As a birdwatcher, your basic tools are ones that you already have—your eyes and your ears. In order to become a Bird Agent, and to take your hobby of birdwatching to a new level, you will want to invest in a few birdwatching tools to enhance your outdoor experiences and to deepen your knowledge of birds.
Binoculars are an essential tool for the avid birdwatcher. They bring birds, that would otherwise be at a distance, up close—something that just can’t be done with the naked eye. Binoculars are especially useful when viewing birds in dense forests or in limited sunlight. A good pair of binoculars doesn’t have to be expensive, but be sure to look for a pair that is not too heavy for the user.
Field guides are handy for both the amateur and avid birdwatcher. These books usually provide photographs or sketches as well as descriptions of various birds. Using a field guide is a great way to identify birds in the wild that you are not yet familiar with.
Birding apps are mobile versions of what you will find in a field guide book, but with added features. One app in particular, the Audubon Birding App, features over 800 species of bird, in-depth descriptions and photographs, migratory maps, and the ability to connect, share and interact with other birdwatchers. Birding apps are a great way to access the information you need while keeping your load light.
Keeping a birdwatching journal will serve as a record of your birdwatching experiences. Journal entries can be as elaborate or as simple as you want to make them. The main goal though, is to jot down information about time, place, and the particulars about the birds you see so that you will deepen your knowledge and have future successes in your birdwatching adventures.
Every good Bird Agent has a field bag. A field bag is used to hold all of the essential birdwatching tools–binoculars, the birding journal and guide (or phone with birding app!), and camera. Field bags vary in size and quality. Choosing the right field bag for birding will depend on the number of birdwatching tools you want to carry with you and the amount of money you want to spend on a bag. Some qualities to look for in a bag, especially if carrying a camera, are a reinforced base and a rain-resistant outer material.
One key feature of any camera used for the purpose of birding is strong magnification. Because feathered friends are generally admired from a distance, you will need a camera that will accommodate this. Cameras used for birdwatching do not have to be expensive, but they should be equipped with a telephoto lens–a lens that is at least 200mm.