October 25, 2014

Birding on a Budget

Birding requires minimal equipment and suits a variety of travel budgets. From back yard viewing to international excursions, here are several tips for birding on a budget.

Destinations: Choose a place thatís rich in bird life with affordable day-to-day expenses to maximize your money. For example, Uganda is home to half the bird species in Africa, according to the Uganda Wildlife Authority. Numerous national parks offer spotting opportunities there, including the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Murchison Falls. Vanessa Townsend, tour guide for Volcanoes Safaris in Uganda, favors Queen Elizabeth National Park in particular, for the more than 600 species of birds that call the refuge home. However, according to Amos Wekesas, owner of Great Lakes Safaris, the entire nation is fair game. Says Wekesas, ďIn Uganda, birding starts at the airport and continues throughout the country.Ē Adios Adventure Travelís Jacquie Whitt, recommends Mindo, Ecuador with more than 350 bird types, and rooms as low as $50 per night.

Gear: Sheridan Samano of Reefs to Rockies, a conservation tour company, advises purchasing the best pair of binoculars you can afford. It will make a difference in the level of details youíll be able to see. Samano says it isnít so much the size, but rather the glass quality and light-capturing capabilities that are important. Audubonguides.com sells affordable mobile field guide apps for smart phone users, while traditional paperback guides are available from both Sibley and National Geographic. †A few sun-protective clothing items should also be included. Tilley makes an Audubon hat for example, that provides protection from solar rays and includes a hidden security pocket.

Parks: Wildlife refuges offer free and inexpensive bird-spotting opportunities. McCurtain County, Oklahoma has three, including Beaver Bend State Park, Little River National Wildlife Refuge and Red Slough Wildlife Management Area. Michiganís Department of Natural Resources has a first-time campers program which includes two-night park stays with the use of all necessary gear for $20.

Share: Carpool and share accommodations with other birders to save money. The Blue Heron Inn in Darien, Georgia offers a four-bedroom cottage at $250 per night with a three-night minimum stay. The inn is minutes away from the Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, part of Georgiaís drivable Colonial Coast Birding Trail. Similar trails exist in Maine, Oregon and Texas. †Of note is the Pine to Prairie Birding Trail, linking Minnesota to the Canadian province of Manitoba.

Photo Credits: These images were photographed by the Trek Hound team, and are available through a creative commons agreement with our sister site, Pictures of Travel Places.