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What to Take

Close up views of wildlife are especially rewarding and binoculars and telephoto lenses allow good viewing with minimal disturbance to the animal. The most important feature of a decent pair of binoculars is its ability to magnify and "gather" light. All binoculars are described by a pair of numbers, such as "7 x 35" or "8 x 40" etc. The first number refers to magnification. A "7 x 35" pair of glasses will make objects appear as if they are seven times as close as they actually are. Pick binoculars that are at least seven power. Binoculars with very high power (over nine-power) are sometimes difficult to hold steady. The second number describes the diameter of the large lens that faces the animal. A larger number indicates that more light can enter the lens, giving you a brighter image in dim light.

Field guides are an essential part of wildlife identification. Field guides can be very general, such as "Birds of North America" or "A Field Guide to the Birds East of the Rockies" or they may focus just on a particular type of bird, such as "Seabirds" or focus on a particular state or region. In addition to field guides on birds, you'll find guides to butterflies, reptiles and amphibians, fish, shells, and even animal tracks. Coupled with a list of species commonly observed (often available for the asking at many parks and refuges), a good field guide will help you narrow the list of species you may encounter at a site and also provide you with more in-depth life history information.

You may want to keep a flashlight handy for viewing the eyeshine of animals at night. Eyeshine is light that is reflected off of a mirror-like layer in the back of the animal's eye. If you go out at night, hold a flashlight to your forehead and look down the beam of light. You may see the bright yellow eyeshine of a raccoon or the greenish reflection from a frog.

Visitors to the outdoors should always consider their need for year-round protection from the Florida sun and mosquitoes, flies, ticks and chiggers. Summer heat and humidity are especially taxing on the uninitiated. Always carry along a hat, water, insect repellent and polarized sunglasses. The latter will reduce the glare from water surfaces and enhance the viewing of manatees, fish and other aquatic animals. Preparation is especially important for visits to sites that lack restrooms, water fountains and other basic visitor amenities.

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