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 88 of 91

87 March 2014 | Birder's Guide to Travel ing on for the tour of Madagascar, the bird festival in Florida, or the road trip sponsored by your local bird club. So be informed. Ask around. Find out what the trip or tour is all about. Ideally, get in touch with the leader. Different lead- ers' styles and personalities are wildly dif- ferent—even if they're employed by the same company or represent the same or- ganization. Better yet, talk to your birding friends. They'll give you the straight dope on Leader X, Tour Y, and Destination Z. • Approach the experience of travel with an open mind and an adventurous attitude. Travel is fundamentally about novelty. You're going to experience some combi- nation of new friends, new cuisine, new scenery, and new birds. Drink deep of the total experience. If you fnd yourself in a bad situation, chill out. Are you stuck with perfect strangers? Well, how often do you fnd yourself in the company of perfect people? In one of my happiest birding adventures, I was forcibly con- scripted for a chase. My companions— whom I'd never met and who barely spoke English—were unfailingly gracious to me: helpful, generous, patient. • It's your life, the saying goes. It's your time. And it's your money. We're talking about recreation, not obligation. I have a friend who, upon hearing of some rare bird far away, reacts by saying, "Oh fd- dlesticks." (He doesn't actually say "fd- dlesticks"...) Then he dutifully books the fight and is grouchily on his way. There is something seriously messed up about that. I have another friend who loves the thrill of the chase—as long as she's back to the motel in time for Law & Order re- runs before happy hour. There is some- thing seriously cool about how my friend birds—or doesn't bird. Might I offer a bit of advice to all the tour companies, bird clubs, and state orni- thological societies that offer travel oppor- tunities for birders? Here goes: Be honest about what you offer, and about what sort of client you're after. I appreciate it when a feld trip leader tells me we're going to bird hard, eat on the go, and stay late for owls— even if I've strongly hinted that that's not the experience I seek. Is it really worth the short-term proft of a permanently disaf- fected client? I take it as axiomatic that the different purveyors of birding travel expe- riences offer, well, different sorts of expe- riences. Don't be bashful: If you represent Tour Company A, tell us how you're dif- There are probably as many ways to appreciate Guana's wildlife (left–Bridled Quail-Dove, center–hermit crab, right–Bananaquit) as there are human visitors to the island. Photo © Photo © Daphne Gemmill Photo © Clint Boal Photo © Clint Boal 12-Why we Travel.indd 87 3/4/14 2:00 PM

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