Watching Wildlife In the Bay State
The wildlife watching information on these pages is excerpted from the Massachusetts Wildlife Viewing Guide, by Bill Davis, MassWildlife Biologist. The Viewing Guide is available for purchase from MassWildlife's Westboro Field Headquarters for $8.95/copy.
Tools of the Trade
Binoculars are standard equipment for wildlife watchers and are indispensable for seeing and identifying animals in the field. The most popular models magnify the subject 7 or 8 times and are lightweight, weather resistant, and moderately priced. There are many variations on the traditional design, including compact models that fit easily into a fanny pack or belt pouch and large binoculars with greater light-gathering capability for viewing in low light conditions. Check with an optics dealer for advice on a pair that will meet your needs.
A spotting scope and tripod will extend your viewing range considerably. Scopes typically magnify an image from 20 to 60 times and can have fixed or zoom magnification lenses. Once wildlife has been located with binoculars it's often possible to finid the subject with a scope for a better view. Practice with fairly stationary objects, such as a perched hawk or wading heron, before trying to follow and focus on a running deer or flying duck.
There are a wide variety of field guides available to help you identify the wildlife and wild plants you encounter. Many have drawings and photographs which point out an animal's distinctive features, colors, or patterns, called field marks, which greatly aid in identification. You'll find birds, butterflies, wildflowers, and even whales in field guides.
Wildlife photography and videography is growing in popularity almost as fast as wildlife watching. Preserving wildlife memories through photography or video is a satisfying hobby and adds to the enjoyment of the viewing experience. Equipment is a matter of personal preference, not to mention personal finance. The best times for photography are often early and late in the day, when the rich, golden light produces dramatic shadows and increased color contrast. Show animals exhibiting natural behavior in their natural surroundings by keeping distance between the subject and the camera. If you approach too closely, the bird or animal may flee, spoiling the viewing and photo opportunity for yourself and others.