Sunday, February 15, 2009

Great Backyard Birdcount-Day of Mishaps

It was one of the those days that I am sure many birders have (please tell me it's not just me). I started off very enthusiastic to start my third day of birding for science and had all of my spots planned. The first stop was Downtown Worcester, to be able to record at least one falcon for the count. Sure enough there it was at 7:15AM on top of the Unum building. I jumped out of my car and ran up to a parking garage on the top level to try and get a decent photo. Despite the height advantage, the photo came out lousy and not worthy enough to post.

Next, it was onto Institute Park in Worcester in hopes of spotting and photographing the pair of mute swans I had seen there previously. I was very excited to see them after reading Chuck Tague's wonderful article on birding courtship and mute swans in particular. After wobbling and slipping on the still existent ice, I got to my spot to only see one. I grabbed my binoculars trying to locate the other but it wasn't there. Hmmmmm. Perhaps a lovers quarrel??? Anyhow, I was able to get a couple of pictures of the one that was there. Lighting was terrible so the picture came out kind of dull.

I then proceeded to Hope and Notre Dame cemeteries which were both devoid of birds that I could see. I could hear them allright, but couldn't find any.

Hoping for better luck in Millbury, I went to the bike path which was again pretty quiet. I did see quite a few hooded mergensers, including the two in the photo above. I wish the photo came out better, but the sun was too bright. Does anyone have any tips on how to photograph birds in water on sunny days. The glare makes all of my photos too bright and adjusting on Picassa does nothing to help. I love how the mergenser on the right has its mouth open. Such pretty birds!

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn't include my weekly obligatory picture of a crow stalking a hawk. I love how these two are in sync with one another. Kind of like Dancing with the Stars for birds!

I made a big boo boo with the gull above. You see, I knew this gull had to be unique because it was all by itself and not obnoxious. I took about 15 photos and this is the best one!!! That awful sun glare again........Anyhow, I was uploading my bird count data and was using my Peterson's Bird Guide to identify this one. On the bottom of the page is a photo of the Lesser Black Backed Gull and the Great Black Backed Gull. They are directly side by side and I only saw the text for the Lesser Black, so that's what I entered. It is indeed a Great Black Backed Gull. I feel terrible for submitting bogus info especially because according to Peterson, the gull is rather rare. I pray that a bunch of local birders don't see this and run to Millbury in hopes of seeing it, because of some newbie who can't get her birds right. Sigh, next time I will pay better attention to my field guide. Lesson learned.

Now onto the biggest mishap of the day, (as if it can't get any worse).........I went to the local cemetery in hopes of seeing a golden crowned kinglet and was trying to locate a nuthatch on a tree trunk when all of a sudden, I could see the heron out of the corner of my eye. It appeared to be down the river some on the other side. I squinted my eyes, but it was no use because it was too far away. I reached for my binoculars and I forgot them in the car (doh). I grabbed my camera to zoom in as much as I could when I realized that this was not a Great-blue Heron, but a Great Egret!! HA, this is fantastic I think to myself as I try and figure out a way I can take a good picture, despite the distance.

There is no use trying to get a photo this far away, so I decide to go into the unfamiliar woods to get a little closer. At first it's easy going until I get to a part with nothing but bushes and bramble. I mazed my way through the brush when I could finally see some bare land and the water to the river. I approached the clearing when suddenly my front tooth crown fell off of my tooth and into my mouth. You see I thought I could feel a hairline crack in one of the crowns last week but wasn't sure so I have put off calling my dentist because I fear him more than I do the IRS.

I am mortified at this point obviously and I take the crown out of my mouth and examine it. I then run my tongue across my front tooth and I can feel this jagged piece of my existing tooth against it. Hmmmmmm.........What to do-what to do. Well, I think to myself, the dentist isn't open today and I am so close to that egret, that I will just put the crown carefully into my pocket and take the picture. I know I look downright frightening at this point and I hope that no one else is in the woods forraging for mushrooms because one look at me would scare them for sure. I look like I live in the woods with my jagged front tooth, honking down coat with its mismatched knit hat.

I finally get to a decent spot to photograph and am shocked that the egret hasn't moved an inch. HA, I like this bird much more than I do the heron because it isn't' as skittish..... Brave in my discovery I inch up as close as I can and am embarrassed to discover that this isn't an egret!!! It's not even a bird!!!!!!! It's a frozen snow bank that is shaped like an egret!!!! Newbie, Newbie, Newbie, Newbie!!! I should have just stayed home today and read my field guide more and none of this would have happened. I would still have my front tooth and Audubon wouldn't think that a scarce seagull was living in the town of Millbury!!

Anyhow, I was able to put the crown back in my mouth temporarily. It actually snapped right onto the other 1/2 a crown that is still there like a puzzle piece. I will call the dentist tomorrow and put this traumatic episode behind me.

The highlight of the day was the turkey vulture I photographed at the bike path. This was the closest the turkey vulture has ever come to me and I got a great picture. A man was walking along the path and he looked up at it in total surprise. He saw me taking its photo and asked what it was. I was not only able to tell him the bird, but also answer all of the other questions he had. He walked away impressed with both the bird and my knowledge. I guess this newbie still has a lot to learn, but has come a long way since last May.

Happy Birding everyone!


Rich said...

It is often the experience that counts. I chipped a tooth in the village of Emmonak, AK last year. The dentist just happened to come into the village 3 days after I chipped it so I lucked out and got it fixed quickly.

Pictures are great. The first one is excellent!

Kelly said...

OMG...Kallen, you are hysterical!!! Loved reading your adventure today...jagged tooth and all! Great TV photo too!

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Oh what a day, Kallen.. We ALL have days like this... I can get discouraged fairly quickly when searching for birds. I need to learn to be more patient.

Sorry about your tooth.. Hopefully you can get in to your dentist soon. I'm like you.. I'd rather eat nails than go to my dentist.. ha

And the snow egret had to have been the 'last straw.' Glad you can laugh about it though... I'm sure you were furious on the 'inside.'

Get a little drinkie poo---and relax tonight.

Shellmo said...

Kallen -- it is so fun and refreshing to read about your birding adventures! Sorry to hear about your tooth - I'm no fan of the dentist either and have to psych myself up to go several weeks before the appointment. You captured a wonderful variety today - loved the beatiful swan and laugh and agree with your analogy on "dancing with the stars."

Anonymous said...

Oh dear...I don't get out and about like you have but that is probably what would happen to me including the tooth problem...and I hate having dental work done...You did get some good photos and you had the experience....

mon@rch said...

Sorry about your tooth! many of your camera happens to all of us! At least you had something to blog about! :)

jan m said...

What a day you had Kallen. I sympathize about the tooth. I am having a crown made for a recent break I had. Your birding adventures sound a lot like mine. I tend to come home with a hundred pictures on my camera, and I'm lucky if I can use two or three.

Larry Jordan said...

Kallen, I can hardly stop chuckling at your misadventures. Thank you for sharing all your escapades with us. I'm sure it wasn't a super fun day for you but look on the bright side, you almost spotted a hawk while taking your son to the store, and you still have your tooth. I have a friend who swallowed her crown when it came off and she's still waiting for it, if you know what I mean ;-)

You will find that even people who have been birding for a long time have trouble identifying bird species. You will get better at it, as all birders do, with experience.

Didn't it make your day when you answered all that gentleman's questions about the TV (nice capture too)? You probably made his day too.

Have a great birding day tomorrow. Celebrate the final day of the GBBC and enjoy. I find it's not the number of species that count, it's just being able to watch and learn.

Mary said...

LOL! What a day...but you were out there looking for photos. Hope you get the tooth fixed.

Jayne said...

Oh Kallen.... you are so precious! I love your honesty. I didn't even try to do the count as I was so frustrated with the pickings. Hope your tooth is easily fixed. Have a wonderful week ahead!

Steve B said...

Been there, done that on just about every paragraph! What impresses me is that you know your mistakes and you are not getting discouraged. It does take time, practice and more practice. It ain't easy, but a heck of a lot of fun.

My biggest blunder was when I moved to Boulder, CO, from Southern California. I reported a Great-tailed Grackle which would have been a first for Boulder, County.

Deborah Godin said...

Oh I can't wait for the turkies to come back, I look forward to them more than robins - they're such wonderful flyers and drifters!

NW Nature Nut said...

Your story had me giggling. I stopped to read the snowbank egret part to Mr. Nut and he got a kick out of it too. That is a good story and hopefully you will be laughing about it later- after you get that tooth fixed!

Craig Glenn said...

LOL, what a day! You got some great shots and had an adventure to write about. That to me is half the fun.


RuthieJ said...

What a crazy day you had Kallen. At least it had an upbeat ending (and made for an entertaining blog post!)

Larry said...

I enjoy reading "newbie" adventures. I've been birding for a while now but still have plenty of those moments. It can be embarrasing.It's more fun to read about someone else's mistakes.

Kathiesbirds said...

Bravo and good for you newie! I love your enthusiasm. I still feel like a newbie sometimes myself but I am always thankful when I can help someone else learn more about birds. I'm so glad you went out and counted. Don't worry about the gull. They would have flagged it and sent you an email if it was really rare. I share your fear of dentists and have spent most of my adult life getting over that fear. Sadly it was all undone last Thursday when I spent 8 1/2 hour of hell in a dentist's chair getting 3 new crowns! My mouth is still in pain and I can't think about the experience without crying. I hope yours was fixed much easier!

Leedra said...

It appears the hawk is attacking the crow today.

You had me laughing at your story, and I hope by now you are also laughing at it. Reminds me of many blunders of my own.

Leedra’s Photos For Fun

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Photography By Leedra

Anonymous said...

I love it ! Very creative ! That's actually really cool Thanks.


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