A major perk of working at Bird Watcher’s Digest is that publishers and birding destinations send us stuff: books, promotional materials, and other loot that usually grabs my attention and sometimes rocks my world.
Today I received a “virtual birding visit” —a box of promotional materials—from Colorado. Boy, did they target well! I don’t want to give them free advertising—wait, I think that’s inevitable in this post—but that state really has an impressive birding trail system!
You are familiar with birding trails, aren’t you?
In an attempt to assist and attract birders (and their eco-tourism economic boost), many states have published birding trail guides or maps that highlight birding hotspots. Sometimes they’re in the form of a large, folded map, like the ones my family used when we took vacations in the 1960s, and sometimes they’re packaged as a booklet. Even though I know I can use eBird on my smartphone to find birdy places, I’m a map-lover—old fashioned, printed maps, I mean. Maps and other printed guides make me visualize and even fantasize about far-off places in a way that no app has done for me yet.
Even if they are a marketing tool for their state, birding trails are so well targeted to me as a birder that I collect them. I’ll look at every page of each one I get, read the short descriptions of each pinpointed location and the species there, and spend time dreaming about visiting that place. I have a file drawer full of them at home, collected over the decades, and even more here at the office. As I am planning my next trip in that general direction, you bet I’ll dig up or request a birding trail guide and use it to plan my route, if possible. I am the kind of person who attempts to obtain (or create) a species list before each trip, and birding trail maps and guides help with that by providing lots of links to birding resources for the area.
I admit, I haven’t checked to see whether these truly useful publications are also available online—many probably are. But I don’t want to read them on my smart phone. I want a big picture of the place I plan to visit, like only a map or booklet can provide—on paper.
So, thanks, Colorado, and all the other places that have published and even sent me birding trail maps and guides. Your printing and postage costs have made me dream about your destination and the birds there, and that is a good first step in my actually visiting, birding, and spending money there.
Want a birding trail map or guide of your own? Do an Internet search for “birding trail” and your destination. If they exist, some places will send you the guide for free; some will mail it to you for a nominal fee; others list places where you can pick them up; and many have interactive birding trails online for those who don’t mind using them on digital devices. Regardless, a wise birder will find out all the birding hotspots near a planned destination before arriving, and birding trail guides make that easy.
About the Author
Dawn Hewitt is the managing editor for Bird Watcher's Digest and Watching Backyard Birds. She has been watching birds since 1978, and wrote a weekly birding column for The Herald Times, a daily newspaper in Bloomington, Indiana, for 11 years.