Each year many avid birdwatchers visit tropical countries to see the varied birds. At the same time there are thousands of individuals who visit for vacation and during their visit will engage in a day of birdwatching. Also each year thousands of persons begin the hobby of birdwatching. A common question of all those persons is, what to wear when birdwatching. This article will address what to wear when birdwatching in tropical Caribbean countries.
In tropical countries there is a wide variety of birding habitats and so the type of clothing will, to a certain extent, be influenced by the habitat into which the birder ventures. The beach is a prime attraction for visitors to many countries. Indeed it is said that tourism in the islands is based on sun, sea and sand. The seashore is also good birding habitat for specific species such as sandpipers, plovers, gulls, terns and turnstones. For birdwatching along the sea shore short pants and short sleeved tops are suitable attire .
Species such as Tanagers, Kingbirds, Flycatchers, Hawks, Woodcreepers and Warblers are found along forest edges and so roadside birding is often undertaken in areas where roads run through or along the forest. Short pants and short sleeved tops are also suitable for roadside birding.
If an individual is birdwatching on the beach or along the roadside then sandals can be used. It is advisable when roadside birding however to wear closed shoes as the birder is often attracted off the road edge and into the forest by glimpses of a bird. Very often in order to get a better view of an elusive bird, individuals tend to venture further and further into the forest as they seek that better observation. In forest environments closed shoes (sneakers, boots) are best to prevent your feet from being scratched by thorns or bruised by rocks. Shoes should be of sturdy construction and ankle height to help prevent twisting of ankles.The average hiking boot would therefore be suitable.
When birding in a forest environment it is advised that long pants be worn to provide protection against thorns and insects. Mangrove swamps are home to a wide variety of birds including Herons, Egrets,Iibises, Gallinules, Jacanas, Macaws, Cuckoos and Hawks. Mangrove swamps are therefore an attractive location for birdwatching. Long pants are also recommended for birding in mangroves because insects, particularly mosquitoes are abundant in mangroves.
Most birdwatching in tropical Caribbean countries is done during the early morning and evening hours when the sun is lower on the horizon and the rays are less intense. It is advisable however to carry a hat especially if an all day birdwatching adventure is planned as the sun rises quickly and all-day exposure to the sun can cause sunburn. In some instances the birding may be in forested areas where the overhang of branches and leaves will block much of the sunlight, however a hat can still be carried for protection. It is advisable to carry some type of rain gear such as a lightweight nylon jacket or poncho because although most days start sunny it is possible to have a rain shower during the day, usually around midday.
In choosing clothing one should remember that birds are sensitive to noise and therefore noisy material should be avoided. Fabrics that squeak or rustle will make noise as you move and may scare off the birds you are trying to see. These types of fabrics therefore should not be worn. Birds can distinguish colours and very bright artificial looking colours can also have the effect of scaring away the birds. Muted earth tones such as khaki, olive, brown, gray and green are good choices, as they allow you to blend with the environment.
Most individuals are aware that insect repellant should be used when bird watching in mangrove swamps. Insects, particularly mosquitoes are also found in forests and areas with tall grasses, even in the daytime. Insect repellant should therefore be used when going into these areas. In order to carry all the various items such as hat, poncho, field guide, insect repellant it is worthwhile to have a backpack.
Overall the clothing that you wear should be comfortable, of earth tones and clothes that you do not mind if they get a little dirty.