First Birdwalk Reflections

Day 35, originally uploaded by Zeus Ocean Storm.

Immature herring gull dropping crab for lunch.

On Saturday, February 4, 2012, I went on my first hosted birdwalk. This birdwalk was led by Derrick of the Freeport Wild Bird Suppy – .

Birdwatching is distinctly different than bird photography. There are obvious overlaps. Birdwatching is all about the count, number of species, then number of birds. Lists are kept – life, day, month, location, year, and every other distinction that can be created.

There was only one true photo opportunity, a shore side flock of Dunlin sandpipers – Caldris alpina – with favorable side lighting. The first sighting of this flock was on an offshore ledge with backlighting.

Bird sighting and souundings may be brief and require rapid identification. Derrick was spot on and led the group with an ongoing descriptive dialogue.

There is much more to birding. The equipment is all binoculars and/or spotting scopes on tripods. No cameras. A notebook to create the day list, (which later is added to the week, month, year, site, life, et al, lists) Habitat knowledge. Tree identifictation – “beyond the popular, higher in the oak tree…” Weather factors and effects. Tide status – high/low, coming/going.

Then there is the bird itself. Markings, size, shape, location, behavior patterns, et al, lead to affirmative identification. I have much to learn and experience to gain.

Bird watchers are friendly without being chatting or gregarious during the birdwalk. Listening for birds leads to seeing birds. Listening is the practiced deliberate art of not talking.

Spotting highlights for me included the Eagle nest on a nearby island, the immature Eagle soaring, and the mature Eagle perched. And the Dunlin sandpipers. To see Derrick’s trip list, see

After the walk, we returned to store for chatting, coffee, and the warmth of comraderie. Some took the opportunity to buy needed bird seed and other supplies. Conveniently incidental and not an expectation.

After the walk, I went down to Freeport harbor with my D300 & 150/500mm zoom attached. First to the yacht club to look for the Barrows Goldeneye that had been spotted from afar. They were gone. I did snap off some shots of a small group of Common Eiders before going over to the Town Landing for other opportunities. There I scored picture and lesson of the day.

An immature herring gull was in hopping flight with a small crab. It would hop fly up about ten feed and drop the crab onto the dock with hopes of cracking the shell open for lunch. At the top of the hop, I snapped and was rewarded with the photo above.

Lesson of the day, when taking photos of motion, take the camera off of manual and use the shutter priority mode to freeze the frame,

I will be back next week, hopefully a wee bit better prepared to learn more from a birding master.

Derrick, Thank you.

Via Flickr:
Seagull lunch.


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