The Headless Birder
Some time ago, I was doing research of waterbird migrations with a friend of mine, a young ornithologist currently busy writing his Ph.D. thesis and trying to annoy most of us by uplisting some subspecies to full species and downlisting some species into mere races! A knowledgeable birder and great company, he was able to forget just about everything. On several occasions, he lost some screws and minor parts of my tripod en route (he couldn’t believe that and even accused me of deliberately hiding the screws), on others, he forgot to take his binoculars with him (“Why does it matter, you’ve brought the scope, haven’t you?”). More than once, I’ve suggested to him that he puts a checklist on his front door, so he can tick what he has taken and realise what he hasn’t: binoculars – tick; field guide – same as the spotting scope, most of the time he counted on me to carry this; your own head – ouch, I’ve forgot it! Trust me – he was capable of forgetting his head.
This brings me to the topic: my own non-necessity checklist. A morning or a day trip, I mean – not an expedition. For example, when I’m birding alone, I rarely carry snacks – being outdoors, I am satisfied with air alone, it seems. But if someone next to me starts eating, that ruins the air-factor and then I do carry a sandwich or so… Also, if temperatures aren’t very high, I carry a minimum amount of water – barely enough for a sip or two before I use the rest for instant coffee.
Here it is – my non-necessity checklist:
• Rucksack – I have never found a rucksack that I would consider ideal, but in order to call it usable, it should have around 40 litres of capacity and that arched frame to push it away from ones back and allow the air to flow.
• Mobile phone – something I have never learned to like, barely accepted as a potentially useful item. I have a bird guide in it, which I mostly use to search bird songs faster. Still, during birding, the bloody thing should be in the airplane mode!
• Water canteen – used to carry a smallish Sigg, size for two coffees, but recently a thermos flask 0.4 litres (not so good for warm liquids, but keeps the cold water nicely fresh all day).
• Instant coffee bags – I usually keep several in my rucksack pockets.
• Chocolate bar (if the weather is not too warm) or a sandwich.
• Victorinox – one of those larger models with lock blade.
• Gardening kneeling pad – for sitting, perfect size.
• Insect repellent spray – so I could spray it over my trousers and socks against ticks (I do not mind a mozzie or two… ok, more than a few dozen mozzies do tend to bother even me).
• Sun block and lip balm – when I do not forget it…
• Toilet paper and wet tissues – self-explanatory.
• Matchsticks and/or lighter – I do not smoke, and never had to use it on a birding trip, but I do remember capsizing a kayak and like to have it, just in case.
Absolute necessities aside, what do you carry with you on a field trip? What’s on your list?