptop with software for acoustic analysis of what I'm recording, and sometimes a 50-milli- watt laser (for astronomy). Please don't go thinking I'm all intense and neurotic about birding. Perhaps my fa- vorite kind of feld trip is the "slacker tour". All the other groups have been birding since "oh-dark-thirty", but my compan- ions and I aren't even awake yet. We gather for breakfast at some positively decadent hour, like 8:45 a.m. We hit the buffet two, three, maybe four times, and are fnally out birding around 10:00 a.m. We're back in plenty of time for lunch and a siesta, and, in a delicious irony, we stumble upon some dandy of a bird—at the little park across the street from the hotel—that all the "seri- ous" groups missed. There you have it; my likes and dislikes, my peeves and preferences. I like bare-na- ked birding by day, but high-tech birding by night. I'm up for slacker birding, day or night. I'm turned off by target birding in general, by chasing in particular, and most of all by playback. I'll pass on that tour or feld trip where they chase target birds with playback, but if it's a bare-naked slacker trip, here's my credit card! Maybe you're just the opposite: You need Virginia's Warbler for your New York list, and it would be unconscionable not to twitch it; as to the bare-naked slacker trip, thanks, but no thanks. That's great. That's the way it should be. Yet I've seen plenty of instances, sadly, in which a travelling birder was mismatched to the experience. So here's some practical advice: • Depending on your budget and lifestyle, you're making a big commitment by sign- Photo © Photo © 12-Why we Travel.indd 86 3/4/14 2:00 PM

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