birding victories

October 8, 2018

Saturday the Cornell Lab of Ornithology held a Big Day, and I managed to get out and get a few checklists to send them. Only about 30 species, but it is firmly, drearily autumn in my part of the world and many birds have migrated away.

But it’s been kind of exciting down at Walden Ponds east of Boulder. I’ve never seen as many birders there as I did on Saturday, with lots of spotting scopes and lots of copies of Sibley’s on hand. So, I’m really only a moderate birder. I don’t follow any forums, I’m not signed up for any alerts when rare birds show up in the area. But I can always, always tell when an alert has gone out because I’ll get to Walden Ponds and there’ll be a dozen birders with scopes all clustered together looking at a Thing.

This time, it was a Vermilion Flycatcher. We’re way north of its usual range so it’s a really cool sighting.

But that also meant I was around a lot of other birders, which always makes me self conscious because I’m pretty sure I’m not a very good birder. I’m either the Best Worst Birder or the Worst Best Birder. I haven’t decided which.  I’m usually the one in the clump of birders asking, “What’s that? What about that?” and being annoying.

So imagine the thrill when I got to school one of these hard-core birders on an ID.

“Oh look, Dowitchers!” he said confidently, gazing over his scope rather than through it.

Me:  “Are you sure those aren’t the flock of Snipes that have been hanging around the last few weeks?”

(Looks through scope.)  “You’re right! Those are Snipes!”

(Confession: I made this exact mistake the last time I was at the ponds a couple of weeks ago. So I was ready for it. I am a learning monkey.)

I tried to do some digiscoping with my scope and iPhone. I’m not sure I’ll ever take really good pictures this way — it’s a wonky set up, with an old scope, an adapter that throws off the scope’s balance, and a breeze that rattles the whole thing and gives the images a kind of hazy filter.  I could also probably learn some photo editing to fix some of these issues.

But for helping me with ID’s? It’s really cool. The scope gives me such a good look at them.

Here’s the Wilson’s Snipe:

And here’s the Long-billed Dowitcher:

It’s really easy to see the ultra-long bill from a distance and think one or the other. But the second look makes it all clear.

They’re all so cute!

 

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