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YOUR TURN: Making the Most of Your Next Birding Tour

The March 2015 issue of Birder’s Guide to Travel contains an article by experienced traveler, Dana Duxbury-Fox. She offers tips on how to prepare for a major international trip and–just as importantly–how to behave while you’re there. You can read Dana’s article by clicking here. The entire March 2015 issue of Birder’s Guide is available online for free–just one of the services the ABA offers to the birding public.

Do you have advice of your own to offer when it comes to preparing for or participating in a birding tour? A specific comment about Dana’s article? An experience you want to tell us about? Please offer them in the comment section, below!

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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.
  • Nate Dias

    I am preparing for a birding-focused multi-week African safari (with a friend – not as part of a birding tour). But this still provides a good illustration for the following points.

    1. In addition to using eBird to study up on potential species, use birding Listservs + blogs + websites (personal and commercial tours/guides) relative to the region you are visiting.

    2. Where possible, get a smartphone or tablet field guide App instead of an old-fashioned paper field guide. This helps with portability / weight issues – particularly where bush flights and very low weight allowances are involved. You can also load multiple field guide apps onto a single device – beats carrying multiple paper field guides, or doing without some in the name of space and weight. Field guide Apps also tend to come with collections of bird vocalizations – saving you a lot of time with Xeno-Canto and also allowing you to scroll through the vocalizations in either taxonomic or alphabetical order. Field Guide apps are also continuously updated to reflect taxonomic changes – a distinct advantage over traditional paper field guides. More and more traditional field guides are releasing apps – new ones come along all the time. Two wonderful iPhone + iPad apps I am using for my Africa trip are: eGuide to Birds of East Africa and Sasol eBirds of Southern Africa.

    3. Saving GPS tracks and waypoints can be a great memento of your journey! Consider using more than just Google Earth / Google maps. It is nice to have a region-specific GPS + navigation app. They let you zoom in and use the maps offline, save GPS tracks and waypoints, see your current speed + direction, and all other GPS functions. Tracks4Africa has long been a beloved GPS map collection for Garmin GPS units, etc. and they also have a smartphone GPS app that can save tracks, etc.

    A worldwide GPS app can be evaluated by searching for “soviet military maps”. The free version is not as good as the paid version. If you are evaluating it, be sure to change the base layer to see high-res satellite images for your area of interest.

    Note: to save the battery on your smartphone in the bush, be sure to turn off your cellular service and WiFi + Bluetooth as well. The GPS function does not drain the battery much when it is the only thing activated.

  • Rick Wright

    I really like Dana’s point about breaking down the universal bird list by day; it doesn’t much matter for some tours and destinations, but if, for example, a tour covers a wide range of elevations in the tropics, analyzing the list beforehand can help a lot in recalibrating your expectations.

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