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Further Adventures in Birding

I’ve been working slightly shorter, more frequent shifts in the past few weeks (six-hour shifts with none-to-one day off a week 🏋). The upshot of this new flow is that on any given day it’s possible to steal away for an hour or two to get some bird time. I’ve continued the habit of grabbing a coffee and heading to the usual stomping grounds, the former AT&T Pole Farm.

I’m continually impressed with the diversity of birds that can be spotted in these rambling grounds.

I spotted this Field Sparrow enjoying lunch on the corner piling of the Southern Observation Tower.

More ambitious enthusiasts will be on the trail by early in the morning when activity is at its daily high and the low-light of dawn makes for the most dramatic photos (this is sometimes referred to as the “Golden Hour” in photograhy circles), but I usually make it out there in the late morning, sometime after dropping Erin off to her job in town. There’s always folks walking the trails, and a lot of times they quick to start up a conversation about the hobby. I must always admit that I’m really just getting into things—imagine my surprise when I discovered the glowing-orange bird that seized my imagination was none other than the Baltimore Oriole.

I’ve added a couple new species to my repertoire. As of this week I can confidently identify, the Common Grackle, the American Crow (easily confused with the Common Raven), and the Indigo Bunting.

Red-Winged Blackbirds constantly occupy the field with the last reamaining antenna pole.

There’s something very “game like” about birding. A quick Google search reveals that Birds of the World: A Check List by James Clements was first published in 1974, so the “gotta catch ’em all” mentality has been around for a at least a little while, and most likely predates the publication of any specific book. It’s sort of a dual hobby for me as well. On one hand every new bird is an exciting discovery, but trying to capture the perfect moment of commonplace birds still holds a challenge. Adding new and exotic birds to make mental inventory is one excitement, and getting better and better shots of each bird is the other.

The Eastern Towhee was one of the first birds I learned, and even though I’ve probably taken dozens of shots of Towhees I’m still trying to capture something new about them. They’re not as skittish as most birds, I’m always fascinated by the way the scratch at the leaves as they hunt for food. I’ve yet to get an action shot that tells the story of their foraging in a way that really satisfies me.

There’s always that desire to get closer, crisper shots. It’s partly gear and partly patience—and let’s be honest skill plays a huge role. A longer lens with auto-focus (yes these are all manually focused shots) is the dream, but if I’m upgrading my gear a new body is first in line.

The narrow depth of field in this shot creates an interesting transition between the foreground, subject, and background. Ideally there would be more distinct separation, but this was the best angle I could get.

For anyone just getting into the hobby like myself, the Cornell Bird Lab is an essential resource. From lessons on basic concepts such as ID’ing by shape to an incredible robust identification guide complete with calls and videos, it’s pretty much a one-stop shop for all things ornithological. If you want to get me a birthday present, send me one of their hats 😁! Seriously though check them out if you want to rake your birding game to the next level. They also have an app that’s a handy field guide without the added weight of a book. The inclusion of calls and songs for each species especially piques my interest.

The first cantors were birds—choirs formed from the din of their chirps. The arboreal cacophony taught us everything we know of music and song. We wake to the sound of the lark and lull into sleep with the mesmerizing hoots of the Great Horned Owl.

Things on my mind:

  • I’m still reading my Before France and Germany (ISBN: 0195044584). I’m right around the year 482 CE and the rule of Clovis (most famous of the Merovingians). He was quite the enterprising fellow, uniting the better part of central Europe under the rule of the Salian Franks. He honestly sounds like an awful tyrant. Not only did he wage endless war on outsiders, but he went on an all out campaign to consolidate his power among the Franks, liquidating the families of rival chieftains, most of which were his own kinsmen.
  • Does anyone know what type/species of fungi this is below? Should I eat it? 👍or 👎? Jokes aside next-up on my reading list is Medicinal Mushrooms: An Exploration of Tradition, Healing, & Culture (ISBN: 1570671435) by Christopher Hobbs. He’s speaking at a conference that I’ll be attending and I really want to study up before listening to his talk.
In two weeks I’ll get to meet world-class mycologist, Christopher Hobbs! Perhaps he will be some help in identifying.
  • My brother dropped off a bag of old Minolta stuff sometime in late Winter. None of the lenses caught my eye until last week when I was cleaning out my room and saw that the 50mm prime lens had a max aperture of f/1.7. That would make it the fastest lens in my collection, so I decided to throw it on and try for some super bokeh.
The bokeh is good. The flowers are sharp. I like this lens a lot.
  • Work has been super busy. I’m the go-to for coverage lately and that’s alright by me because I could honestly use the money. It’s never so busy that I feel drained, and honestly I actually enjoy it most of the time. That said, it’s always good to look ahead and I really want to keep working towards a more secure career. I think I have analytical skills to make a decent Project Manager, so my efforts are going in that basket for a little while. I’d love to go back to school for Software Engineering, but most days I feel like that ship has sailed.
  • I saw a red tail hawk today!
It’s a rough shot to say the least, but it’s the first one of I’ve gotten of this particular raptor. We actually saw it down the street from where we live. Needless to say I went running for my camera.

 

This Canadian Goose let me get in real close. I wouldn’t call them a gregarious breed, but they certainly aren’t afraid of no hoo-mans.

 

That’s all I got for today.

Best,

John

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