I have been birding for a while now and I must say, I enjoy it thoroughly. Birding is one of the easiest ways to observe nature. You just have to look out of your window or balcony, or visit a nearby park/lake and watch for birds. But, if you were to take a short trip for birding, this is when you need some preparation. Here’s my quick checklist of things you need before birding.

Picture of crab plovers on the beach

Learn about the area

Learn a little about the area you are visiting. Speak to people who have visited the place before and know what to expect. Use the internet: a simple search on your favorite search engine for “«birding location» trip report” will tell you a lot about the place and its biodiversity.

Also, understand what to expect in terms of species. In my experience, while birding in India, guides will only show you stuff that you ask for. Make sure you know enough to tell the guide what you are expecting to see. A simple search on flickr, 500px or any good image search engine for the location will give you photos of species you can expect. Make a checklist if you can’t remember them all.

Gears and essentials

Here’s a list of things to follow/carry when going birding

  1. Wear comfortable and dull colored clothing. Birds are usually wary of people and you need to blend in to the surroundings as much as possible.
  2. Birding involves a lot of walking, so wear comfortable walking shoes
  3. Carry a book and a pen to note down birds or their characteristics if you don’t know the name.
  4. Carry a cap or a hat if you plan to bird for long.
  5. In cases of cold mornings, wear layers rather than a thick sweater. That way, if you do feel warm later in the day, you can shed that layer and be comfortable.
  6. A good pair of binoculars (you can rent them if you don’t have one). A good starter would be this Olympus 8*40 binoculars.
  7. Most good birding destinations are away from the city, so bring some water and food along.
  8. A field guide to help you identify birds. Grimm Skip Birds of the Indian Subcontinent, as it’s colloquially called, is a great field guide for India.

Picture of flamingos in the Lesser Rann of Kutch

For the photographers

If you are into bird photography, there are a couple of other things you might want to carry on the field. Here’s my list: 1. A good camera with good zoom. A good semi pro camera with digital zoom should be good enough to start. DSLR’s allow for more creative options. 2. For the DSLR folk, buy/rent a nice wildlife lens. Most birds and animals will stay as far away from us humans as possible, and if you need shots of small birds, you will need the focal length. Anything upwards of 250mm to 300mm should be sufficient. You can rent from Tapps, Toehold among others if you are in the Bangalore area. 3. Carry extra batteries/battery grip and memory cards. And leave your camera bag in your vehicle if you are walking. 4. You might also want to look at buying/renting a monopod if you are shooting in canopied forests or in diffused sunlight. This looks like a sturdy enough monopod to start with. 5. If you are going to a dusty place, get a cover for your lens and camera.

Ethics

This is a heavily written about topic and there are tons of articles you can look up on the web. Here are some articles you can start with.

Principles of birding ethics

Here’s another that I really liked: The ethics of nature photography and the ostracising of photographers

That’s it. Oh, and lastly, go along with a good group, that appreciates birdwatching, and you will find your birding experience to be even more rewarding.