Birding 101 According to Bob

This ought to be a lot of fun.  I was surprised to get several comments in my previous post, that several of you were surprised that we had seen so many birds.  I am flattered that you think that it is such a big deal.  Actually, many serious birders will be saying, ” You spent four days and saw only 38??”.  (Note: My original post said 35, but after going through our notes, we discovered that we had left three off the list.)

Let’s start at the beginning.  About three or four years ago, I was just photographing any thing that came to mind; air shows, balloon fests, animals, scenics, etc.  Then I happened to be visiting some close friends, and I happened to shoot pictures of some birds in her front yard.  The photos came out pretty well, but I couldn’t  identify what they were.  That is not a good thing for a photographer, not to know what he is photographing.  So I got hold of some books on birds to see what the heck I had.

Then a local lady that I know here in San Angelo saw my photographs and tried to talk me and Ann into going “birding” with a group at San Angelo State Park at, get this, 7:30 AM in the morning.  I said, “Are you nuts?  Looking at birds at 7:30 AM??  It’s cold out there here in January”

So, about two months later, when it got warmer, she asked us again and we somewhat reluctantly decided to go.  I thought, what the heck, they can see all the birds they want and I’ll photograph them.  And that is what we did, and we actually enjoyed it, albeit we didn’t know a pigeon from a parakeet. 🙂

But, you know what?  We got hooked.  We started keeping our “life lists”.  Each time we saw a bird that we could identify on sight, that got added to our list.  Of course, I tried to photograph each one, too.  In fact, it was important at first, that when we saw a new bird, that we had a photograph that we could check with in our bird guide.  It made identifying them easier.

My personal “life list” is now at 236.  I added two new ones, the Olive-sided Flycatcher and a Black-chinned Sparrow, on our trip to Big Bend.  I didn’t get decent, (publishable) photos of them, but good enough pictures of them to make identification.  There is one bird that is native only to the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park.  The Colima Warbler.  It can be found if you can take the Lost Mine Trail into the mountains.  I can’t take the hike anymore, but there is always the chance one of the birds may wander astray.  I haven’t seen one yet.  That would be a “lifer”. 🙂 By the way, out of the 236, I have photographed perhaps 150 of them.

So it goes.  Ann and I go birding around here in San Angelo whenever we get the chance.  Our goal is to see how many we can see in a day.  Ann keeps up with the list, and I have my cameras.   One day we may see only 20, another maybe 37 or more if we’re lucky.  Really, really good birders may see 65 in a day, with a yawn.

On one trip, Ann and I were going to join Sid and Suzanne Johnson on a birding trip to Lake Ivie, about 60 miles away.  We started about 8:00 one morning, and we always watch for birds on the way.  By noon we had made only 30 miles to Ballinger, Texas.  We ate lunch there, and decided to take a different route to return home.  Again with birding on the way, we made it back by 4:30PM with a total of 47 different bird sightings.  We haven’t made it to Lake Ivie yet. 🙂

Each time is a new adventure.  We never know what we might see.  We might see one that is a new bird for us.  After all, in our area there is a total of 358 different species, somewhere out there.  I sure haven’t seen them all.    But with a set of binoculars and a camera, and a handy bird guide book, it may come easier.

So all of you, grab your binoculars, head to your back yard, and you may see something new.  If you do, snap a picture, e-mail it to me and we will see what it may be.  Try these for practice.  I took two photographs of each of these two birds.  I am not sure what they are.  The first two are of what I think can be an Eastern Phoebe, an Eastern Wood Pewee, or an Olive-sided Flycatcher, or maybe something else.  I don’t know what it is and I need help.

What is it????

What is it???

The next one is, I think, some kind of sparrow, but which one is it.  Sibley’s Guide to Birds says there are 36 different types.  I don’t know.  I hope one of you can help.

What is it???What is it???

What is it??

 As you can see, sometime even photos may not help, as they don’t always show enough detail.  These photos were snapped not under the best conditions.  But you can click on them to enlarge them and maybe one of my serious birder blog readers can help me.  Or maybe you can.  I am anxious to see what kind of comments I receive.

I am hoping that some of you get hooked on this addictive hobby.  It can be great fun.  Happy Birding!!

(UPDATE:  H. J. Ruiz over at Avian 101 has identified the first one as an Eastern Phoebe, as I had already surmised it to be.  However, he also IDed the second one as a female Red-winged Blackbird.  I dropped the ball on that one.  I was researching sparrows, and never considered it to be any other.  But the markings definitely point to the blackbird.  The bird was at a distance and I mis-judged the size.  Thank you, H. J.)