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Local Hummers

Back in January 2010, “Nature”, that marvelous show that airs on your local PBS station premiered “Hummingbirds: Magic In The Air”. For anyone who loves birds this particular episode was an absolute joy to watch. Besides all the different species found all over the world and the science behind the evolution of the hummingbirds, what I enjoyed the most was the the slow motion video of the birds. It was the kind of photography that would make any amateur photographer envious. But there was this one particular segment during the show that intrigued me the most. It was a laboratory setting where they had some hummingbirds confined in a enclosed setting with slow motion video recording them as they consumed very small, gnat type of insects. And as they filmed them you could see as they opened their beak and ate the insect in super slow motion. It was impressive video because we who love hummingbirds either as a bird watcher or not probably have never seen this behavior before. We normally see them as they buzz us while we’re out in the field. or as they sit perched. I’m sure the majority of us have watched as they feed on flowers or feeders we’ve hung up, never eat a bug considering how fast they move.

Well a few days ago while I was sitting on my front porch, with my camera, a hummingbird shows up by one of my hanging baskets on my front porch.

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So I raise my camera and get focused in on the bird and fire off several shots in succession in an attempt to freeze the bird and it’s wing beats. Later when I’m downloading the pictures onto my computer for some post-processing I see this picture.

IMG_0946The same behavior I saw the hummingbirds on “Nature” as they went for the gnats, just happened before my own camera. And if you look real close between the hanging basket and the birds open mouth you’ll see the very small insect it’s going for. What a very cool picture!

View From My Front Porch

Since the purchase of my new camera, and the return of the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, I’ve spent countless hours patiently watching and waiting for some good photo-ops of these birds. I’ve gotten some good one, and I’ve also taken crap. It’s something about fast moving objects that make getting a clear picture difficult. And to capture one as they’re hovering, and stopping the wing beats with a fast shutter speed is ridiculously hard. So for now I’ll settle for some stationary hummers.

IMG_0823The male

IMG_0829The female

July 100 Species Challenge Update

Despite the inclement at the time I left the house, I was hoping for a break in the rain as I made my way to Gilmore to pad my July 100 list this evening. I was hoping to add just a couple new birds for the month and with the news of breeding Great Egrets at Gilmore Ponds I naturally thought this place is so much more closer than the Oxbow, that I might as well give it a try.

So as of right now I stand at 78 birds with the addition tonight of

  • Great Egret
  • Willow Flycatcher
  • Blue-winged Teal

Tomorrow I’m off to Spring Valley and Caesar Creek. Time is ticking and it’s the 18th already.

July 100 Species Challenge

Most everyone who birdwatches has heard of the January 100 Species Challenge. Well the gauntlet has been thrown down again, and this time it’s a July challenge. July is one of those months when birding falls off. It’s still too early for migrants to be coming south, and it’s just too hot sometimes to be going out except in the morning. eBird has created their own challenge where if you submit 50 check lists for the month of July you”re eligible for a drawing where you could win a pair of nice Zeiss binoculars. It’s seems that it’s not just Ohio where birding can be slow for the month.
So earlier in the month Paul Hurtado, an important birder in the Ohio birding community, posted on the Ohio Listserv the challenge to come up with 100 species for the month of July. Well at the time I never gave it too much thought till recently. So I started to count in my head all the birds that I”ve seen this month, and I think that I have a good start to meet this challenge and maybe accomplish it.
So this evening I sat down and compiled my list of all the bird species I saw this month. Now granted I did go to Tennessee over the 4th of July, and technically they ‘re still different bird species. So I’m counting them.
After doing some careful counting I came up with 74 species so far. Which isn’t too bad, but can be improved upon. Now I’m thinking of my strategy on how to complete my list before August arrives. In a day or so I”ll share with you all the birds I”ve seen so far. So stay tuned.

The Aging Bird Watcher

I’m going to be turning 60 years old in March of 2015. For some people this is one of those mile-stone birthdays, however for myself the only thing I’m looking forward to next year is my much anticipated trip to the Rio Grande Birding Festival. This trip will be my birthday present to myself, and when you reach such an age I think you should be able to splurge a little. However this post isn’t about my upcoming trip to Texas. It’s about our abilities as aging birders when those sensory and physical attributes we used to poses in our younger years diminish with age.

If you’re a loyal reader of this blog you’ll hear me talk about my friend Jon as we go about birding all over hither and yawn. Jon’s a great birder and a good friend, but the one thing I’ve noticed about Jon, (and rather envious about) is his ability to hear the smallest, high pitched, distant bird call or song in a forest of noise and chatter. At one time in my not so long life I to was able to hear such sounds. However as myself and others get older trying to discern and pick out those smallest of bird calls from all the others can be a challenge. I’ve lost count on how many times Jon will hear a bird call, where I’ve missed it. We stop to listen again, now more intently. You finally hear the call way off in the distance and feel somewhat relieved  that you’re not totally deaf. This kind of experience which can be common place with the aging birder, and rather humbling. We as birder rely on our auditory skills to ID, or to locate birds that give us only a “chip” note as you walk by as the only clue to it’s location.

How many of you have gone birding with a large group of other people from your local Audubon Society, or your local bird club? Outings like these can be a great way to meet other like minded people, or become involved if your new to bird watching. Exploring a new place with a group is a safe haven for those who would never go there by themselves in the first place. I still go out with groups from time to time. Even the last 2 outing I took to Boone County Cliffs and Adams County were with large groups. But there is a draw back when birding with groups that I’m finding out. Idle talk. If you have a difficult time hearing birds at certain decibel levels, people talking to each other using their normal voices creates this gray noise that’s hard to filter out. And I’m not one to tell others to tone it down either. Whenever a situation like this happens I tend to hang either in the front of the group or the back. Sometimes these older ears need to be away from a crowd to be able to pick up those faint songs.

Granted, birding in a large group with experienced leaders can be very rewarding with great birds and maybe a “Lifer” or two. And I can guarantee you I’ll be joining large groups before my birding days are over, but nothing beats birding by yourself or with one or two others. Jon and me know when to shut up and pay attention. We both have good abilities at stalking birds we hear, and so we compliment each other with our natural skills. It’s just he has better hearing than me.

We’d all like to go birding in perfect conditions. The solitude of the forest. The windswept prairie, or the desert southwest. However the urban birder who have those elderly ears is faced with other obstacles to deal with. Particularly planes, trains, automobiles, playgrounds, dog parks, and the list goes on and on. A couple of my go to spots for Vesper Sparrows and Rough-legged Hawks are right under the flight paths of local airports. And don’t get me started about trains. Why is it that some of the best birding spots are near railroad tracks? If you don’t have the bird sighted in visually as a train starts to roll by, birding by ear is next to impossible.

It’s these background noises, along with the vocal pitch of some birds that constantly remind myself, and I’m sure others, that we’re not as young as we used to be. And if it’s not the fading ears that’s bothering you, how are those joints holding up after a full day of birding? I don’t about you but at times I have to take a therapeutic dose of Advil if I know I’m in for a full day.

For myself I have to blame it on a Golden-winged Warbler. You see while walking rather briskly to catch up to a group who had located this bird at Ottawa N.W.R. I inadvertently stepped into a hole with my right foot. Which in turn almost sent me to the ground with sharp pains in my knee. This was several years ago and one surgery later it still gives me fits when I’m out in the field for a long time. Even if the older birder doesn’t have any preexisting issues, over time the articulating surfaces of our joints begin to wear away, and then the pain sets in. Does this effect where a birder might go on his or her next field trip? Sure it does. My recent trip to Boone County Cliffs involves a strenuous climb in the beginning of the trail. When this field trip was advertised it stated that fact so if you were physically unable for such a climb then you might consider not going. So now the aging birder needs to understand their own abilities when setting off into the field for a day of birding. A great day of birding could lead to joint pain with ice packs in the old Lazy Boy at the end of the day.

Even though I work in a hospital I can’t make any kind of recommendation as to what the answer for might be, however to quote Clint Eastwood, “A man should know his limitations” ring true when the older birder ventures out into the field. I do have to hand it to the handicapped bird watcher though, who takes to their scooter and powers their way along. Every year I see several handicapped birders along the boardwalk at Magee Marsh in May. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a ambulatory individual not allow a handicapped birder have access to a particular bird sighting. Granted the scooters do take up a fair amount of room on the boardwalk. And if you’ve ever been there in May you know how crowded it can get. But birders are naturally patient and allow them to move about at the pace they need to.

With such conditions hampering our ability to go birding as we age, the last thing we should have to worry about is our eyesight, right? Well next to our ears and extremities, our eyesight ranks right up there in importance. Fortunately for us there are many ways to correct ones vision either with corrective lenses or surgery, which now a days can be done on an out patient basis. Sure there are conditions that the older birder might need to deal with as their vision fades, but with anything medical every person is different, with different challenges we have to face. We then need to adapt to meet these challenges so the aging birder can continue with their passion.

For myself I can see at a distance just fine. However I need to take reading glasses with me wherever I go. There’s always going to be a need to reference our field guide while we’re out birding, so if you can’t see the picture well enough, or see that range map, there’s no use in carrying it, right? And if you’re a person who wears glasses, as lots of aging birders do, does your binoculars have adjustable eye cups? If they don’t, then there’s another thing you have to think about. Those bins you’ve owned since your 30’s might not be what is needed now as your eyes age. And since most birders love to upgrade their binoculars, this is one thing you might need to consider when purchasing your new bins. Will these binoculars work for me when I get older? Should I spend a little more to make sure they have adjustable eye cups when I wear my glasses?

I don’t know anyone who enjoys getting older, however knowing your own body and it’s limitations, we as aging birders should be able to bird to a ripe old age. I’m sure the stimulation and hard work we put into this past time also helps with the aging brain. The companionship with others is vital for a healthy mind and body as well. We as birders need bird watching as much as a junkie needs a fix. It’s what makes us tick. And as we age I think we need it more than ever, So be mindful of your body changes and what your plans will be to adjust. Sometimes we can’t do a thing about medical conditions we have, but as a species we’ve been able to adapt to changes for the most part. But if your able to make adjustments as you age, then there isn’t an excuse to not go birding.

So once again I’ll be up bright and early one day this weekend, pop a few Advil with mu morning cup of Joe, and head out into the field while I’m still able. I hope to see you as well.

 

 

Upcoming Events

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A week from tomorrow, at the start of the 4th of July holiday, I’ll be traveling down to Tennessee. The reason for this trip is 2 fold. 1st I’m going to visit my oldest son who’s working at the Great Smoky Mountain Institute at Tremont,

And the 2nd reason is my attempt to tick off the last warbler species east of the Mississippi that has still eluded me. The Swainson’s Warbler. My son has told me he feels confident that this will be no problem. You see he has a friend who also works at Tremont who is studying and banding Louisiana Waterthrush in the area, and she seems to know a thing or two about the bird and where to find them.

So with all the help I can muster I’ll have 3 solid mornings trying to pick this life bird. However if I fail at locating this bird, I’ll still have a great time in the mountains as my youngest son will be joining me in the long drive that weekend.

So stay tuned, a full report is forth coming.