Today’s blog is going to go through some of the things I think are most important to have on you while out looking for wildlife. It may differ, depending on what your interests are, but this might be a helpful blog for beginners.
The first and most important item in your wildlife watching bag should be a good pair of binoculars. Binoculars can help you see wildlife in much greater detail than just with your eyes, but to make sure they are affective, they need to be of good spec. There are binoculars that are very good that don’t cost an arm and a leg, but the basic thing to look for is the magnification. The magnification is the first number in something that looks like “10 x 42” on the description. The best magnifications are 8x or 10x, these will get you in close enough to the wildlife for you to be able to see good detail. The second number “42” refers to the size of the end lens, the bigger it is, the more light they let through, so therefore they can be used in more circumstances, such as being quite good for looking at the night sky on a clear night. The binoculars I use are the Vortex Diamondbacks “10 x 42”, which I purchased from The Safari Store over 6 years ago and they’re still going strong.
The second most important item(s) is your wildlife ID book(s). It’s always good to bring an ID book with you so you know exactly what you’re looking at, even if you can identify many different birds/bugs/trees/flowers/reptiles etc. it’s always good in case you come across a species you maybe haven’t seen before. There are hundreds of thousands of ID books all over the internet for all different groups of animals from all sorts of locations from around the world. Always have a look for ID books for each location you travel to, a lot of books cover multiple locations, some even multiple topics which are useful for saving space and weight in your bag. The book I always take on a wildlife watching day out is my British Bird book, as birding is a particular favourite activity of mine. When I travel to Africa, I will usually take a bird book and at least one other book, maybe a mammals book, a book that covers multiple topics, or a track and signs book.
So my every day carry is made up of a pair of binoculars and a bird book, but there are many other items I have if I am doing a longer day out, or perhaps going on a photography mission, or any other wildlife activity.
I have a very basic camera set-up, which is now in a new bag that I got for Christmas. It is much easier to photograph wildlife with a simpler set up as you’re not having to go through a ton of lenses to decide which would be the best one, or carry all that extra weight. My current set up consists of a Canon 7D Mark II, a Canon 100-400 L Mark II and a Canon 1.4x Mark II Extender. This set up serves me very well and I have taken some pretty awesome photos if I do say so myself. I have used a ton of different camera bodies and lenses over the last few years of my photography journey, but this set up suits me the best for now, the only thing I may add in the near future is a wider-angle lens, for when wildlife comes closer than my lens allows for. My set up has proven to be good out in the wilds and also in zoo settings. I now also use a Crumplr messenger style camera bag, rather than a camera backpack, although I still have to test my new bag in the field, so once this latest lockdown is over, I will be trying it out at the zoo.
Another amazing bunch of items in my inventory are my FSC guides. These are laminated (or at least waterproofed to some extent) fold out card things that cover a range of topics from birds, to mammals, to tracks to plant species. These are especially useful if you’re only looking for specific species as you don’t have to rifle through a full ID book to find what you’re looking for. A lot of the species on these guides are also fairly easy to identify and these guides are amazing for teaching courses to young children, as well as university groups and adults. The guides can be bought singularly or in different packs which usually include 5 guides. You can purchase your guides directly from the FSC website.
My favourite websites to look for wildlife items to have in my pack include:
And a few others, but these four are the main ones. For more ideas of what to have in your wildlife pack, you can always check out my Christmas Gift idea blog, which features a ton of ideas and links for gifts specifically for outdoorsy wildlife lovers. These gift ideas could help you to build your own wildlife pack as well.
When creating your wildlife watching pack, always think about where it is you’re going, how long you’re going to be there, and what you’ll be doing/looking for. Another item you may wish to add to your wildlife watching pack is a notebook and a pen to record all of your sightings (lots of wildlife watchers do this as they can then create spreadsheets etc. of all the different species they’ve seen). Always carry gear to protect you from any weather you might experience if out in the field for a long time, the most important things are to stay warm and dry, otherwise it gets very uncomfortable, or to make sure you don’t get sunburnt or dehydrated as that gets particularly nasty to sort out.