Whether you plan to bird on your own or join a professionally-led group, your trip will be more satisfying with careful planning. When birding far from home, it is sometimes impossible to find items locally that you may have forgotten. The following checklist is designed to help insure that the Mexican-bound birder’s trip is not disappointing.
Essential and Useful Birding Equipment for Mexico
- Birding Binoculars, Spotting Scope and Tripod
- Digital SLR or Telescopic Camera, Software and Computer Cable
- Birding Notebook and pens
- Books Relevant to Birding in Mexico
- Mexican Birdlists and Internet Printouts for Birding Mexico
- Mexican Maps and GPS with Mexican Navigator Card
- Laptop Computer
- Bird Call Recordings and Playback Device
- Other Items Useful for Birding in Mexico
- Backup and Redundant Equipment to Take When Birding in Mexico
Birding Binoculars, Spotting Scope and Tripod
Good birding binoculars are a must for any birding trip. If a birding trip to Mexico is your first birding experience, take the time before the trip to try different binoculars to find the ones that suit you best. Fellow birders are always willing to let you try their favorite pair.
A spotting scope and tripod are not essential, but if you are traveling with a companion (so you can share the load), a scope is a useful addition to binoculars.
Digital SLR or Telescopic Camera, Software and Computer Cable
A digital camera with at least 10X telescopic optical lens or a digital SLR (Single Lens Reflex) camera with a 300 mm lens or greater will help you confirm bird identifications after returning from a day trip. Computer software and a cable to let you download photos to a laptop computer will allow you to store the pictures as well as display them on a larger screen for better identification.
Birding Notebook and Pens
A notebook is important to record bird species, notes about unidentified birds, mileage and trail information. After returning from a day’s outing, these notes will prove invaluable for identification and for future trips.
Books Relevant to Birding in Mexico
A GuideTo The Birds Of Mexico And Northern Central America (Steve Howell and Sophie Webb) is essential, in spite of its weight (3 pounds, 3 ounces).
A Bird Finding Guide To Mexico (Steve Howell) is invaluable if you are traveling without a guide.
A good field guide to North American birds, such as Sibley Field Guide To Birds (David Sibley) or National Geographic Field Guide To The Birds Of North America, 5th Edition (Dunn and Alderfer).
Mexican Birdlists and Internet Printouts for Birding Mexico
Knowing where you are heading, use the Internet to find birdlists and other descriptive material about those areas. Although birdlists are not infallible, they can help clarify identifications. The Internet is also an excellent source for articles or other information relevant to birding areas on your itinerary.
Mexican Maps and GPS with Navigator Card for Mexico
If you are joining a professionally led tour, maps and a GPS are unnecessary, but you will find that a countrywide map of Mexico will provide perspective to your trip. In addition, a hand-held GPS can provide relevant information as well, such as altitude and specific location data.
If you are driving and on your own, a good set of maps is essential. In addition to a countrywide map, the latest edition of the Roji Mexican Road Atlas as well as any available local maps should be part of your gear. The road atlas can be obtained at Mexican bookstores as well as at selected U.S. bookstores.
For drivers, a portable GPS such as the Garmin 255W with a Mexican road navigator card such as the Garmin 010-10755-00 will prove invaluable. If you are walking into remote areas to bird, consider bringing a GPS designed for use while hiking as well. Familiarize yourself with this equipment before your trip.
A laptop computer with a wireless card will prove extremely useful while birding in Mexico. It can be used to download and store photographs, backup photographs to other media, maintain birdlists, assist in identification and to search the Internet for information. In addition, if you are driving through Mexico, the computer can be used to find and secure overnight accommodations. Pack backup media such as CDs and/or flash memory as well.
Bird Call Recordings and Playback Device
CDs of Mexican and North American birds help birders familiarize themselves with anticipated calls as well as help identify calls that are heard from unseen birds. A battery-powered playback device for CDs or an iPod with transferred calls will allow you to identify calls in the field.
Other Items Useful for Birding In Mexico
Also consider including a Spanish dictionary, daypack, walking stick, hat, sunscreen and lip protector, insect repellant, flashlight and a first aid kit.
Backup and Redundant Equipment to Take When Birding In Mexico
With replacement equipment difficult to obtain, take extra batteries for any powered equipment, an extra camera battery and memory cards, as well as extra pens and notebooks. Since binoculars are the birder’s most critical piece of equipment, one should consider packing a second pair.
Thoughtful planning and preparation will insure a productive and enjoyable birding trip to Mexico.