Birder's Guide

DEC 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 26 of 43

25 December 2014 | Birder's Guide to Gear Houston, Texas Stephan Lorenz Traveling Light A Guide to Minimizing Birding Gear I strained to keep my binocular steady, my feet shifting on soft moss and tus- socks of grass fringing a small wetland. An interesting hummingbird made repeated visits to the tops of massive, non-native eucalyptus. I watched it sneak in among a dozen Sparkling Violetears, which were busy chasing each other. I had a suspicion and at this point maybe wished for a scope, but patience paid off. Tracking the hummingbird for nearly 30 minutes, I eventually followed it to a perch on the edge of dense vegetation right at eye level. I approached within six feet, and its gorget fashed brilliant gold-green against a black back and dark gray underparts. It was a male Black-backed Thornbill, a rare hummingbird endemic to the high elevations of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in northeastern Colombia. As the bird used its short bill to preen right in front of my nose, I felt a twinge of regret for traveling ultralight and leaving my camera at home. Yet, thinking about the tiring hike up and the inevitable walk back down, I was glad my backpack was negligible. On this particular trip, I had traveled especially light because I knew it would be quite an undertaking to reach the endemic-rich high elevations of these mountains. From the coastal town of Santa Marta, I took a taxi to the small town of Minca, where the road leading up the mountain deteriorated rapidly. The cheapest option was by motorcycle taxi. I had perched precariously on the back seat while a young local, wearing fip-fops, raced up the mountain on a dirt bike. I was glad my backpack weighed less than 20 pounds. Keep It to a Minimum! I have always been an advocate for traveling extremely light, especially because most of my birding trips are independent and often rely on public transportation. In general, international travel on a limited budget does not leave much room for luggage. Jumping on and off buses, cramming into minivans, being sardined inside taxis, or sometimes hoofng it to the next destination precludes heavy bags and

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