Birder's Guide

MAR 2016

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 48 of 75

47 March 2016 | Birder's Guide to Travel San Diego, California Kathi Borgmann Planning If it is your frst tropical birding experience, I recommend visiting well-known birding destinations in countries with published bird-fnding guides. Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, and Colombia all have bird-fnding guides or have ample informa - tion online that should help take the guess- work out of trip planning. Choosing which sites to visit within your chosen country is perhaps one of the most time-consuming parts of planning a birding trip, but, thank- fully, numerous resources exist to help. Many bird-fnding guides and online trip reports highlight popular birding destina - tions, provide species lists, and even provide sample itineraries to help you start planning. Cloud Birders ( is an on - line resource hosting thousands of trip re- ports from just about anywhere; it's a very useful and often more up-to-date resource than printed material. When considering which destinations to visit, look at species lists for each loca- tion. Are the listed species those that you are interested in observing? Which sites will give you the most bang for your buck? You should also consider climate, access, and trail diffculty when choosing places to visit. Some locations may have amazing species lists, but access to the site requires a multi-hour boat trip and/or hours of hiking on steep and muddy trails. If you have any physical limitations, choose sites that are more your speed. Most bird-fnding guides and trip reports describe the conditions at each site to help you decide if the location is right for you. One word of advice, though: make sure you allow for plenty of transit time and a little slack in your schedule, be - cause things do not always go as planned. When traveling abroad, even if you are fu - ent in the language, things may take longer than you think. Expect the unexpected. Once you have a general idea of where you want to go, it is time to start studying. Birding Basics To make the most of your trip, you need to study before you go. Even if you are going on a guided trip, you will get far more out of it if you put in a little time. But where to start? The number of birds in the tropics can be mind-numbing. A frst fip through a bird guide may leave your mouth watering and your mind reeling. "How will I ever be able to remember all of those tanagers and fycatchers? And what exactly is a puffbird? A jacamar?" I recommend starting small. Look at your Knowing the basic features of euphonias, dacnises, and Tangara tanagers will help you quickly classify birds to family or even genus when a fast-moving fock of frugivorous birds passes overhead. From left: male Orange-bellied Euphonia ( © Andy Morffew), Speckled Tanager ( © Josh Beck), male Blue Dacnis ( © Dave Curtis).

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