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SNEAK PEEK! Birder’s Guide to Gear

So that you can get your Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping on, we’ve made the 2013 issue of Birder’s Guide to Gear available online today, in its entirety!

2013 Birder's Guide to GearInside, you’ll find tips and suggestions from experts on some wonderful holiday gift ideas for the birder in your life. From roof-prism binoculars and SLR cameras to woolen mittens and waterproof sketchbooks, the choices can be daunting. Our authors have distilled the available information (and disinformation) into an easy-to-read, no-nonsense set of suggestions and advice.

Some people are real “gear-heads”, and love checking out the newest products, comparing them to what’s already out there, and making their own decisions about what to buy. But if you’re like me, you just don’t have the time, the ability, or–bluntly–the interest in devoting hours upon hours to decide which is the best Product X to achieve Goal Y. I just want someone I trust to to tell me which model is best.

But often, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. In those cases, it pays to have at least a basic understanding of the products you’re considering. That’s where Ben Lizdas’s “Binocular 101” comes in. This primer on how binoculars work, and how they differ from one another, is essential reading for all birders.

Whether they’re built into your phone, separate and in your coat pocket, or slung over your shoulder, cameras have undergone a revolution in the last decade. The quality of image has increased exponentially, and the cost has decreased, even if not as quickly. Consequently, more and more birders are carrying–or considering carrying–a camera into the field. But what kind is right for you? In “Birding Photography” Derek Lovitch groups the thousands of models into just a few, easy-to-understand categories, outlining the pros and cons of each. Sherrie Duris and Sharon Stiteler then go into more detail about two of those categories in their articles.

But there’s more to birding than just the high-tech. Bird artist Sophie Webb explains the virtues of carrying a simple notebook into the field, and how to best utilize that tool. And Duluth resident Erik Bruhnke offers his (well-tested!) suggestions for how to keep warm during winter birding.

As always, we at the ABA love to hear from folks who want to offer their own advice to fellow members, so please don’t hesitate to contact me with ideas for your own future articles. Was this issue useful to you? If not, please let us know what you thought was missing, so we can try to offer it in future issues. Good birding!

P.S.–You can easily download the entire issue, or just certain pages, allowing you to read Birder’s Guide on your Nook, Kindle, or other tablet, when offline. Or your laptop, if you’re old-fashioned. Just click on the fourth button from the right in the toolbar above the eMagazine. (See image at right.)

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Michael Retter
Michael L. P. Retter is the editor of the ABA's newest magazine, Birder's Guide. He also wears his ABA cap while working as a Technical Reviewer for Birding magazine. When not at home, Michael is often leading tours in Middle America (Mexico through Panama). He currently lives with his fiancé, Matt, in Fort Worth, Texas. In his fleeting free time there, he pursues interests in horticulture (especially orchids), music, cooking, and numismatics. Michael also runs GBNA, the continent's informal club and email list for LGBT birders.
  • Sam from MI

    I forwarded my RSS feed to the email address I use for my ipad. When I open it on my iPad I do not get a PDF icon that I can open I. iBooks. If I try to send the PDF from my iMac to my iPad, my ips tells me the file is too large. Any suggestions as to how to get the PDF on my iPad.


    • Michael Retter

      I’m afraid I’m not very tech-savvy, Sam. (For instance,” RSS feed” and “ips” don’t mean anything to me!) Other than downloading the individual pages, I’m afraid I have no suggestions to offer, but I’ve already asked our resident techies to see if they can come up with some work-arounds for you.

    • Michael Retter

      I’m obviously missing something, but I thought iPads and MacBooks used the same internet browser (Safari). I use Safari, and have no problem downloading the PDF.

  • Kevin Wehner

    I can’t seem to download the entire issue as a pdf. I clicked the “Download entire PDF” button and a little window popped-up that has a “download PDF” button, but when I click that button, it just goes back to the online version and nothing downloaded. I’m using Google Chrome on a Mac, but also tried with Safari and had the same results… no pdf downloaded.

  • JoshExmoor

    For those trying to get the whole PDF on a mobile device, this direct link (shortened) should get you to the PDF:

  • Geoff Rogers

    Like Sophie Webb, I used the older versions (15 years ago) of Rite in the Rain notebooks. They were exclusively yellow then as I recall but now come in “tactical” colors also (olive green and tan). There was no pen (including those in the Fisher line) that would write smoothly on their paper at the time. Pencil was much better but in my usage smeared. Best of all was a fine point Sharpie which I used for a number of years. This view seemed to hold a slight consensus in blogs and user reviews that I searched. Meanwhile, I went back to regular ball point pen but started using small (4×6 inch) Canson bound sketchbooks (I rarely sketch but like the hard backing of a bound book). The price for Rite in the Rain bound books is too steep for me and as I jokingly say, if I pay that much for a book I want words already written in it. Newer blogs and reviews conveyed that many were now doing well with Fisher and other pens on Rite in the Rain paper. After several Canson sketchbooks got wet and/or beat up before filling, and based on later reviews, I tried the Right in the Rain top-spiral 4×6 notebook and was surprised to see that most pens seem to write well on the current paper. Perhaps they have changed the coating on it. Anyway, by this time I had begun using the highly recommendable, Uni-ball Power Tank pens. These use the same pressurized, thixotropic ink system that Fisher pens use but encased in plastic not metal. This keeps the price at around $2.50-3.00. I prefer the rubberized, slightly thickened grip on these also and find it preferable to the tapered, less-tactile tip of the Fisher pen. The Uni-ball also produces a slightly blacker line than the Fisher.

    • Erik Bruder

      I’ll concur. The Rite in the Rain paper has changed. The old stuff only worked well with Space Pens and wood pencils. Even mechanical pencils wouldn’t work well unless you were using a 2mm lead holder. The lead was prone to snapping. The new paper is much smoother and the surface treatment works well with nearly any ballpoint and even thin pencils. Porous point pens (my preference) still don’t work well.

      I always have both a small notebook with standard paper and a porous point pen as well as a Rite in the Rain notebook with ballpoint in my field bag. If it’s wet, I just use the yellow book and later transfer the notes to the other book when I’m home and dry.

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