Birder's Guide

DEC 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.

Issue link: http://bg.aba.org/i/605604

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38 Birder's Guide to Gear | November 2015 Gearing Up for a NEOTrOpical Adventure as possible after contact with vegetation, and don't wear the clothing again with- out frst washing it in hot water. Personal items • This one is for the ladies. All too often on birding trips, bathroom stops simply do not exist. That means hitting the trees, which is normally not a big deal. However, in group situations or in public areas, fnd- ing a suitable place can be challenging. I remember birding the Achiote Road in Panama, along a busy section of high- way with no convenient patch of trees to duck into. There was no place to go. Af- ter my morning coffee and plenty of wa- ter, I certainly could not focus on bird- ing! I ended up in a roadside ditch with grass up to my waist. It was a good thing that patch of grass was chigger-free! It can be really hard to enjoy the birds when you have to go, so I recommend taking along a little device that can help during emergencies. They go by various names, including Go Girl, Lady J, P EZ, and more. Check out the full review of these products in the December 2014 is- sue of Birder's Guide to Gear. Oh, and do not forget to bring toilet paper and bags to pack it out. SteriPEN • Plastic water bottles are wasteful, but when you are traveling and need water, you end up buying more plastic water bottles than you would like to admit. That can be a thing of the past thanks to SteriPEN. A SteriPEN is a relatively inexpensive ($50–$100) little device that runs on a few AA batteries or recharges via USB. It sterilizes water with ultraviolet light that destroys bacte- ria (such as Shigella and E. coli), viruses, and protozoan cysts (such as Giardia). You can fll any reusable water bottle from nearly any tap as long as the water is not cloudy or full of sediment, zap it for one minute, and you are done. Puri- fed water without the plastic! Waterproof bag • Rain in the tropics is often unavoidable, so it is handy to have a small waterproof bag in which to store your wallet and electronic devices. If you are carrying recording equipment, a camera, or other larger electronics, a good dry bag such as a Sea to Summit Big River Dry Bag, is essential. A "dry bag" is a large, watertight, heavy-duty plastic bag that, when properly used, should keep its contents dry even when at the bottom of a lake or river. Umbrella • For years, I avoided um- brellas like the plague because they always broke. But after birding in the tropics with wet optics, wet glasses, and a hot sticky rain jacket glued to my arms, I am starting to come around. Rain jackets keep your top half dry but do not do much for your pants or foot- wear, and they are uncomfortably hot! I watched with envy as some compan- ions birded comfortably in the rain with an umbrella while I was sweating it out and still getting soaked from the waist down. Despite losing a hand to hold the umbrella, you will be more comfortable and most likely much drier. If you don't mind carrying it all day, a nice sturdy umbrella with large coverage is the best choice. As a backup, or if you really do not like umbrellas, I would recommend bringing a poncho instead of a rain jacket because they have better coverage (they even ft over your backpack) and better ventilation. Notebook • I still bird the old-fash- ioned way with my trusty notebook. I fnd a notebook much easier to use than fumbling with my cell phone. I fnd it diffcult to type on the keypad, and scrolling through the list of species can take way too long. I'd rather jot a quick note down in my notebook and keep looking for birds. Moreover, your list is dependent on battery life if you use a cell phone; with a notebook you never have to worry about running out of power. The other problem with digital applications is cellular coverage. Although you can create offine check- lists, cell phone coverage is not always good in many places, and the number of possible species is tough to manage el- egantly on a smartphone logging app. I prefer good old paper and pencil. I love the Moleskine lined pocket notebooks; they are sturdy and just the right size. Lens-cleaning supplies • If you wear glasses (well, even if you do not), bring A LOT of lens-cleaning supplies (chamois, lens-cleaning spray, lens pen, and lens wipes). You don't want to fnally see the bird you have spent hours waiting for only to have the grime on your glasses and binoculars make the bird look like it has extra spots and lives in a cloud. Tropical heat, humidity, and your sweat A SteriPEN can make plastic water bottles a thing of the past. Photo © Kathi Borgmann

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