If I’m not out birding, I’m usually writing about birding, thinking about birding or reading about birding! I’ve tested out various products, read lots of websites and bird blogs and figured out what I like and I don’t like. This is a collection of my favourite photography, travel and birding resources. There is everything here from field guides, to bird blogs, to travel planning websites!
All of the items are things that I use and recommend to others. Okay, let’s get started!
I own a lot of field guides, but these are the ones I turn to time and time again. SO much so, that none of them are on my bookshelf – they seem to have a permanent home on my kitchen table, bedside table or desk:
This is my favourite North American field guide. I love the drawings and the helpful identification information. In many ways, this the only field guide you need!
This is a specialty field guide that I turn to time and time again during warbler migration. It is the most comprehensive warbler guide that I have found. I love the comparison photographs of different warbler species from many different angles.
An easy and compact reference guide for sorting out shorebird identification. It’s small and easy to flip through which I really like!
The 100 best birdwatching spots in North America. I love to travel and I’m forever reading this book to get inspiration. Choose the state or province you are visiting and the book will tell you the top birding spots! If you’re based in Canada, click this link to see the book on Amazon.ca.
A great website I discovered that reviews bird field guides. Trying to decide if you should upgrade to the latest version of a field guide you already own? The site has flow charts to help you decide!
Lightweight and excellent optics – these are the binoculars I use and I have no complaints.
These are my “go-to” websites for writing blog articles, planning birding outings or trying to figure out difficult bird IDs.
If you’re not using eBird yet, shame on you! Logging your bird sightings on eBird helps with bird conservation. It’s also an indispensable resource for finding the best birding locations in your area.
I use the online field guide to North American birds all the time. It’s a great free online resource that’s perfect when you just want to do a quick Google search on a species. They also have articles about a range of birding topics and they offer online birding courses.
Another great free online field guide.
This is a resource for eastern Ontario birders. The author, Jon Ruddy, writes a variety of blog articles about bird identification and other birding topics. He also offers guided bird tours throughout eastern Ontario. I’ve been on many of his tours and I highly recommend them to anyone!
A website that Jon Ruddy introduced me to and I’ve found it invaluable for delving deeper into bird identification. Field guides give you an overarching view of a wide range of species, but for challenging IDs, it’s a good idea to do further reading. This website is one place to start!
I keep the following birding apps on my phone for reference when I’m in the field:
I use this app mostly for its bird photo ID feature. You can load a photo into the app and it will tell you (with around 90% accuracy) what the bird is. The feature is currently only available in Canada, United States and Mexico.
This is my go to guide for using in the field.
This is the sister app for The Warbler Guide book that I mentioned previously. I use it a lot during fall migration when warblers are in the “confusing plumage” stage. I particularly like the 3D feature, where can see each species from every angle.
There are a lot of bird blogs out there, but a few stand out from the crowd! These are ones I regularly read:
Jen Sanford is from Portland, Oregon and her humorous writing style is a refreshing. She also sees amazing bird species (very different to what I see in Ontario) and takes great photographs so you feel like you’re along for the adventure with her.
Josh Vandermeulen is fairly well-known in the Ontario birding circuit – he did an Ontario “big year” in 2012. I like his blog for his descriptions of the interesting places he visits e.g. James Bay, Chile and Argentina (to name a few recent ones). It’s also a good way to keep up to date about rarities that show up in Ontario.
Sharon Stiteler’s website is more than just a bird blog – she has a podcast, you can travel with her, she runs a monthly “birds and beers” event in Minneapolis and you can even see a video of her in a bubble bath with her scope! Her off-the-wall sense of humour makes her an interesting person to follow on social media. Plus her YouTube videos are gold!
Stephen Brigham lives in Maryland, but regularly vacations in Southwest Florida. He writes on a variety of topics relating to birding and I find his posts well-written and they often make me pause to think more deeply about topics.
Bob Zeller is 83 years old and lives in San Angelo Texas. After retiring from the US Airforce, he spent 40 years as a professional saxophonist. He’s now retired and his main focus is bird photography. What makes his blog so interesting is that you get to learn about him (he’s fascinating) plus you get to see amazing bird species from Texas!
I’ve been making an effort to learn more about the conservation side of birding. It’s one thing to go out and photograph or look at birds, but it’s another to understand which species are declining and what can be done about it. Here are a few organizations that I’ve discovered:
Non-profit organization with a focus on protecting birds and their habitats in the US. They use science, advocacy, education and habitat conservation.
They are a unit of Cornell University and their mission is to “interpret and conserve the earth’s biological diversity through research, education and citizen science focused on birds”.
*eBird is a joint project between The National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
An organization solely focused on bird conservation across the Americas. They look to safeguard rare species, conserve bird habitats, reduce top threats to birds and build a community of bird conservationists.
A land conservation organization in Canada – they secure and manage properties that sustain important plants and wildlife, including birds.
A science-based Canadian bird conservation organization. They use data to monitor bird population trends, investigate declines and recommend actions to protect the health of ecosystems.
Bird Travel Resources
Trip Planning Websites
For my bird travels, I don’t go on paid bird tours; instead, I DIY it and use websites and social media to plan my journey. It’s cost-effective and it means you can go at your own pace.
This website has a database of birders around the world who are willing to volunteer their time to meet with people traveling to their area. It costs $10/year to join, but it’s otherwise free.
Lots of articles and information about birding around the world. Great for trip planning!
I’ve already mentioned eBird, but it’s worth saying it again. I use eBird for every bird trip I go on.
Of all the social media options, I’ve found Instagram to be the most helpful for trip planning. I like to connect with local Instagram photographers in the areas I’m visiting. People are often more than willing to give tips or even meet up with you when you’re in their area. An easy way to find locals is to search under Places for popular birding locations – you can see which photographers are posting bird photos at those locations. Voila!
Another good option is to search for Facebook groups for the area you’ll be visiting. When I was in Australia (for example), most cities had a dedicated Facebook group of local birders and photographers.
A fun way to do bird travel is to attend birding festivals. They are normally excellent value for money and offer the opportunity to see a wide spectrum of local birds. Plus, all you have to do is show up and sign up outings! Easy.
There are hundreds of bird festivals out there, but these are ones topping my list at the moment:
January: I haven’t been to this festival, but my Mother has been numerous times and says it’s great. It’s a large festival with a wide variety of field trips, speakers, presentations and exhibits to choose from. Plus you get to be in Florida in January!
May: I’ve been trying to attend this festival for a few years now, but something always seems to get in the way! This is the place to see warblers and other migrants during the rush of spring migration. In the US, you have the Biggest Week of American Birding and in Canada we have Point Pelee!
August: The start times for field trips on this festival make me cringe (hello 5am!), but the bird lists look unreal. I think I could make an exception and get up early for Five-striped Sparrow, Lucy’s Warbler, Gray Hawk, Elegant Trogon and more. I haven’t even heard of most of the birds on their target list.
October and December: I went to the encore (December) edition of this festival last year and I had a great time. The focus was on waterfowl and shorebirds and we saw both in great numbers. Read more about it here.
November: This is another large-scale festival that’s topping my bucket list at the moment. Texas birding is known for being amazing and this festival is supposed to be a lot of fun. Plus I’d love to see Green Jays, Great Kiskadees and Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet (purely for the name!).
If you’re new to bird photography or want a cost-effective option, I recommend superzoom cameras! I shot with a Canon SX50 for 2 years before upgrading to a DSLR.
This is my current camera body and I love it! It’s the best Nikon option for under $1000.
If your budget allows it, get this camera body! I’ve yet to find a wildlife photographer who doesn’t love this model.
For other Nikon models, read my article about the best options in their range.
This is my lens. It has great flexibility, while retaining a decent level of image quality. It’s also much more affordable than a prime lens.
If I had the money, this is the prime lens I would want.
Camera Accessories for Wildlife Photography
While there are plenty of camera accessories out there, these are the ones I can’t do without:
I handhold most of my shots, and this strap makes it possible to carry around my DSLR + lens wherever I want to go.
This card is fast and is nearly impossible to fill up on one outing (I’ve yet to do so!).
Small and portable, I bring this hard-drive with me on all my trips so I can back-up my photos.
I carry all my camera gear around in this bag. It’s been all over the world with me!
I recently discovered this lens cleaner and it’s awesome!
I can’t find the exact kit that I bought, but this one is the closest I can find. The main things you need are a microfiber cloth and an air blower to remove dust.
I haven’t been ready to commit to an expensive rain cover, so I use these $3.50 ones. They do fall apart after a few uses, but they’re handy to bring with you as an ’emergency’ option if you get caught in a downpour.
Cheaper than the Nikon brand batteries, I bought these last year and they’ve held up just as well as Nikon’s.
There is a lot to learn if you want to master bird photography and I find some websites do a better job explaining things than others. Here are my favourites:
If you’ve ever Googled anything to do with photography, you have likely come across this blog. It’s a comprehensive website with everything you could ever want to know about photography.
Another really popular website full of tips and articles on every aspect of photography. I use it and Photography Life all the time when I’m trying to learn a new concept or am looking to buy a new product.
I came across Prathap’s blog when I was writing an article about Nikon’s DSLR range. He has a lot of great wildlife photography tips and I find his articles are easy to understand.
David approached me when he read my article about owl baiting and asked if he could include a link to my blog on his website. I’ve since become a regular reader of his blog and he has some great tips about bird photography.
Is there something you use for birding, travel or photography that I should be including? Please let me know and I’ll check it out!