As budding birders, it may be difficult to know how to prepare for birding excursions, especially if the outdoors are a new place for you to be exploring. We had a peek inside the backpack of our resident birder, Shayne Kaye, to see what a typical birder would bring with them before heading out on the BC Bird Trail.

While we aren’t listing every possible item you could bring with you, we hope this can help you feel best prepared for whatever birding you’re planning.

So, What’s In Your Bag?

The Basics

  • Sunscreen
  • Water or something to keep you hydrated
  • Sunglasses – you probably won’t be wearing them if you’re taking photos, but you’ll probably still want ‘em
  • Hat – commit to a wide-brimmed hat, they’re amazing!
  • Snacks – it’s pretty common to think you’ll only be out for a little while… until you see a great bird and it’s two hours later
  • Extra layer of clothes – even a long-sleeved shirt or packable jacket can be a relief if the weather changes or you see a great bird right as the sun is going down and want to stay out a bit longer
  • Gloves – even having a thin pair handy is a good idea, as holding binoculars and scanning the ocean on a windy day can freeze your hands even when it’s warm out
  • Depending on where you’re birding, you may want to bring some sort of bear spray or a bear bell, just in case
  • For longer hikes or travels that take you off the BC Bird Trails, have a look at hiking pack lists, such as the Essential 10 suggested by North Shore Rescue and be sure to do research before heading out.
A look into the bag of a typical birder.

The Birding Supplies

  • Binoculars
  • Notebook for making your own field notes
  • Pen/pencil or some other writing tool
  • Sketchbook and supplies if you’re artistically inclined
  • Field guide – keep a small one in your bag, or you might also just have an App on your phone such as Merlin for quicker, on-the-go identification
  • Bird checklist – these are a great way to keep track of the birds you see and also helps you know what birds are expected in the region or park you’ll be birding. Check at local tourist information centers or nature houses in the areas you’ll be heading to and you can sometimes purchase one for under $3. You can also find checklists to print off at home, or even resources online to help build your own. 
  • Trail map – very handy to know where you’re going! Again, information centres in-person or online can help with maps. The cities themselves may also have their parks and trails mapped out and available online for reference. For example, check out the City of Richmond’s birding guide, which details what birds you’ll find in their parks as well as maps indicating where you should go for great birding!
  • Camera 
Checklists are a great way to get familiar with BC birds.

Taking photos?

  • Camera
  • Memory cards – sometimes an unexpected bird means a lot of extra photos!
  • Extra batteries
  • Lens cloth

Going by Car? Some Suggested Items to Keep in the Trunk

  • Spare clothes – even if you just have a pair of dry socks to change into after you get caught in the rain or step in a puddle
  • A backup jacket – sometimes (often) you’ll get to a location and find out it’s way colder than you expected or the weather is significantly different than it was at home/your accommodation
  • A backup hat – even if it’s just an old beat-up ballcap, having a hat for when you forget yours on a sunny day is a big relief
  • Instant hand warmers for cold weather
  • Extra water
  • Extra snacks
  • A more thorough field guide
  • A spare camera memory card for your camera stashed somewhere. Still have an old 1GB card in a drawer that you never use because you have way bigger ones now? Leave it in your car for the time when you inevitably get to your birding location and find out you didn’t put your card back in the camera before putting it in your bag.

Of course, you don’t have to bring everything on these lists, but hopefully, this can help you make some choices about things you consider important to bring along on your birding adventures. If you want to share what’s in your bag during a typical day out birding, feel free to tag us on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter! Or use the hashtags #BCBirdTrail and #LookUpStayGrounded. Happy birding!

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