Field guide to birds

Many bird identification field guides are available in Poland – guides with illustrations or photographs. Each of these guides has its advantages and disadvantages. At present the best guide to identify birds is Collins Bird Guide (Svensson and others 2012) as it includes diagnostic features of birds necessary to identify particular species.


Binoculars or spotting scope?

The second most important part of a birder’s equipment are binoculars. For beginners binoculars with magnification of 7, 8 or 10 are the best option. These magnification values are universal, however, allow for the watching of birds at a relatively short distance. We should also mind the binoculars belt – we need to make sure that the belt is wide and comfortable as carrying binoculars for some hours must be comfortable as well as must not result in neck injuries. Greater magnification, e.g. 12-20, enables us to watch birds from longer distance, thus, at the cost of the weight of binoculars. It is far heavier then and our hands need to be supported due to unsteady view. Bird watching on huge bodies of water or from great distance requires spotting scope with magnification of 20-60. Spotting scope may only be used with a tripod as other support stands do not provide the comfort of observations. Spotting scope with tripod is heavier, therefore, carrying it at long distances may be troublesome.


Map or GPS?

While planning a bird watching trip we should equip ourselves with a compass and a map of the region we want to visit. As maps on different scales are widely available on the Internet (e.g.:, it is easy to prepare such a map beforehand. The scale also matters. The scale of 1:25000 or 1:10000 is optimal – details and local roads, thanks to which we move efficiently, are marked. Another solution is to use a GPS device. It is recommendable to save landmarks in advance. For longer journeys it is necessary to take 2-3 sets of spare batteries. Using GPS has its shortcomings though – in the forest as there are leaves on the trees and simultaneously the day is cloudy, it may be difficult for the GPS receiver to connect with the satellites. Thus, we may have difficulties with reaching our destination. That is why a paper map with landmarks marked on it (later saved on the GPS device) is the best solution.


Other important equipment

Head protection is crucially important – prolonged sunlight exposure may bring about unpleasant health problems. A bandanna protects only the head, a baseball cap additionally eyes and a hat also face and shoulders. Safety goggles are useful both in winter and summer. Apart from providing UV protection they secure our eyes from impurities carried by the wind. A key to a successful journey is appropriate footwear and good socks. For marching across difficult areas above-the-ankle boots are best. If we plan a journey through swampy areas boots may prove insufficient and, thus, we should take rubber boots or waders with us. Boots should have good grip, be impregnated in order not to get soaked. It is also recommendable to take gaiters, i.e. special equipment which protects you from snow falling into the boots.

More information for birders can be found in the book Poradnik ornitologa [Ornithologist’s handbook] (Mikusek, Stawarczyk 2014).