RV Travel: Beginners Guide to Bird Watching
Traveling and camping in an RV provides an excellent opportunity to reconnect with nature and get a closer look at those little feathered friends that cheerfully peep in the world around you.
Whether you plan to hike around, learn every name, and chase elusive species, or you are simply looking to identify the birds you happen to find on the spot, it can easily become a fast growing favorite pastime.
Start with the Right Equipment
Decide how much you’d like to spend on your burgeoning hobby. In order to spot your beaked buddies, you’ll need some basic tools such as binoculars, a field guide, a checklist, and if you are into photography (and on a budget), a point and shoot camera.
As a beginner birder, you likely do not need to purchase the most high-end binoculars, but if you want superior images that are durable, lightweight, waterproof, and have lifetime warranties, then you should consider 7X power or 8X power binoculars that are priced around $250 to $300.
Keep a Diary and a Checklist
A checklist helps you understand which local birds you can expect to see. This way you know which species to keep an eye out for, and how to pinpoint them. Contact the local Audubon Society for a checklist of the common birds found in whichever area of the country your RV brings you to. Oftentimes you can find these checklists available when pulling into a state or national park. Ask the park ranger what resources they have on hand. Keeping a diary as well will help you remember what you have identified, and it’s also a fun way to see how far you’ve come in your explorations.
Get a Field Guide
There are a great multitude of field guides, but any one will do, as long as it covers your particular geographic area. The Petersen’s Field Guide to the Birds, the Stokes guides, the Kaufman guide, and the Audubon Guide to North American Birds are all great field guides to begin with. And keep in mind that technology has brought us quite a ways. With pictures, videos, and audio clips, you can match unfamiliar birds by simply typing identifying features into Google.
If you prefer the old-fashioned printed route, consider picking up a subscription to a birdwatching magazine such as Bird Watcher’s Digest or WildBird.
Know their Habitats
One of the keys to successful birdwatching is knowing where to look. Different birds prefer different habitats, and you’ll find a unique set of species in each habitat you visit along your travels. You may find one species that is entirely absent in a campground, yet ubiquitous in urban areas or in open fields. Once you know each bird’s habitat, you’ll spend less time searching and more time successfully spotting them. Habitat is not limited to location, but also extends to altitude. It’s no use searching for a species near the ground if they prefer to sit atop the highest branch.
As with any hobby, it’s also great to reach out and find like-minded people. Find other beginner birders through Audubon Societies or online forums. You can even join birding trips or meet up with other birders along the road. Talk with others when meeting them as you travel down the road in your motorhome or towable RV. Park rangers, fellow RVers, and societies in different areas of the country will likely be able to point you towards trips, gatherings, or fellow travelers that can share in your enthusiasm for your feathered friends.