Monday, April 13, 2015

Don't Let Impatience Spoil Your Birding Day

It's hard for me to imagine having a bad day of birdwatching unless I were to encounter an unexpected mishap like losing my binoculars or having my car break down. However, there are times when I have uninspiring or disappointing days of birding. The recipe for days like this are 1/2 cup of expectations combined with 3 cups of impatience. If you set out hoping to see lots of "good" birds and expecting to get "good" photos of them you can be setting yourself up for disappointment. 

This weekend I was an an unfamiliar part of the state looking for interesting places like this lake I Somewhere out in the Griswold area. It was a scenic area with trails that led around the edge of the lake, past a beaver bog, and along a brook, I loved the rock formations especially the ones with pitch pines growing out of them. Birds? I saw a couple of Mallards, noisy Blue Jays, a Red-shouldered Hawk, and a couple of Eastern Phoebes. Nice, but the birding action was slow overall.
Here is a trail which leads through a Rhododendron Sanctuary in Pachaug Forest. Again, it was scenic but the birds were few. I heard a couple of kinglets and Wood Ducks but that was about it. 

 1) Naturally scenic places that are visually appealing to the human eye don't necessarily mean there will be lots of birds: Birds might be just as likely to a sewer plant or garbage dump if it has food and conditions they are looking for. That is a lesson that I've always had a hard time accepting. When I find a beautiful place I always hope that there will be lots of birds to see as well. 

My best birding moments came when I encountered half a dozen Pine Warblers chasing each other through the woods. They never stayed in one place long and they were out of view when they did. Trying to get a photo of one reminded me of playing one of those crazy carnival games as a kid. It always seems a lot easier than it really is when a prize is dangling right before your eyes.

 It was fascinating to watch them follow each other from branch to branch as though playing a game of tag. I wish that I had spent more time just watching them and less time trying to follow them around with my camera.
The next day I started out my birding day with a new approach which leads me to number two. 

2) Take my time at each place I visit and appreciate whatever I see: In this case it was turtles that first caught my eye, not birds.
 3) When there is bird activity stay still and only pick the camera up when the opportunity presents itself: It was fitting that as I sat still on a tree stump a Pine Warbler landed on a branch in front of me. I also saw several Palm Warblers, Yellow-rumped Warblers , a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Louisianna Waterthrush, Pine Siskins and Blue-headed Vireo at one of my local patches in Meshomasic Forest which lead me to number four.

4) The grass is not necessarily greener on the other side of the fence so don't take your local patch for granted: You know the habitat and where to find the birds there so remember to appreciate your local patch!
5) Don't look a gift chickadee in the beak: Sometimes I don't bother taking pictures of birds I see all the time but then wish that I had a bird photo to show for my outing. That chickadee might be my only photo opportunity for the day so why not take a photo of it just in case?
6) Not all bird photos have to be perfect: When I first bought a camera a few years ago I would post any photo even really crappy ones. Now I sometimes find myself being too fussy but why? I'm not making a selling them, just sharing my birding experience for the day. So here's a female Red-winged Blackbird with a slightly blurred eye and an out of focus- plant blocking a view of its tail.
7) When it towhee-land do as the towhees do: I enjoyed watching this Eastern Towhee scratching through the leaves searching for food. I started to lose my patience waiting for the towhee to come out so I could get a picture of him out in the open. After several minutes I decided to lay on the ground and watch him from eye level. 

There was an interesting moment when a Blue Jay flew over my and let out a loud warning signal as it passed by. I was looking directly into the eye of the towhee and saw it suddenly freeze just as it heard the jay. Its body stayed still as it looked around for danger. Staying low to the ground allowed me to observe this moment.

Taking your time and having a little patience can make a big difference when it comes to birding!


Michelle said...

Good advice given today!

Phil Slade said...

Hi Larry, Your advice is really spot on to anyone taking up birding and bird photography. It is also a useful reminder to more experienced birders who sometimes get a little frustrated with their own patch not producing the goods - me for instance.

I always did like Pine Warbler - a very subtle but beautiful NA warbler.

Crafty Green Poet said...

excellent advice! Lovely photos too

TexWisGirl said...

great shots all the way. :)

Larry said...

Thanks for the comments!

Unknown said...

Hi Larry..Great post as usual! I've learned long ago to expect nothing, be delighted if I find something, even more delighted if I get a great bird picture..But no matter, a walk in nature is always rewarding.. And I think the "not great" female Red Wing is super!!

Unknown said...

nice photos larry