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“Editorial”

To all my readers: If I happen to offend anyone with this editorial, this wasn’t my intention and any comments relating to this post will get a reply from myself. 

 

If your child was working on a math problem and was having trouble figuring out the answer, would you:

A. Help your child work through the problem to determine the correct answer.

B. Tell them the answer

Of course it’s “A”. How does the child learn if the answer is just given over. Helping them with how to figure out a math equation will only benefit them when it really matters. Like the next math exam.

Let’s keep this scenario in the back of our minds as I get to the point of my editorial.

I belong to 8 different Facebook groups that relate to birds and birding. And I’m noticing something that’s really puzzling. With the advent of affordable digital cameras and Facebook are birders new to this hobby becoming lazy when it comes to identifying birds?  Has it become too easy to take a photo of a bird, post it on Facebook and ask for ID help? Do birders new to the hobby carry a field guide with them, whether as a hard copy book or an APP?

Think about that for a few minutes.

Now granted I’ve been birding for a very long time, and even the name of this blog refers to a “Notebook”. But before Facebook and the ability to post photos from our digital cameras (if you could afford one), what we were left with was our respected Listserv for the given state we lived in. Info about rare birds, field trips and questions about birds had to be typed out and then read by others. If you were birding by yourself and saw a bird you couldn’t identify, you’d go to your field guide and try to find it using field markings, range maps, and the general habitat the bird was seen. And after that if you still couldn’t figure out which species you saw your only other outlet was to ask another birder or post your sighting on the Listserv with a description of the bird and hope someone could help you. The operative word here is “Help”.

Do we remember those days?

When you’re in the field birders on a whole will help anyone out with identifying a bird. However this is also the time to help the birder with future birds they may come across. We’re just passing along those pearls of wisdom, right? Nothing is more rewarding (other than spotting a rarity) than being able to ID a tough bird by looking at it’s field markings, and noticing the birds behavior. It’s the culmination of hard work on your part to become a more skilled birder.

Now if Facebook was around when I first started to bird, maybe things would be different. However some things remain a constant, we identify birds through their field marks. And the only way to do this is either ask someone or use a field guide. And what I’m seeing on Facebook is to just ask someone.

Resources that are available for the birder to help them identify birds are countless. Even Cornell Lab of Ornithology developed “Merlin” to help birders enter field marks into the APP, then the Merlin gives you some choices of birds it might be. Pretty easy. I tried it out when it first came out, and for a beginner it would be helpful.

However are new birders using all the available resources to ID a bird, or is it too easy to just post a picture and ask, because someone will tell me. Which leads me back to my math problem. Do we as birders try to help them make a positive ID by guiding them with our knowledge, or is it easier to just tell them?

Case in point. On a recent conversation I was having with a new birder on Facebook in regards to a 1st summer Orchard Oriole that she posted along with a pretty decent photo. She wanted someone to help ID the bird for her.

The first person to reply told her what it was. I replied with  2 questions. What was your first impression of the species and did you have a field guide? I think you know where I’m going with this. I just wanted to help someone out who’s new to birding to improve their skills. I wanted to start a conversation about field markings, where you saw the bird, etc.etc.etc.

Harmless right?

Instead of getting a reply from the person who posted the photo, I get this response from someone different saying” What’s wrong with just helping her and answering the question”?

My response to this person was that I wanted to help her to try to figure out the species using field marks. And by doing this she’ll become a better birder. By just giving the answer we’re not really helping her. Wouldn’t you think this would be more rewarding? (Refer to my math question)

Then a totally different person replied with ” Be the kind of birder you want to be and let others be the kind  they want to be. We each can decide what is most rewarding for ourselves”.

I never got a response from the original person.

I just dropped the thread, thinking by this time it was a hopeless cause to help.

This isn’t an isolated occurrence, everyday very common birds are being posted wanting ID help, and someone will give up the answer. And when I say common, I mean as common as a House Finch. Does this person not own a field guide and why not? They take photos of birds and joined a birding Facebook Group, I would assume they would own a field guide or have at least one on their phone.

REALLY!

But it’s not just the question from the new birder that bothers me the most, the fact that they’re coming across in their post as not even trying. No mention of what the bird looks like, coloration, field marks, size comparison to other birds. Where the bird was seen, or any other type of observation, let alone the mention of using a field guide. No, they want someone to ID the bird for them. And if you want to help, you get the “snarky” responses.

The instant gratification of the digital camera and Facebook responsiveness is killing the thought process that makes the skilled birder. Facebook can be a great tool, and I use it everyday. To teach someone face to face is totally different, however with so many users of Facebook out there and their need to “know right now” attitude, trying to teach someone using this kind of media can be difficult, but it can be done, only if people are willing to learn.

P.S. The sad truth is if I posted this editorial on this one particular Facebook page, I’d probably be kicked off, that would be after all the “snarky” replies.

 

 

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Happy Thanksgiving

From my family to all my loyal readers, have a Happy Thanksgiving. And just like 2 years ago I’d like to share one of my favorite holiday songs. I hope you enjoy it as I often do during this time of year.

Notes From The Field

The weather has been nothing short of phenomenal here in the Ohio Valley. Friday we were hovering around the low to mid 70’s, and come Saturday after this weather front passed through the temps bottomed out.

Yesterday morning Jon and myself drove to the Brookville Lake area in Indiana, in 30 pluis miles and hour winds and at times snow squalls. The weather was brutal and the birds were really laying low. Other than a pair of Hooded Mergansers on the lake there wasn’t anything else on the lake. Since the lake was a bust we resorted to driving the farm roads looking for field birds. Black Bird flocks, Horned Larks and Lapland Longspurs and Sparrows were our targets as we drove slowly on the grid like roads that criss-cross the flatness of this area of Indiana.

At one time we were pretty sure we spotted a Brewer’s Blackbird in a small flock of mixed Common Grackles, Rusty Blackbirds, Starlings, and Red-winged Blackbirds. But we soon lost track of the bird after the flew to some trees close by. With Indiana being on the furthest eastern edge of their migration route this bird was a good contender for a Brewers, however not being able to relocate the bird keeps us from ticking it off.

img_5710_1

At one point we spotted a small group of about 10 Canadian Geese and low and behold here was this lone Greater White-fronted Goose. The whole group was really nervous as I tried to get close for this photo. I snapped off a few quick ones so not to spook them any more than need be.

Frozen to the core we called it quits in the early afternoon.

New T

shirt

I don’t have that many bird watching T-shirts, so when I saw this one I just had to buy it. I love it, and to the point.

Latest…

Just a quick note. I just bought a new computer and I’ve yet to figure out how to transfer all my pictures I’ve backed up, to my new computer. Blast you Windows 10

And to top it off I’m off to Michigan for the weekend. So no birding. My January 100 list will have to wait.

The Best of 2016, Part 1

As a birdwatcher who enjoys taking photographs of birds mostly for documentation and blogging purposes, I thought it would be kind of fun to review what I feel to be the better photos of birds from the previous year. The idea of doing this wasn’t my own. A fellow WordPress Blogger, https://brighamstephen.wordpress.com/ posted his top 10 photographs of 2016 just last month, so I borrowed his idea. They say imitation is the best form of flattery. Now he’s a much better photographer than I could ever be, but I thought the idea was really cool.

img_4731American Redstart  f6.5   1/250   ISO 250

This American Redstart is by far my best effort for this species. I took a stroll one morning when we visited Maumee Bay State Park last Spring, and ran into a nice pocket of warblers.

img_4432_1Vesper Sparrow   f6.5   1/800   ISO 500

As muchRed-headed Woodpeckers I love sparrows, I just had to include this gem. These elusive beauties can only be found during migration and I was lucky enough to capture this image while visiting the Oxbow back in April.

img_4486Red-headed Woodpecker   f8.0   1/1600   ISO 800

While visiting my son at Haw River State Park in Greensboro North Carolina, he told me about this location where these woodpeckers congregated. What I love most about this photo is the contract between the texture of the bark and the coloration of the bird.

img_4565Virginia Rail   f6.5   1/640   ISO 1,000

My go-to spot for these birds is Spring Valley Wildlife Area north of Waynesville Ohio. This spring I really had a bird who was the most cooperative I’ve ever seen, and the results are quite obvious.

img_5069Stellar Jay   f6.5   1/640   ISO 1,250

Walking among the giant Redwoods in Redwoods National Park is one of the most surreal experiences I’ve had. And when a life bird such as this Stellar Jay lands in front of you, well it’s the cherry on top.