You can do just fine with a simple pair of binoculars and some basic know-how of bird-watching.
Below is a list of few essentials and useful items that can really spice up the bird-watching experience for you. Once again, if you can’t afford them or don’t want to, it’s totally fine as in the end, it’s all about having fun.
Just as you can’t drive without steering, bird-watching is not possible without a set of binoculars. Sure you can observe birds through the naked eye or snap a photo using a smartphone but that’s all you’ll be limited to. Unless you have Tarzan-like traits and you can identify a bird by a glance or sound, it is recommended you get a set of binoculars.
A pair of binoculars is a primary necessity for bird-watching, especially for beginners. Chasing a bird in the wild will make you sweat a lot. It’s simply might not be possible to get so close to a bird to have a decent look at it as the bird may fly away. Thus, it’s wise to avoid such frustration and invest in some decent binoculars. Binoculars will cut the distance short and let you view a bird sitting far away much easier. You don’t have to walk too much or chase a bird. Moreover, binoculars let you view such details of the bird that might not be visible with a naked eye.
That being said, you don’t need to necessarily purchase a very high-end pair of binoculars. For beginners, you can get a decent set for under $100 or you can try out few options at the stores and select the one that suits you. Once you get a hang of them, you can opt for a more high-end set as well.
- Field guide
Bird-watching doesn’t merely mean ‘watching birds,’ it means to ‘know the bird you are watching.’ It’s no fun to just watch the birds and not being able to identify them. Your bird-watching experience can really heighten up once you can identify the bird and know what to expect from it. No, you don’t have to go through a 4-year bachelor’s degree program at a college to grasp that knowledge.
In this regard, a field guide can get us going. A field guide, as the name suggests, is a guide that uses pictures, descriptions, and illustrations to identify birds. Each bird is described in detail like name, classification, where it is found, how it looks, what it eats, and more.
To be more precise, you can get a field guide especially for the area or state where you are bird-watching. In the USA, you’ll find different field guides for different states. Similarly, field guides differ country-wise as well.
Field guide works as a necessity for novice bird-watchers as it gives them somewhere to begin from. You can easily identify a bird using the field guide or head over to the exact place where the bird is expected to be found. Hence, you save time and energy. Only when you get experienced enough, you should follow your instincts rather than a guide.
- Pen and notebook
Nothing is more reliable than first-hand information. Recording your observation while bird-watching is always helpful in the long run. As you study birds, jolt down the details of what you saw to review it later. This way even when you are not bird-watching, you can go through what you wrote and compare it with the information in the field guide to have a better understanding of what you might’ve missed.
A simple notebook and a pen will do the job here. It’s recommended for novice bird-watchers to note down the descriptions of the birds they observe along with the place and time they did so. It will save you from a lot of hustle whenever you are confusing two birds for one another or when the exact time of noticing the birds slips the memory. Preferably, it’ll be best if the notebook you are purchasing is a water-proof one. Since you’ll be out in the wall, there is a chance the notebook might fall in a pond, it starts pouring down, or you have to cross a stream that would get you wet.
- Suitable clothing
Bird-watching may derive you to an opposite corner of the world and therefore, it’s a must to properly dress wherever you go.
Robust pair of boots
Bird-watching may attract you to a deep jungle, hot desert, or steep mountain. Moreover, you’ll be walking a lot in search of the perfect spot to spectate a bird. You might have to walk through muddy ground, ponds, long grass, bushes, layers of sands, and rocky paths. In all cases, you need a comfy yet tough pair of boots that keep your feet safe from twists, strains, hot sand or getting wet. For rocky paths, you’ll need boots with high ankle support and hard rubber soles.
Avoid getting blinded by the Sun the moment you’re about to take a snap of the bird you’ve been waiting for ages. Since you’ll be walking a lot in open, wear a hat to prevent you from potential heat stroke or irritation.
Don’t forget to wear a backpack to carry all your equipment such as a camera, notebook, field guide, water bottle, snacks, and other essentials. Interchangeably, you can get a birding vest that is crafted especially for bird-watchers. It has vast pockets to carry all the above stuff as well.
- Spotting scope
While binoculars are extremely helpful in spectating a bird sitting at a distance, however, if a bird is too far away, binoculars might not provide you with as many details as you’d want. In such cases, a spotting scope fills the spot perfectly. A spotting scope works the same as the scope on sniper rifles. It’ll easily pick up birds from a very far distance and view them with greater details. Usually, professionals use spotting scope as a necessary part of their gear. If you are a beginner, it’s okay to stick with binoculars only. However, a spotting scope will never disappoint you.
To add a taste of wildlife photography to bird-watching can really spice up your experience. Most professional bird-watchers use high-end cameras to document their struggle artistically and share it with the world. If you already love photography, nothing is better than combining it with bird-watching and capturing some of the best bird moments in breath-catching photos. Additionally, you can save all your photos in an album or frame them and hang it in your room as a hunting trophy.
As a beginner, it is best to focus only on learning to bird-watch. However, if you wish to level up, get a good camera, not necessarily a very high-end, and start snapping photos of your run in the wild.
- Bird feeders
Wouldn’t the smart thing to do would be to let the birds come to you rather you going after them? A bird feeder is a simple container that stores bird food that is left hanging out in the open so the birds can feed themselves. Every spring, native birds return to their homes after a long migration. To catch a glimpse of them, place a bird-feeder in your lawn, add some food, and wait for the birds to stop & have a meal as they pass by.
A bird feeder is a bird watcher’s close friend as it attracts birds right at your doorstep. It is more suitable for back-yard bird-watchers who prefer inviting birds to their homes rather than going out.
- Spotting scope
- Monopod or tripod for spotting scope
- Telescope adapter for smartphones
- Camera with telephoto lens
- Lens cleaning kit
- Extra camera batteries and memory cards
- Smartphone with a bird identification app
- Bird field guide (book or digital)
- Notepad and pen or pencil
- Voice recorder or note-taking app
- Bird-watching logbook or journal
- Backpack or shoulder bag
- Portable folding chair or stool
- Waterproof ground mat
- Insect repellent
- Hat or cap
- Rain gear (jacket, pants, and waterproof cover for equipment)
- Comfortable, weather-appropriate clothing
- Sturdy, waterproof footwear
- Extra socks
- Gloves (for colder weather)
- Reusable water bottle or hydration pack
- Snacks or packed lunch
- Cooler (for food and drinks)
- Lightweight, portable binoculars harness
- Portable bird feeder
- Bird call or song recordings
- Bird call playback device or app
- Bird call whistle or mimic
- Map and compass, or GPS device
- Headlamp or flashlight (with red-light mode to avoid disturbing birds)
- Spare batteries for electronic devices
- Multi-tool or pocket knife
- First-aid kit
- Tick removal tool
- Hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes
- Biodegradable toilet paper and trowel (for remote areas)
- Lightweight, compact binoculars rain guard
- Neck strap or wrist strap for binoculars
- Magnifying glass or loupe
- Mesh bag or container for collecting feathers, nests, or other interesting finds (follow local regulations)