I went on a trip with bird watchers from the Buffalo Ornithological Society on Sunday that was a lot of fun, but also a bit overwhelming for me. I saw so many birds it was almost mind-boggling.
I am a new member and was warmly welcomed. Being my first trip, I have so much to learn. They asked me if a bird I was seeing was a “life bird”, and I answered humorously, “All of them so far.” A “life bird’ is a bird new to the bird watcher to see and record.
Well, it was not a true answer because I did see a number of birds I did know like the Great Blue Heron, Green Heron, Peregrine Falcon, Tundra Swan, Black Vulture, Cormorant, and Great Egret. Some of these were birds I only saw through my binoculars though. Seeing and identifying constitutes a “life bird”.
What was most enlightening, was what I mentioned on many of my posts on how important it is to know the habitat and behavior of the creature you are seeking to photograph.
These members knew exactly where to go and what to expect when they got there. We would get to a sod field and I would see nothing. They would look through their scopes and there would be a group of Black-bellied Plovers.
I looked through their scopes and saw birds I never saw before, like the Horned Lark. I never even heard of this bird before. Many of the birds were too far away for my camera to capture. Some like above, were also behind chain link fences and obscured by wetland vegetation.
The trip was to see the migrating shorebirds. The wildlife was plentiful and very varied.
We went to the Canadian shore of Lake Erie and Rock Point Park. There were numerous stops along the trip where birds could be found.
The shore here is made up with fossilized rock. It is an interesting place to explore.
One thing I learned about bird watching, is it is a very interesting hobby. There is an almost encyclopedic type of knowledge that is part of each member. The group is very careful in their documentation and discuss between themselves all the traits of the birds found.
I know what a sandpiper and plover are, but did not realize there are so many of them, so I had difficulty differentiating, even after being shown what each looked like. The differences are slight in some cases, plus they are so numerous. The members are expert in their identification.
I think most would be surprised at what goes into being a bird watcher, I know that I was very surprised. I was asked if it is what I thought it would be like. I think maybe it was much more than I thought.
Beach full of Peeps.
These peeps are so tiny.
I do like photographing birds flying and these tiny birds were quite a challenge being so far away. Here is a series of a bird flying to a rock to land. I now realize that flying birds also help with identification. Sometimes under the wing helps in ID.
Bird calls and song also are helpful for those serious on knowing their birds. I got a new app from Cornell Lab of Ornithology for my iPhone that has 1300 bird calls of the Macaulay Library. Can you imagine learning these? There are also Cornell webinars that are helpful for learning. I doubt I will ever learn enough to be a true birder, but I really did love my first experience.
The members knew these birds so well. I hope you like looking at the photos I took on this trip. I took maybe 400 photos. I really enjoyed my day with them and thank them for the opportunity.
Oh, and a bird I thought was a Laughing Gull is not, no red beak. I guess it is a Bonaparte’s Gull, but I’m still not sure. See how hard it is to identify birds? So many look like others.