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The Binocular Advisor

Packing a Birding Vest

Birder's Buddy VestA reader writes: My new birding vest fits! Now you must tell me what should go in each pocket. I want to use this vest properly. When Steve saw it, he said he wanted to use it fishing!
— Jan D., Capitola, CA

Diane's reply:

I like to keep my birding vest all packed and ready to grab as I dash out the door. I call it my birding kit. I hang it on the same hook with my binoculars. These first few things are what I keep packed in my vest all the time.

Field GuideBIRD BOOK in the front right pocket of the vest. Now I never forget my field guide. It's automatically with me. I like the National Geographic Field Guide to Birds of North America. Don't load yourself down. Pick just one and put it in your vest.

NOTEBOOK very small and inexpensive. I like to jot down the birds I see, with the date and location. For one thing, my notes remind me of my trip when I want to relive it later on. Also, if it's an unusual bird, I make some notes about its appearance, habitat, and behavior. I might sketch the bill shape, or describe the song the bird sang.

PEN There's one clipped into my notebook, and another in case I lose that one.

HAT foldable or mashable. I often forget about the need for portable shade until I need it. And then I'm happy that there's one tucked in a back pocket of my vest. In winter, it's a knitted cap.

Lens PenLENS CLEANING PEN in case I need to remove spots from my binocular lenses, in case rain or salt water gets on them. Sometimes I also carry a small bottle of lens cleaning fluid and some lens cleaning tissues or cloth.

And here are some things that I keep in the vest sometimes, depending on the season, weather, and destination.

DIGITAL CAMERA a really tiny one. I don't often try to photograph birds with it, but since birding gets me out in nature, I see many things I want pictures of sunsets, wildflowers, snow on the creek, sign at park entrances, wildlife and their tracks, and of course my companions.

INSECT REPELLENT always, in summer.

LIGHTWEIGHT GLOVES always, in winter. When your hands get cold, those gloves will extend your comfort range and let you stay out longer.

SNACKS an apple or a few sunflower seeds can provide a good excuse to sit down, have a bite to eat, and give the birds a chance to get used to you and show themselves.

GROUND CLOTH so you can settle down in a good spot and stay a while. A small waterproof cloth just big enough to sit on is all you need.

ENVELOPE for collecting seeds of wildflowers on my own property or where I have permission to gather them.

IFLYER for listening to bird songs in the field. These should not be used in places that are heavily visited by birders, as they can disrupt birds' nesting activities. But used with discretion, they the iFlyer can help you to identify a bird by its song if you're not sure of it.

HANDHELD PDA GUIDE This is a new approach to a field guide. It's a personal digital assistant, with National Geographic Handheld Guide bird information loaded into it. Many birdwatchers prefer it to a book, and it actually weighs less.

DianeYou'll think of other things you like to have with your when you go birding. And packing your birding vest with them ahead of time means you won't find yourself without them once you're out in the field.

— Copyright 2007 Diane Porter

Birdwatching Dot Com

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