Birder's Guide

MAR 2015

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 33 of 67

32 Birder's Guide to Travel | March 2015 Making the Most of Your Next Birding Tour If you are headed to Asia, for example, the Oriental Bird Club has assembled a website of images of Asian birds at You can down- load images of species that you want to see on your tour. Put the images (typically jpg fles) in a folder on the smartphone, tablet, or notebook computer that you are bringing with you on the trip. While you are traveling from site to site (and some- times these drives are long), you can re- view the photos to remind yourself what your next target birds look like—if you're not prone to motion sickness, that is! • Become familiar with the songs of key birds before you go. This can re- ally increase your enjoyment of the trip. I put together a collection of songs from the specifc region I will visit and try to learn the key birds. The best place to fnd those recordings is I just used it to download calls for a trip in California, but it took some work to assemble a playlist. Many bird sound CDs are on the market, and Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Macaulay Library has many (un-downloadable) recordings available. • If you plan to record your sightings in eBird, download BirdLog Worldwide. This app (for iPhone, iPad, or Android) lets you quickly create a checklist based on GPS coordinates. Using the "create offine checklist" option is usually best, because it immediately grabs the coor- dinates. Later, when you have a WiFi connection, you can match the location with an existing eBird hotspot or other pre-existing location. • Get maps for where you are going. If there is no paper map available, you could download Google Maps to your de- vice and then download the appropriate map for offine use. This means that you can use the map anytime, even when you are not connected to the internet. Genius Maps also has a map service that can be used offine. Part Two: Field Practices ––––––––––––––––––––––––– To ensure every participant has an opportu- nity to see each bird on the trip, everyone must work as a team and follow some spe- cifc guidelines. At the beginning of the trip, the leader should spell out the basic rules for the group; if the leader doesn't state the rules, request (early on, and in front of the whole group) that (s)he do so. Be sure to closely read and understand the tour com- pany's policies regarding birding etiquette before you begin the tour; these are often listed in pre-tour materials. Three Key Considerations Three key issues that will impact your abil- ity to see a bird are noise, motion, and the color of your clothing. • Noise: At all times proceed quietly. This means limiting conversation on the trail, always speaking in a soft voice, walk- ing quietly (especially in dry leaf litter), and wearing clothing (especially rain pants and jackets) and boots that do not squeak or swish. Unless describing the location of a bird to others, whispering a quiet "got it", or telling the leader when you've not yet seen the bird it's apparent everyone else has, maintain absolute si- lence when lined up trying to see a bird or during taping or playback. At those times, let the leader do the talking. • Motion: Avoid all movement when try- ing to see a bird. Don't lean against or grab a small tree or sapling: an inch of horizontal motion at three feet above the ground can easily translate to a three- foot motion 15 feet up the tree. Plant your feet comfortably on level ground if you have to stand still for some while. Because your leader's goal is for everyone to see the bird, (s)he will direct you if you need to move. • Color of your clothing: Wear appropri- ately-colored clothes in the feld. The right clothing increases the probability that the bird will stick around longer for a more satisfying viewing experience. In forest situations, wear only dull, dark clothes, such as dark greens, browns, grays, blues, and black. Colors such as beige, fawn, cream, and khaki are too light for forest birding, but are usually fne in more sunny, open habitats, such as savannah. In no case should bright colors (including white) be worn in the feld. Also Important • What to bring. Carefully read the written material about what to bring on the trip. For example, I can attest that if a walking stick is recommended, you should bring one, as it can enhance safety, speed, and enjoyment. • Rotation on the trail. When walking along narrow trails in forests, the frst per- son behind the leader should allow him- self or herself roughly three or four min- utes before stepping aside and rejoining the group at the rear of the line. Unless invited, always stay behind the leader. Do not stray off alone, and never go ahead of the leader unless told to do so. • Rotation in the vehicle. One company, Zoothera Birding, says, "As with trail eti- quette, we ask that everyone rotate their seating positions within the vehicle on a daily basis so that everyone gets a fair chance to sit in the best seats (if there is such a thing!). Even though you may feel happy sit- Looking for Harwood's Francolin on a Rockjumper tour in Ethiopia. Photo © Markus Lilje Continued on page 34

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