Break Into Birding With This Local Birdwatching Starter Pack

Looking to try something new? If you're looking for an activity that blends the joy of getting outdoors with the thrill of a scavenger hunt, you might consider trying your hand at birdwatching (aka birding).

If you do, you won't be alone. Dubbed 2017's "unlikeliest craze" Condé Nast Traveller, birding is no longer the domain of eccentric relatives in khaki utility vests, but has caught on with the younger set, too, with millennials increasingly busting out the binoculars.

There are plenty of places to try your hand in urban areas: the Golden Gate Audubon Society's list of top birding sites includes Lands End, Heron's Head Park, Golden Gate Park and Lake Merced in San Francisco, and notes Sausal Creek, Lake Merritt, and Middle Harbor Shoreline as good options for birding in Oakland.

To get started, you'll likely also need some supplies. Read on for a birdwatching starter pack to kick things off.

Disclosure: While this post is not sponsored, Hoodline may receive compensation from affiliate links used herein.


A good pair of binoculars is essential for spotting that rare breed, but for an amateur birder, it needn't break the bank. If you're just getting started, ignore the high-end options and try the Celestron Nature DX 8×42, which is going for $110: Audobon says it "outscored all others in their class in clarity, brightness, and color rendition, and reviewers appreciated the sturdy feel and close-focus capacity," and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology noted that its reviewers "were stunned to learn the price of the Celestron Nature DX, after rating them as highly as models many times their price."

Celestron Nature DX 8x42 Binocular
4.6 stars | 350 reviews
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Bird guide

Can't tell a finch from a sparrow? You'll need an illustrated, geographically relevant guide to help you identify what you're seeing. A good place to start is with Lone Pine Field Guides' Birds of Northern California: with over 320 species of birds presented in detail, with descriptions, illustrations and range maps, plus a checklist to help you "keep a list of your birding accomplishments," it's a a go-to for the Bay Area and beyond.

Birds of Northern California
4.6 stars | 58 reviews
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Bird journal

With bird images reproduced from hand-colored 19th century lithographs from John James Audubon's The Birds of America, Audubon's bird journal is an aesthetic treat. Record your field notes by date, location, weather and detailed observations, and use the blank pages to sketch the natural scenes you encounter on your birding expeditions. 

Audubon Bird Journal
4.5 stars | 8 reviews
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Field bag

Need a bag to stow your equipment? This Filson field bag is small enough to avoid added bulk, but large enough to fit your binoculars, journal and bird guide comfortably. Made from paraffin-treated twill for water repellency, it comes in desert tan (pictured) and otter green color options, and it available for $180.

Filson Small Field Bag
4.3 stars | 11 reviews
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Break into birding with this local birdwatching starter pack