Monday, September 13, 2010

What happened to Picus Blog?

I know, I know - it has been a really long time since I posted anything to this blog.  There are any of a number of excuses I could rattle off: work, Facebook sucking up lots of my "on-line" time, reading, researching and learning more about the world of digital photography now that I have a DSLR, health issue, the heat of summer sapping strength for birding - not to mention that in late-July until September is not my favorite time of year to go birding, etc. etc. etc.  Oh, I am fully aware that period this is full-on shorebird migration season, transitioning into fall warbler time.   I know this, and yet I still don't like it.  You see, I have come to the decision that I am a BAD BIRDWATCHER.  Yep - not too proud of it, but there you are.  Why am I a bad birdwatcher?  Well, I've given this some thought over the last several weeks while not posted anything to this blog.  Part of it is that there are birds I simply do not care too much about. (Gasp!)  For instance, as I have said in the past, I am not a big fan of "confusing fall warblers" - I enjoy seeing them in their bright alternate (breeding) plumage, singing and courting, but when they are dull colored and skulking, I'm not too enthusiastic.  (And sure they are difficult and challenging, and many enjoy the challenge - but I'm certainly not in that mindset at this stage of my birding life)  I am also not a big fan of shorebirds.  Actually, there is a caveat or two to that statement - I do like the bigger 'showier' birds, Godwits and Whimbrels, Oystercatchers and Turnstones, etc.  But, I don't enjoy scanning through huge flocks of 'peeps' trying to tease something special out of a group of very similar looking birds.  I know - this is what you need to do if you are going to find a Little or Red-necked Stint, or a Curlew Sandpiper in New England, but I guess I don't feel the need to be the one to find a rarity like that - I will be more than happy to see and watch it though.  Now if there aren't a lot of birds, and they are relatively easy to see (and photograph), then I'm good.  For instance, last weekend, we headed out to a place called Sterling  Peat about an hour west of where we live where there were a half dozen Stilt Sandpipers, as well as a few incredibly confiding Buff-breasted Sandpipers, that should one have patience and give it time, and remain quiet and non-threatening, would wander within a few feet of you.

See, I can exhibit patience when birding, and especially if I think I can get a good photograph by being so.
Which brings me to another point - perhaps I am getting lazy, but I get no pleasure from long distance/bad looks at birds.  If you've been birding for any period of time, you know what I mean - scope set up at full magnification with heat shimmer or the wind blowing, and to trying and ID a 4-6" bird at hundreds of yards away.  Will I do it for a life bird?  Yes.  Will I do it if competing with a few buddies in a competition like the Superbowl of Birding? Hell yes.Will I be satisfied with it.  Nope! Will I bother to do it for a bird I've seen in the past?  Probably not.  When I am out birding, I am looking for at least "satisfactory views" which means in a lot of cases - birds that are close enough to id with binoculars without being intrusive on the bird.  I would never give up my scope, because there are many many species that I am comfortable at identifying from a good distance, then I'd want the scope for better views.  (Think Snowy Owl, or ducks on the far side of a pond)
So there I am - a very demanding birder and photographer, wanting good looks at the birds - not fleeting or distant looks. I am addicted to those amazing experiences that you can have in nature if you only get outside with regularity - from a dragonfly landing on your shoulder and checking you out, to seeing thousands of swallows gathering at a staging spot before migrating south, as there were doing a few weeks ago on Plum Island.
It seems to me that I could be opening myself up to a few labels here that people seem to throw around with a very pejorative sense to them... things like "lister" indicating that I only care about a "tick" on my list.  It's really not the case.  True, I do keep a ABA and a Life list (actually as long as I am good about entering my sightings into Avisys, which I sometimes am not, I can keep track of just about any kind of list you can think of - hence that "lists" box in the upper right side of the page) and I am always happy to add a bird to those lists.  But honestly, I really prefer to spend time with birds and watch behavior.  Well, birds that interest me at least.  Another label that I've heard birders use in a rather negative sense is simply "photographer" indicating that all one cares about is getting a good pic, and not about the health or welfare of the bird (or even able to id the subject).  It is true that I aspire to be a good photographer - I have always had a love of photography - but that does not make me any less of a birder.  I am first and foremost interested in seeing and ID'ing the birds, then in capturing the image so that I can share this with family and friends.

So, am I really a bad birder?  Maybe, maybe not.  Will I go trucking out into the sweltering heat for birds I have seen well before, just because they are out there?  Maybe, if there is promising opportunity for seeing a bird better than I have before or watching interesting behavior.  Otherwise, I'd rather save my strength and gas.

All that being said, things are starting to cool down a bit here in New England, and I am looking forward to being able to get out comfortably and go birding.  Which also means that hopefully you will start to see some more regular posts from me.