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All the right tools for bird watching

Although I am not the type to make New Year’s resolutions, I have decided to try one this year.I, Kramer Elias Bookman, will keep better records in business, in personal journaling, in budget and in fieldwork.And I decided to share some of the tricks I’ve learned for keeping records of what you see in the field. I will also discuss what equipment is necessary and some tips for making your time in the field more enjoyable and profitable.Obviously, a good pair of binoculars is a necessity, and as we have already covered optics in a previous article, we won’t go into a lot of depth here. Department store binoculars are not of sufficient quality. Do not skimp on your optics budget. Don’t settle for a pair of cheap binoculars when good binoculars are within your budget. You may save a few dollars, but you’ll be paying the difference in headaches. A good beginner’s pair of binoculars is the Swift Ultra-lites. Look for a pair of binoculars that have bright, clear vision, and make sure that the edges of the image you can see is not blurry. Look at a thin, distant object, preferably a power line. The object should be clear, the correct color, and should not be seen in double. Do not exceed 10X power. You can’t get a steady image if you exceed this.The next thing needed is a field guide. The best field guides are the Sibley Guide and the National Geographic Guide. You can get both of these at the birding store listed at the end of this article.Clothing is extremely important to a successful, enjoyable outing. Never wear or carry anything white or of a pale shade. These light shades will make you so conspicuous that anything and everything living will see you. You should wear darker, earth tone colors, or, if you’re really serious, you can wear camouflage. This is what I wear, and the difference in my ability to stalk wildlife successfully is marked. There are many different styles of camouflage out there, but perhaps the best is the military pattern. The most important thing is to wear darker, neutral colors that are comfortable and durable.Field notes can be kept in many different ways. As a wildlife artist, I prefer to keep my notes in the form of drawings and sketches, with a simple list of the species of animals seen written on the page, accompanied by tally marks for each species. If you have artistic ability, I would strongly encourage you to learn sketching. “Drawing Birds” by John Busby is an excellent book for beginners. Even if you don’t have artistic ability, learning to sketch could be a great help, aiding you to remember interesting details not easily conveyed with words. It is also of great help if you ever find a rare species, for the records committee will want to see real evidence of your claim. Remember, while field sketches can be works of art, this is not the intent of producing them, so do not stress about the quality of the drawings. Even some of the sketches done by very well known artists can appear to be mere, childish scribbles when compared to their gallery works. But the information in them is invaluable and can bring back events which would otherwise be forgotten.If you do not feel comfortable sketching, you can keep detailed written records. You can record however much information you want. Many people keep separate lists of what they see in their yard, county, state, and country. Dates of when you see the first migrants of a certain species in your yard will help you know when to expect certain birds to come back. And, of course, you can use your nature journal to record interesting events, experiences and anything you feel like writing about.* The Wild Bird Center at Woodmen and Academy

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