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NT Birdlist


What does a birdwatcher need?

Binoculars can be considered essential for birdwatching.
7x35 or 8x40 binoculars give good close range viewing usually with a wide angle of view.
They are especially suitable for those still learning to pinpoint the bird in their binoculars.
Whilst we won't recommend particular brands, it is usually the case that the more you can pay the better the binoculars will be. Some of the main considerations in purchasing binoculars are:
  • weight - if the binoculars are too heavy they will be difficult to hold steady
  • lens quality - compare the clarity of view between brands / models
Spotting Scopes are not essential for general birdwatching.
They are invaluable though for watching waterbirds, and can be especially useful in helping sort out the more difficult to identify species or getting good close views of rarities.
If you're looking at getting a Spotting Scope, consider:
  • Power - 20x or 25x are the most commonly used. Zoom lenses can be useful but may provide less clarity. The size of the objective lens (the one at the opposite end to the eye-piece) is important. 60mm is standard, though they can be larger. Smaller objective lenses may be less useful since images may not be as bright.
  • Eye-piece angle - these can be in line with the main barrel or raised at an angle. Choice is completely personal but it is worth viewing through both types to see the differences (mainly in comfort).
  • Tripod - this can be considered essential for mounting the scope steadily. Look at ease of setting up as well as strength (mainly in order to hold the scope steady in windy conditions).
A field guide is essential if you want to put names to the birds you see.
In addition to illustrations and descriptions of the birds most field guides give useful information for beginning birdwatchers. This can include tips on how to identify birds and introductory information about binoculars or telescopes. Generally there is also a diagram of a bird with its parts named, a good help when writing field notes of a bird seen.
There are three 'modern' Australian field-guides that are widely used. Each has its special merits.
  • Pizzey & Knight: Field Guide to the Birds of Australia (Angus & Robertson)
  • Simpson & Day: Field Guide to the Birds of Australia (Viking)
  • Slater, Slater & Slater: The Slater Field Guide to Australian Birds (Rigby)
In addition there are also books that give information on places to go birdwatching and what birds may be likely there. For example:
  • Donato, Wilkins, Smith & Alford: Finding Birds in Australia's Northern Territory (CSIRO)
A notebook and pen(cil) can be considered essential birdwatching equipment.
In the notebook record details for each birdwatching session. At a minimum include date, time and locality together with the list of birds recorded. It can be useful to take notes on the habitat and any special conditions such as weather, height of tide (if locality is coastal) etc.
Sightings of rarities or of birds where identification is uncertain should be recorded with as much information as possible. Include as much as you can about:
  • Size - make comparisons with other birds nearby
  • Structure - anything that gives an idea of the overall shape of the bird. It can include length of bill, legs or neck; crests, wattles etc; whether the wings project past the tail when the bird is standing; whether the bill is straight or curved, narrow or broad and so on. Also include colour of bill and legs and if relevant things such as eye-rings.
  • Plumage - details of the feather colour (noting the location of the various colours). It is worth becoming familiar with the main plumage areas and their names.
  • Flight - general shape in flight; any wingbars; manner of flight (fast, jerky, undulating etc.)
  • Calls heard
  • Behaviour - what the bird was doing - feeding, fighting, swimming etc.

Detailed notes of breeding records are also invaluable and can be submitted to the Nest Record Scheme.

Copyright 1999, 2000.