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Just in Case

by Robin Tuck
March 1997

I collect nature books and field guides. I have books about stars, trees, insects, as well as birds.

Some time ago, traveling to Idaho, we stopped at the rest stop near Sweetzer Summit. My small son called my wife over, who then called me, to see a big "bug." Naturally, my field guides were all safe at home on the library shelf and could do me no good. We caught the bug and continued with our trip. At our destination, one of the first things we did was to visit a book store and look up the bug. We had captured a Jerusalem Cricket, which we gave to the Bean Museum on our return home.

The lesson I learned was simple - things left home don’t help away from home. I responded to this by putting together my "naturalist box," a catalog case stuffed with field guides and maps, which I take when I start a trip.

The lesson here is being prepared wherever you are. As birders, we are out and about all over the state, and ought to have basic emergency items in our trunks. (If you don’t have the needed items in your trunk, get them now.) But over and above the emergency items, there are a number of other useful things we ought to have.

On our trips, I am always impressed when one of the ladies pulls a fold-up chair out of her trunk and sits in relative comfort to wait for the birds to come to her. I’ll start my list with a fold-up chair.

Speaking of comfort, the weather isn’t always balmy and wonderful, it can be cold or hot, so add gloves, a hat and sunscreen lotion.

Remembering a trip to Island Park where the mosquitos were positively thick, I added insect repellant and a net to cover my face.

Every birding trip I go on, about halfway through, I get hungry and buy a candy bar. I don’t need candy bars, so I’ll add a couple breakfast bars, the kind that don’t melt in the heat.

When I leave the house without a pencil and paper, I feel almost naked, so add them to the list.

I’m sure that as you think about things you wished you had on prior birding trips, you’ll be able to add to this list and customize a "birding case" tailored to your own needs.