Saturday, January 31, 2009

Birding on Wheels

The further into winter we get, the more I come to the realization that being a birder during winter is rather difficult. Not so much for back yard birding, but for going out to other places in search for birds.

I started off my day as I always do which is staring out my kitchen window to watch the birds enjoy the bounty I put out for them. While I enjoy it immensely, I feel the need for something more. I miss the high I get when discovering a new species for the first time. The excitement in my heart and shortness of breath, the trembling fingers adjusting camera settings and joy you have for that one brief moment. Now that I am becoming more of an experienced birder, I have to go out and search for that fix because it no longer comes to my back yard.

So off to the cemetery I go which is covered in ice in the location that has the best birds. I get out of my car and slip and slide. The thoughts in my head start and I wonder if I can slowly walk into the deeper snow where falling on ice is a little less probable. I know right then and there that there is no way I am going to make it that far. The ice looks slick and unforgiving, the kind that makes you skate a couple of feet in horrid fear as you fall flat on your hiney and hit your head. I picture myself on the frozen ground in incredible pain as my shouts of "Help, I've fallen and I can't get up echo throughout the woods.

Feeling defeated and powerless against the elements I get back into my car and try and make the best of things. I can still bird I think, I will just do it in the comfort of my car. This is not something I'm used to. For me birding is about being outside with the birds and feeling the earth against your feet and the sun on your face. Being in a car means.....well.....being in your car. I drive around slowly trying to maneuver my way around ice and snow banks. The cemetery is very quiet and I hear no bird song or calls. Hmmmm, I think as I see some bittersweet.....I bet there must be some kind of bird around that area. Sure enough there was. A flock of about 10 robins were eating the bittersweet and trying to stay warm.

I also found a mockingbird eating rose hips all by itself. It doesn't even move as I take pictures of it. HA!! This is not so bad after all. The birds don't seem nearly as afraid of a car as they are of a human. Taking pictures is easier too because I can perch my elbows against the window to keep my hands a little more steady. This is wonderful I think as I fishtail around the cemetery trying to stalk a flock of Canadian geese down toward the river.
When I finally catch up to the geese, I realize they are not there, but a couple of hooded merganser's are. The problem is, that I can't get a photo of them inside of my car without some kind of fancy maneuvering. I park as close to a snow bank as I can and step into it. a few lesser scaup's take flight as they see me appear from behind the banking. Shoot, I think to myself, there goes that picture. I come up with the genius idea of using the snow banking as a bird blind and am able to get this lousy photo of the merganser. I am going to have to practice some taking photos of water with sun beating toward it because no matter what I did, it came out too bright.

All in all, it was an okay day. I didn't see my pileated woodpecker, but there is always tomorrow.


Betsy from Tennessee said...

Birding is hard---and the hardest thing for me is to be still and patient. I spent 30 minutes walking around the empty lot an my yard --and only saw 3 bird TOTAL (a Mourning Dove--way up in a tree, a downy that flew by me, and ONE little pine siskin going to the feeders.

I kept hearing Pete (my Red-bellied Woodpecker) hollering and pecking, but when I'd get close he'd stop --and I couldn't find him. He was playing a game with me.. As soon as I walked away, he'd holler again. I never did see that booger.

BUT--ain't it all fun????

Glad you didn't fall in the ice.
P.S. Even though they are common, I have NEVER seen a mockingbird... Crazy, huh?

Shellmo said...

I think you did great on your birdy trip! Be careful out in those cold elements - I don't want to think of you frozen the the ground either calling help! LOL! The car can act as a good "bird blind". I got my best eagle photos from my car. When I stepped out - they all flew away.

The Early Birder said...

Birding from the car (using it as a hide - you say 'blind')is good - WELL DONE, but it takes more effort as you need to park in the right place - not always possible. As Shelly says the birds are less likely to fly away as they do not detect your movements. Good to here you didn't slip up!

Steve B said...

I've tried to shoot ducks from the car too. They just sort of swim away, looking over their shoulders, "not today buddy!"

Hang in there Kim, in just a couple of months, the migration will start.

Mary said...

It's the ice, Kallen. We feel immobilized and cabin fever makes us nuts!

Otherwise, I love birding in the winter. The trees are bare and there's good looking. The feeders in the yard are always busy.

Summer is my least favorite season. The only real highlight I enjoy are Hummingbirds!

You caught some great shots today! Just be careful...

troutbirder said...

Very well written and nice pics too. I am going crazy trying to get a decent picture of a titmouse that flies in and out... spending approxiamately 1&1/2 seconds on the shelf bird feeder per trip.

Kelly said... say it's a lousy shot of a merganser, but it's beautiful to me. I've yet to see one in real life, so you're lucky there! said...

You did a great job of getting a photo that will mark the day you got to see a beautiful hoody..that is what counts..

Kallen305 said...

Betsy, you got that right that birding is hard. I didnt' realize it until a few weeks ago. I can't believe you only saw 3 birds. I have a feeling today will be your lucky day though and you will see tons. ;o)

Shelley, I can only imagine how nice your eagle shot was. You take such great pictures so it had to have been beautiful.

Early Birder, that is one of my frustrations w/ taking photos in the car. You can't get to many of the places you want to in order to ge the photo.

Steve, I cannot wait for spring migration! Talk about the feast for the eyes.

Mary, thank you for reminding me that yes it is indeed the ice. I didn't mind it at all until it started taking over every walking surface that I am around. Yes I do love the fact that the branches are bare so you can get some really nice photos of birds.

Trout, I am like that w/ the chickadee. They will not stay put for one moment. I am sure you will get a really nice tufted titmouse photo before the winter ends.

Kelly, I saw a CM a couple of weeks ago but didn't want to record it as a find until I could get a decent look at it. I bet you would see a couple if you have some unfrozen water in your town. Unfrozen water is a bird magnet right now due to the fact that much of the waters are frozen.

Rambling, thanks for remeinding me of what is indeed important. You are so right, I saw it w/ my own two eyes and that is what really matters in the end.

Beth said...

Nice pictures, Kallen, you are good at following clues about where the birds might be. I liked your description of finding a new species, I don't know very many species but I feel it too when I see a new one. I hope you get some warmer weather this week.

Jayne said...

You inspire me Kallen! I rarely get out of my own backyard, and you are always up to the challenge. You go girl!

Deborah Godin said...

Those "hoodies" are so neat-looking. I usually see a pair or two around here at some point (not for a while yet, though!!)

Rich said...

Walking and/or sliding on ice is pretty tricky. I have fallen a time or two doing that. Pictures from a car in rotten conditions is a good idea.

You got some good pictures too.


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