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    Layering Up and Down

    Owl, short-eared cohansey nj jan 22 2011 dpf 013
    [Short-eared Owl photographed over the marshes of NJ’s Cohansey River during a bitterly cold Cape May Bird Observatory Winter Marsh Raptor Survey, which involves repeated scans every fifteen minutes, from an hour before dark until a half-hour after – good warm gear is a must! Photo copyright Don Freiday.]

    Since cold weather lays heavily upon much of North America, let’s follow up on my first blog, which dealt with the “base layer” of clothing. Recall that the base layer is the critically important one next to your skin, a.k.a your “thermal underwear.”

    Most birders are familiar with the concept of layering clothing, but perhaps don’t apply layering as effectively as they could. If two layers are good, five or six can be better! Multiple clothing layers allow complete flexibility when conditions change. Layers also trap air between them, and air is a poor conductor of heat away from your body.  So, when it’s really cold, I often have five or six layers on my upper body.

    For example, during CMBO’s recent winter marsh raptor survey, when the temperature hovered in the teens with that typical east coast dampness (thank goodness it wasn’t windy!) and we had to remain essentially stationary outdoors for an hour and a half, here’s what I had on, from the inside out, on the upper half of my body:

    – base layer: a zip-turtleneck of Cabela’s MTP long underwear, expedition weight;

    – a zip-turtleneck of Patagonia’s Capilene 3;

    – another zip turtleneck of Cabela’s MTP, this one designed for archery hunters with thumbholes in the sleeves that keep the sleeves (both of this garment and the ones you’re wearing beneath it) pulled up over your wrists;

    – a Nano-puff jacket by Patagonia (an awesome, though pricey, addition to the birder’s wardrobe, as warm as a heavy wool sweater with almost no weight or bulk);

    – a 800-fill-power down sweater by Marmot;

    – on top, the lighweight, incredibly warm Micropuff jacket by Patagonia (this could be my favorite cold weather garment).

    That’s six layers, and I was warm but could still move freely as I watched and photographed as many as three Short-eared Owls hunting the salt marshes where the Cohansey River meets Delaware Bay, not to mention multiple Bald Eagles, Northern Harriers, and 2 Great-horned Owls that came to the edge of the marsh at dusk to hunt.

    Another layering tip: pay serious attention to layering down as well as up, so you don’t become too warm.  For example, take a bunch of stuff off if you are going into a restaurant or for an extended drive between birding spots.  Unzip or remove layers if you exert yourself, BEFORE you sweat. Moisture-wicking base layers are great, but have limits, and if you bead up with sweat, you will wind up with damp inner garments.  When that happens, nothing can keep you warm.

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    Don Freiday

    Don Freiday

    Outdoorsman since childhood and a professional naturalist for over 25 years, Don Freiday organizes and leads birding field trips and tours for New Jersey Audubon’s Cape May Bird Observatory. His writing on birds and birding appear on The Freiday Bird Blog, (http://freidaybird.blogspot.com/) . Don’s Wildlife Science degree is from Rutgers University, where for a time he taught Wildlife Ecology and Environmental Education to undergraduates. Don's outdoor pursuits include hunting, fishing, backpacking, canoeing, photography, and, of course, birding almost every day.
    Don Freiday

    Latest posts by Don Freiday (see all)

    • http://www.hawkowlsnest.com Patrick Belardo

      Having been on many a winter trip with Don, I can assure you he always looks warm. :) Great to see you on here, Don!

    • http://www.crbo.net/ Nate Dias

      Cabela’s is no friend of the environment – for example they delight in sponsoring “Wolf Derbies” out west. I urge birders to research companies they are considering making purchases from, and to only shop with green/eco-friendly outfits.

      Patagonia is the other end of the spectrum – fantastic!

      * Also – birders should wear more camouflage and less brightly-colored clothing. As Sheri Williamson famously said: “Good birders never wear white”.

    • http://www.yourbirdoasis.com Chantelle Simoes

      You said it NATE DIAS!

    • http://www.taringa.net/posts/turismo/7075320/Aves-del-Peru-y-del-Lago-Titicaca.html renialexpedition

      Este tipo de vuelo por planeo es realmente majestuoso a su estilo y diseño en peru tambien se puede encontrar muchos de ellos

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