It was about five years ago that I got into birding. It was a by-product of photographing colorful birds. Up until that time, I was really unaware of the beauty of those avian creatures. In my mind, there were about four species of birds: i.e. ducks, pigeons, sparrows and hawks. Then I found that there about 780 species in the United States alone. Mind boggling.
Then after I got hooked, I had dreams of seeing certain birds that I had never seen before. One bird that I longed to see was the Vermilion Flycatcher. I had seen pictures, but never a live one. Friends that knew better would say, “Bob, they are out there, you just have to look closer”.
Then one day, I was startled to finally spot one. I said, “so that’s what they look like”. I watched it perch on a branch, suddenly fly down to snatch a bug of some type, then hurriedly fly back to it’s perch. Now that I had finally seen one, it became easier after that. So the point I am trying to make is that it is all in knowing how and what to look for.
The same for Nighthawks. Never had seen one until one day birding, a friend pointed it out as it was sitting on a tree limb. Even then I didn’t see what she was seeing as all I saw at first, was the proverbial bump on a log. The all of a sudden it seemed to materialize in front of me. I had been looking at it bit didn’t know what I was seeing. Now it is my turn to impress people by spotting them when they can’t.
Learning birds by learning their habits and behavior can be a huge help. Ann can even identify birds by their sounds. I hear a lot of obvious ones, but I am not becoming very proficient at it. I am getting better at visually identifying birds in flight. They all have different moves and also you can see different field marks that you may not see when they are perched or on the ground. Case in point, the American White Pelican, when in or on the water appears to be all white. But in the air, they show they beautiful wings that have contrasting black markings.
And then you have the Wilson’s Snipe. It is really invisible. It loves the marshy grasses around ponds, and I have actually stared one in the eye, and didn’t see him for what it was. This one is a little bit more visible.
So as you can see it is good to pay attention to all of the field marks, habits, and how they look and act in flight.
Now I have to study up on the behavior of those darned Clay Pigeons. They zip through the air, but disappear so quickly that I don’t get a good look.
Happy Birding!! Click on any image to see an enlargement.