Thursday, March 1, 2007

Things to Check Before Going Birding

If you enjoy bird watching, sooner or later you are going to be heading out on field trips. While they can be a blast, there are a couple of things to check up on before you head out.

A field trip is pretty much a staple of active birding. You identify a good area by reading up on them in birding magazines. Once you select one, you need to take a couple basic steps to make sure you are going to have a good experience instead of a miserable time.

Did you know that more than a few birders have been killed while on field trips? Okay, it is a small number, but one is too many. The problem? Hunting season! Unfortunately, there are a fairly finite number of areas that are still natural habitats. If there are excellent bird watching spots, they often are within a hunting area. Not always, but it is important to find out before you stroll out into the shooting zone. Make sure to check with local licensing authorities so you avoid becoming a tragic accident. If Dick Cheney could shoot his friend standing next to him, you could be mistaken as a moose.

It is amazing how many people take off on trips without checking the weather. If Monsoon Charlie is barreling in on the day of your trip, take a rain check. Standing in the rain and mud is not fun and you are not going to see much. In fact, the best time to hit your spot is immediately after the storm, so take a day to let the storm play itself out.

It is difficult to hold your binoculars steady while also trying to swat your neck. You need to assume insects are going to be an issue on the trip. You are, after all, in their habitat! The key is to know what type of insect you are most likely to run into. Chiggers are little biters found in tall grass areas. Ticks and mosquitoes should be assumed to be present. Black flies are less frequent, but a pain in the butt. To avoid these problems, tuck you pants in your socks, wear a bandana around your neck and use insect repellent. All Terrain makes natural insect repellent that is good for birding because it does not decay your gear, particularly nylon threading and filaments found in jackets.

Finally, skin cancer is a threat to all of us. Make sure you wear sunscreen on all exposed surfaces. This is particularly true for the back of your neck. A hat is also a wise idea. It keeps your scalp protected and keeps the sun out of your eyes.