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.

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39 November 2015 | Birder's Guide to Gear will get your optics grubby far faster than you would believe, and it is important to keep your gear clean. We brought lens spray for thorough cleaning and lens wipes for quick cleaning, as well as lens pens and several chamois. Chamois get grimy quickly, so be sure to give them a quick clean now and again with a mild grease-cutting soap and hot water. Laser pen • A laser pen/pointer can be really helpful, es- pecially when you are birding in a group. Having the ability to easily point out a bird can reduce a lot of frustration. We still try to describe where a bird is located using the clock method, but sometimes a bird can really be buried in a thicket and hard to describe. That is when a laser pen is handy. La- ser pens, however, should be used carefully, and they should never be pointed directly at the bird, another animal, or a person. For birding, a green pen with an output in the 5mW range is appropriate; higher power pens can damage vision and really are not necessary. Playback equipment • Many people who go birding in the tropics use playback to draw out shy and furtive species, which is more of a necessity than at temperate latitudes. Any current smartphone will work to broadcast recordings of bird songs and calls. If sometimes you need a little more volume, a small portable speaker will certainly help. Various models and brands exist, so shop around for one that works for you. In my experi- ence, speakers that recharge via USB are the most convenient, and Bluetooth wireless speakers are becoming more common, eliminating the need for a cable. Flashlight or headlamp • Electricity is not always reliable in the Neotropics, so having a fashlight or headlamp is a must if the power goes out at your hotel. And of course, you will want a light to go hunting for owls and other night critters. We recommend Fenix fashlights. If you have not seen a modern high power LED fashlight, you will be amazed. These guys are bright (and I mean really bright!) relative to their size and weight. We use the Fenix TK41, and it has never let us down. Fenix also makes slightly smaller lights that are excellent, too. Maps • If you are renting a car, you will need maps, but paper maps are hard to come by for some places, and those ran- dom dirt roads where the birding is are frequently not on the large-scale paper maps that are available for many countries. Thankfully, you can purchase offine (no cell service required) mapping applications for your smartphone. Many apps have much greater road detail than paper maps. We use Skobbler and Maps with Me Pro to navigate to birding destinations and to get through urban areas. Both applications will show your current position on the map and will allow you to enter GPS coordinates that you can then navigate to. Skobbler provides voice navigation, while Maps with Me Pro will show you the route but without voice navigation. The best part about Maps with Me is that it allows you to record your current position/ If you want to go owling, you will need a good fashlight to get the best looks. We found this Striped Owl on a roadside in Costa Rica and illuminated it with a Fenix fashlight. Photo © Josh Beck The author's pants and shirt made with nylon, combined with a wide-brimmed hat, make for a more comfortable day of birding in the steamy tropics. Photo © Josh Beck

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