Sunday, March 9, 2014
Until you remember where you left it. That was me with my camera this weekend. It's at work, I know exactly where I left it after I led a field trip for the Pinelands Short Course at Forsythe NWR. Happily, it's in a safe spot. Unhappily, it's not with me, and wasn't for the rest of the weekend's birding, so no new pictures for the Freiday Bird Blog today. And yes, I do feel kind of naked without it, which means I've perhaps evolved finally from a birder/naturalist to a photo-birder/naturalist.
Or maybe, dear reader, it just means I love to share what nature hands out, and so today I'd maybe be sharing photos of Brown Creeper at Lizard Tail Swamp or even the Black-headed Gull at Miami Beach, Villas, NJ, if I could have gotten a photo of either of them.
I dunno, this deserves further reflection. Does the camera make you a worse naturalist, or a better one? I virtually never photograph a bird I haven't identified and watched through binocs or scope first, so I'm not using the camera as an i.d. crutch there, taking pictures and identifying them later or even worse, taking pictures and then shipping them off to someone else for an opinion. Ah, but what about bugs, dragonflies and damselflies and butterflies and such? I often i.d. such critters after the fact, and on occasion do send photos to others for help. Is that bad? I guess not, I learn a little bit every time.
Here's something else: I often spend much more time with a subject when I'm trying to get a good photo of it than I would if I was "just" birding or butterflying or whatever. I've many fond memories of hanging out with a particular loon or sea duck foraging near a jetty, waiting for the perfect, close shot and in the process learning more about how they foraged and even what they were eating. That's how I learned how often Common Loons feed on crabs, not fish, in winter.
There. The camera makes me a better naturalist. And I miss it.
Posted by Don Freiday at 7:58 PM
Thursday, March 6, 2014
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Saturday, March 1, 2014
[This adult Razorbill was "naked-eye" on the north side of the 8th Street Jetty in Avalon, NJ.]
I love the sounds of the late winter ocean, and I'm not talking about the surf crashing, though that's nice enough. No, I'm talking about the courting ducks, the plaintive whistles of male Black Scoters and the barking of Long-tailed Ducks. That's what you hear when you get out of the car at Avalon, NJ now, from the many ducks that have accumulated there at the mouth of Townsend's Inlet.
Today there was also a nice close Razorbill, which set me to thinking about why I don't find rare birds more often. The first reason is one of my favorite birding theorems:
RARE BIRDS ARE RARE.
But there are other reasons. Like, I don't look hard enough. I left several thousand dollars worth of scope and graphite tripod sitting in the truck because I didn't feel like carrying it. Having the scope in hand interferes with quick binocular and camera use, but without the scope you are obviously range-limited. I'm even more range limited at least some of the time, because when I'm thinking about pictures I'm thinking about, and looking for, close birds, i.e. naked eye birds, which is what the Razorbill was. You'd be surprised how far away you can identify a bird naked eye once you try it, but even so, you find more birds if you scan with binoculars and scope.
Another thing that limits my rare bird finding is that I just don't enjoy looking for one species, no matter how rare. This explains why I drove by Stone Harbor Point today, thought briefly about searching for the Smith's Longspur that was there a few weeks ago, and just said, nah, I'd rather not devote a lot of time looking for one rare bird when I can spend the same time looking at many common birds. Like the flocks at Avalon.
It's not even that Razorbills are all that rare from shore in the winter. I'd describe their status as "You usually don't find one, but now and then you do." The Ebird filter doesn't even flag a single Razorbill in Cape May County, though I wonder a little about that, maybe it should.
Posted by Don Freiday at 2:59 PM