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What's in Our Birding Bags?

Writing and Photography by Joyce Nadler, Anna Reichenbach, and Charles Law

Choosing the right gear for your birding trip can be a daunting task. Whether you're aiming to capture stunning photos, create nature journals, or simply observe your backyard birds, choosing the right equipment can really improve your overall experience. But fear not! In this segment, our Fledglink team will reveal their must-haves for birding, spanning binocular preferences to favored field guides. 


Joyce Nadler

"When I go for birding, I enjoy identifying other plants and animals I see along the way. For this reason, I like Audubon's guide to the mid-Atlantic as a portable field guide. In addition to having significant information on the birds in my region, it includes data on many other plants and the ecology of some of my favorite natural spaces. As for my pencils, I use primarily regular utensils. Bringing tons of colored pencils can be taxing in weight, so I prefer only to get the colors I use most often (mainly earthy tones to serve as markers for when I go back home to edit my sketches). When it comes to clothing choices, one particular piece of advice I can give to people going shorebird or waterfowl spotting during the winter is to layer clothing. Beaches in the eastern US during the wintertime can switch between being frigidly cold and wind-beaten in the morning and uncomfortably warm and sunny in the early afternoon. Packing combinations of warm clothing and sun-protective gear has always made for a more enjoyable trip"


Anna Reichenbach

"I’ve perfected my birding bag down to my personal essentials: two notebooks, sketching tools, watercolor supplies, a water bottle, and pepper spray. I keep all of this in a crossbody bag from Hobby Lobby. I love this bag as it allows me easy access to my supplies. I recently got the Vortex Diamondback 8x42 binoculars which are fantastic! As for field guides, I use an app called iBird Pro. I love this app because of the features it has which physical field guides lack and it spares me the extra weight. I keep two notebooks- one for quick sketching and lists, the other for detailed notes on vocalization, behaviors, plumage, etc. For note-taking, I use mechanical pencils and Micron pens. On trips where I know I’ll have time to add color in the field, I bring my Winsor & Newton watercolor palette, Pentel water brushes, and half of an old sock which I wear on my wrist to clean my brush. Crafting your birding bag requires experimentation; maybe you're someone who likes to bring snacks, extra layers, and use a backpack, or maybe you can get by with a lighter load. It’s all about figuring out what works for you"


Charles Law

"What's in my birding bag- the brown thing is a poncho, and my scope is being shipped out for repairs. Luckily, its not hurricane season yet"

"I’ll start this out with what you should not bring. You will need to leave any fear of hurricanes you may have behind. Forget your weather-related prejudices and meteorological biases. Break up with your cyclone phobic girlfriend, boyfriend, or whoever your equivalent person is. The fact of the matter is that hurricanes aren’t as bad as you think they are. Hell, they’re kind of fun when you get to know them.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s discuss what you should bring. Right now, I am focusing mainly on birding inland (10+ miles from the coast), away from flood zones and other dangerous situations. Furthermore, I am focusing on birding after hurricane conditions have passed. To find storm-blown birds, you’ll need to head to a lake, reservoir, bay, or other large water body within 24 hours of the storm — or its remnants’ passage. Since we are dealing with large bodies of water and low visibility, bring a scope to increase your chances of being able to identify an odd bird. Since you will be birding so soon after the passage of the storm, bring a poncho. Avoid an umbrella, as high winds will render it useless. A towel will also work wonders, as you can dry off and stay warm, even in hot climates like Florida. It is often best to simply bird from your car, if possible. That way, you will stay warm, dry, and unfettered by debris.

You should also bring a guide that has entries on shearwaters, gulls, terns, and other local oceanic species. Familiarize yourself with these species’ markings and behaviors to better prepare yourself. A camera is a great storm birding tool, as you might find something very rare and need to document it. Be careful, though, as wet conditions may damage it.

Legally, I am probably supposed to tell you not to go messing around in conditions worse than a Category 1 storm (sustained winds of over 90 mph or 145 kph). In these cases, it is best to stay inside and go birding after things calm down a bit. I’ve even tried birding in Category 3 conditions, and didn’t see a single bird. After the storm, though, get outside and find some birds! Beware of blocked roads, debris, and especially fallen power lines. And of course, report your sightings of eBird. The more people who bird in hurricanes, the better"

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