Birding is a great hobby that requires careful observation, plenty of patience and a true appreciation for nature. It can also require some essential birdwatching equipment such as telephoto lenses, a spotting scope, a journal, and most importantly, binoculars. Let’s dig a little deeper to learn more about the type of gear you need to bring along for your first birdwatching adventure in the backcountry.
Essential birdwatching equipment can include binoculars, a birdwatching journal, and field guides. These tools will help you to easily sight rare birds in your neck of the woods, properly identify them, and document your findings, in addition to other important information for your own personal research.
Keep on reading to learn more about the most essential gear you need with you on your next birdwatching excursion.
The Importance of the Birding Binoculars
If you ask any birdwatching expert what type of gear you need, their answer can include a ton of gear including messenger bags, journals, camping chairs, multi-vests and more. Basically, there’s plenty of gear you can bring along, but there are only a few pieces of essential equipment that you’ll find yourself relying on each time you head out. But one thing is for sure, most birders can agree that you don’t ever want to go birding without a good pair of binoculars.
How much or how little you enjoy your first birding experience can have a lot to do with the binoculars you end up with. With birding, purchasing binoculars that allow for plenty of detail, and crisp, bright images is essential. Many of the leading models, like the Swarovski EL Swarovision Binoculars, are available for a surprisingly low price, and come loaded with some great features including excellent eye relief, and a waterproof design.
Birding Field Guides
If you’re not already familiar with the different species of birds in your neighborhood, then bringing along a few field guides during your first outing can be a great way to help you get better acquainted with your local wild bird population. Most people have trouble identifying even many of the most common species. The Sibley Guide is one of the most popular, widely used field guides, and it comes loaded with some great information that’s well laid out and easy to access quickly. Another great option is to go online and search for printable field guides, many of which are available free of charge. However, we’ve found that the Sibley Guide is one of the best and most reliable options.
Buying some bird feeders to lure birds into your yard can help you to brush up on your species identification skills. The type of bird feeder and food you use will determine what types of birds will be attracted to your yard. There are actually a wide variety of bird feeders to choose from, with the most common being the Hummingbird bird feeder. Next, is the black oil sunflower seed feeder, which is also popular with other types of wildlife, such as raccoons and squirrels. Knowing what type of birds do not migrate in your neck of the woods can also help you to determine which type of feeder to use. Often, many people will choose a suet feeder during the winter months and opt for a variety of hummingbird bird feeders during the spring and summer months.
You can also try adding mealworms, thistle seeds, and millet to the bird feeders in your yard in order to attract a wider variety of species.
Is a Spotting Scope Necessary?
Typically, if you’re a birder and you use binoculars as your primary optical tool, then you won’t have much need for a spotting scope. But if you’re not wild about the idea of lugging around a pair of binoculars, then a good spotting scope can be a great alternative. Many birders even claim that a spotting scope is the perfect tool to use if you’re trying to spot shorebirds in mud flats or a hawk a quarter of a mile away. However, this tool can be pretty expensive. It also offers a 10x to 60x zoom, which is pretty impressive.
Bringing along a camera will allow you to take photos of your sightings. If you’re having trouble ID’ing a certain bird, even if the photo you end up with is slightly blurry, it can still show some details you missed with your spotting scope or your binoculars.
A birding journal is an important tool and one that you’ll use to document the many birds you’ve sighted throughout the day. Not only can you keep a list of all the birds you’ve encountered, based on species, but you can also keep track of their behavior, what they ate, their gender, and the time of day you spotted them. Many birders will use this information for future outings since it can help them to determine what time of day a specific species of bird can be found out and about, while other birders will keep a study of sorts regarding the behaviors of specific species of birds. To learn more about what you can do with a birding journal and how to create your own, click here to read our article on how to make birding journal.
A smartphone can be a great versatile tool for the birder. Not only can you download some great apps that can help you to identify birds, but you can also take advantage of the bird call apps which can also help you to identify a bird, unlike field guides, which only offer an image or two of each species. If you’re not sure which app to get, feel free to visit a birding forum for recommendations of reliable apps that will work for iOS or Android devices.
A good tripod for your spotting scope is essential if you want some added stability to your viewing experience. Not only do tripods make using a spotting scope easier but they are also make things super easy if you want to track a bird mid-flight or take pictures. Most of the tripod models come with integrated handles which allow you to do fine movements when watching through the scope.
What Time of Day Should I Try Birding?
This is a question most beginners have. Many experienced birders recommend trying first thing in the morning, since many birds begin their day at sunrise, a time when insects are ripe for the picking. But with certain species of birds, you may have better luck during the afternoon, when many birds spend hours relaxing in the sun for temperature regulation. To learn more, click here to read our article on what is the best time of day for birdwatching?
Why Are Binoculars Better Than Cameras for Birding?
Birding binoculars can provide the most realistic 3D view of a bird, compared to staring through a camera lens. They’re also lighter, more durable, and generally, just a more affordable options compared to expensive digital cameras on the market. To learn more about birding binoculars, how they work, and the types of features to look for, click here to read our birding binoculars buyer’s guide.
The type of birdwatching equipment you choose can depend on where you love birding, the species of bird, and even the season. For the most part, birders can agree that binoculars, a birding journal, and field guides are not only essential pieces of equipment that will ensure you can easily sight even the rarest birds in your part of the country, but these tools can also help you to identify and document your findings as well.