Looking for a way to spice up your birdwatching routine? Gain a new perspective by birding on the water.
Benefits of Birding on the Water
The benefits of birding on the water are immense. First off, there’s the different perspective to enjoy. Gliding along can give birders a sense of connection with their surrounding environment, resulting in the blissful feeling of being ‘one with nature.’
But this shift in perspective can also bring about ample opportunity to spot species in a way you never could from the shore. Cruising into a quiet cove can provide access to areas that aren’t always reachable by hiking trails, and getting a secret glimpse into a fully natural habitat can be a real treat. Ducks, geese, and heron aren’t the only birds to look for while on the water – warblers, sparrows, shorebirds, and buntings are likely to hang around the banks, too.
Birding on the water also enables birders to stay out in the field longer. Because water, snacks, guidebooks, and camera equipment are easily stashed away in the vessel, there’s no need to lug these heavy items around all day. Sure, paddling will definitely provide some exercise during the excursion, but being in a boat allows birders to go at their own pace, without cutting the day short due to fatigue.
Canoe, Kayak, or Paddle Board – Which Vessel is Best?
For birders traveling in groups or carrying heavy equipment, a canoe may be best. Depending on the size, canoes can hold anywhere from 2-12 people. Just be sure the group is all on the same page before leaving the dock – there’s nothing worse than being stuck in a canoe with a loud talker, a paddle splasher, or a person who insists on steering but can’t quite figure it out.
In comparison, kayaks offer better mobility and are much easier to maneuver – even solo – than canoes. Unless you’re an extreme over-packer, most kayaks will provide enough storage for stashing everything you need.
Paddle boards are best reserved for minimalist birders who like to simplify their experience by packing not much at all. While a pair of binoculars can be strung around the neck, it can require an impressive amount of balance to hold the paddle steady in one hand while lifting the binoculars in the other. With that said, a paddle board may be the perfect option if you’re looking for a fun workout that allows for casual birdwatching at the same time.
See also: Spotting Scope vs. Binoculars
6 Tips for Birding on the Water
Before embarking, prepare for your adventure by considering these six helpful tips.
1. Safety First
As with any outdoor adventure, it’s best to expect the unexpected. Take care to bring a flotation device, whistle, water, and sufficient protection from the sun. Also, consult a map of the area and note any changes in tide or water level that may affect the terrain.
2. Go Birding on a Cloudy Day
Sunny days tend to produce incredible glare on the water. This can cause fatigue, headaches, and be downright blinding. Heading out on a cloudy day can cut down the glare so you can focus on the birds instead.
3. Perfect Your Paddling Technique
Sloshing and splashing about is a sure way to scare off most wildlife. Being able to glide through the water quietly can allow you to get a closer view of the birds.
4. Bring the Binoculars
Paddling requires a lot of energy, and if it’s your first time on the water, you might not be sure where exactly to go. Instead of wasting time and muscle by paddling about aimlessly, use your binoculars to locate potential coves and shoreline areas being enjoyed by the birds before paddling in that direction.
5. Invest in a Waterproof Bag
If you plan on toting a fancy digital camera – or just a delicious sandwich for lunch – invest in a quality waterproof bag. Even if you’re confident you can keep items from going overboard, you never know when a stray splash from the paddle or a light rain shower can see you sulking with a soggy pack.
6. Know Your Boundaries
One of the beautiful things about being on the water is that you’re able to approach birds in a more natural, less intimidating way. With that said, never infringe on a bird’s personal space or nesting grounds. Keep a respectful distance, and if you see any signs of defensive behavior, take the hint and back off.
With a little advanced planning, you can safely and successfully enjoy your next birdwatching adventure on the water. Anchor’s away!