• Welcome to BirdForum, the internet's largest birding community with thousands of members from all over the world. The forums are dedicated to wild birds, birding, binoculars and equipment and all that goes with it.

    Please register for an account to take part in the discussions in the forum, post your pictures in the gallery and more.
Feel the intensity, not your equipment. Maximum image quality. Minimum weight. The new ZEISS SFL, up to 30% less weight than comparable competitors.

How do you plan for a birding trip? (1 Viewer)


Blogger at birdwatchworld.com
Hello fellow birders. I am wanting to hear from any of you about how you plan for birding trips.

I'm interested in hearing about everything from how you figure out where to go, what you take with you when you go, and everything in-between. I'd also love to hear about any little tips or tricks that you have to make your birding trips go smoother or any items you always pack that just make the trip more enjoyable.

I'd love to hear about how you plan for short trips, like just a day out birding, to longer trips where you need to find accommodation, etc. Thank you in advance...
As you said, there are many different kinds of birding trips.

Of course, if you go on a package tour or hire a local guide, then the guide will take care of all the logistics for you.

As for solo trips, I have only done successions of day-trips in or from easy places like Athens or Dubai. I did little if any planning. Much of the birdlife in these places was new to me. I mostly looked at eBird to find out where people had gone the past few days, and then I went to the same places. That usually does the trick! I could rely on Google Maps to tell me which bus or train to take.

In hot climates, it is good to make a mental note of when you want your morning trip to end and what to do in the middle of the day. Standing out there at noon in the desert off Dubai wasn't worthwhile.

If you foresee any tricky ID challenges, e.g. Phylloscopus warblers in Hong Kong where I live, it is advisable to do extensive reading beforehand. It's a bit risky to wait until you see the actual bird and then try to make sense of it on the spot in an unprepared state. Also, it can be useful to download bird calls onto your phone.
In Nov I did my first ever guided day in a totally unfamiliar environment/biome (Nepal). While not exactly a 'birding trip', I still learned some things.
  • First and foremost is to not skimp on gear you are used to. I took a smaller (lighter) telephoto, and found it was noticeably inferior to what I usually bird with, resulting in mediocre or missed shots. I wish I had just humped my usual 'white whale'!
  • Study common/typical birds for the location. I did purchase a guidebook but didn't take/have the time to check recent eBird lists etc. This meant that when guide called something out, I was scrambling to process the info, get a pic, ID with binos, etc. If I had been familiar with even 20-30 common birds, I would have not been as discombobulated :p
  • Find a good guide. Ours was excellent and it made for a great day in good and knowledgeable company.
In contrast to one guided day we did, are the several weeks where we travelled with a cultural/history group to Bhutan. There, I was limited to my own 'birding' while on hikes or early in day before breakfast. That yielded a fair number of birds and was less frantic - I spent quality time observing birds - but of course I'm sure a guide would have spotted/heard lots more. It's two diff types of birding and I enjoyed both.
I’m going to Florida next summer and almost all the birds will be new to me and in many cases even the family names won’t mean much to me . I’ve started looking at ebird lists from near my hotel and clicked on each species to look through the photos. Hopefully do that enough and I’ll at least know where I’m starting with birds I see casually while out and about
If it's in Western Paleartic, I usually study eBird and any other local databases and go through heaps of trip reports; I get recordings and try to learn them additionally I buy books about finding bird in the given area - all that for a few target species, often quite obscure and sometimes difficult to find. If it's anywhere else, I usually just go there and see what comes up. Often I at least get a field guide for the area and browse through it beforehand or on the airplane and find what catches my attention and then try to look for that, maybe using eBird records. But even after a lot of trips, most non-WP area are still rich enough for me in new species that I can just enjoy the wave of new birds and don't feel the need to really know what I am looking for. But even outside of WP there are some places where I have looked for specific birds, in particular in Chile, where there are very little species left for me to look for (the southern cone has become WP 2.0 for me after almost 20 trips there, mostly for work reasons). On the last trip to Thailand we got surprisingly little new birds and I think if I ever go there again, I am gonna prepare target species using eBird and trip reports.
For a day trip and longer trips in the UK it is just about finding sites. I find asking on here is great. I will also try to find the Twitter feed or forum that is local to the area. Don't really find eBird that useful in the UK, the data is just too variable.

If I am going in Europe I will again ask on here for suggestions. I will also have a look online for previous folks trip reports and in the local library for "Where to watch" guides.

If I am going further afield than Europe. I will basically do what I would do in Europe plus getting a guide book for birds of the area. I will also have a look on YouTube to see if I can find some bird camera streams from the area and use them to try out ids and learn my way around the guide.
Most of my trips are organised, but I will still gather species lists for the locations (ebird is best for this), specific sites for the targets (observation.org is better here) and sounds for as many of the birds as possible. Trip reports are always helpful.
I have most books already, but I might get new ones if needed.

I just made a trip by myself which required the following:
  • Answer the question: what area could I clean up in in two weeks?
  • Gather trip reports and check which locations to visit
  • Get tickets, hotels, cars. (I messed up the order of getting these a bit and then missed out on two targets because a day trip was impossible)
  • Collect the bird calls
While on my trip, I still had to arrange a local guide (for one location) (I left this quite late, but luckily it worked out fine) and a few boat trips (this turned out to be as easy as predicted by the reports, but still caused me some nervous moments). I also found out that not reserving for one excursion was a bit optimistic, but being by myself was an advantage here.
Well, if we are talking about more elaborate trips than a short day trip to a local spot, what I do will depend on where I am going. Also, this is obviously on top of all the normal travel stuff (car rental, finding hotels, etc)

If it's in the USA/Canada, I'll typically try to buy of a bird finding book for the area, check out the local listserves, and make a target list based on ebird. Although at this point I the number of ABA targets I have is small enough that I pretty much know what to zero in on. I'll also check mammalwatching.com and look for herping info if its relevant to my destination. If coastal, I will also see if there are any pelagics, whale-watches, or equivalent trips available. I generally don't do much studying, beyond looking over my Sibley and Nat Geo.

If its a foreign trip, I'll try to find relevant trip reports. Depending on the purpose of the trip (dedicated birding vs some sort of business trip where I sneak birding in), I'll look into local guides, either by checking ebird and top ebirders for a given area or just a good old fashioned google search. If its a dedicated birding trip, I might also look into either package deals through local ecolodges or see if a tour company is visiting the area at a time of year and for a price that makes sense for me. Even if I ultimately don't do a tour, it at least gives me a baseline and helps with planning. I'll also look into mammalwatching.com for any mammal info. Usually I do a lot more pre-trip studying, especially for tropical locals which have a high diversity of birds and bird groups I am not familiar. I'm not going to Ecuador until June but I am still browsing relevant field guides right now and creating lists of likely new species I might see.

Generally, I am not the sort who is really a do it yourself person when it comes to international travel. I'm find going it alone most places in the US and Canada, but not so much elsewhere. Driving even in my own country sometimes makes me anxious, never mind navigating all the aspects of travel that need to be dealt with in a foreign culture that probably doesn't speak my language. I can relax and enjoy the trip a lot more if I let someone deal with all that, and I can focus on just seeing the birds. Plus the way I figure the world is big enough and I am old enough that this might be my only chance to visit some places and see some birds. With a guide, I can maximize my species count.
At the far end of the scale from the international guided trip, my crew is generally appreciative of me putting flasks of hot water, tea bags and milk in the car boot on all but very hot summer days.


Users who are viewing this thread