Saturday, November 10, 2012

Looking Back-Bird Island

"Looking Back" is a series of posts that force me to go back into my files and use pictures that I thought weren't very good to post.  And yet at second glance, they look pretty good to me.  But this post didn't happen because of "Looking Back".  It happened because of EBIRD.
Over the past couple of days, I've been documenting my work.  And it has been rewarding beyond belief!  I've been to many places and in those places, I've witnessed many incredible sightings.  Just didn't realize it until taking the time to really look.......
It has been an exciting trip for me because I am re-examining photos for the first time that have birds.  The photo documentation does not lie.
EBIRD asks..."Are you sure there were that many birds?"  Yes.  Because of Spanish, I'm able to speak with the locals and get the 411 on hotspots.  Some spots are common while others are known only by local people who don't want tourists in those areas. However, they are much friendlier to those who speak their language:)  I am always thankful for that ability.  And I hope to continue that tradition while abroad.   Bird Island in Mexico is really for people who are serious about birding.  The boat ride is not fun at all.  It's miles of rocky ocean waves and you need a strong stomach to find the boobies. Okay okay.....I know that sounds funny...but it's true.  Look at the very small part of this island on the pic above. Just how many birds ARE there?
Red Billed TropicBird!
And while thousands of Boobies fly around you, things like this Red Billed Tropicbird pass you by and you say to yourself, "HOLY $%#*!"  Did I just see that?!!!  And the camera reveals all.  A quick hand on the manual focus captured this shot....and yet....I didn't post it.  The lighting was my issue.  But for documentation, this was a very important find!
And I didn't include the gulls because they are not my favorite birds to observe.  I grew up with them in Wisconsin on Lake Michigan and I think they are dirty rats flying in the sky.  And yet, when it comes to a life list and documentation....every bird is important.  Sorry for those of you who love gulls.  They are just not my thing.  It's a cheesehead thing:)
Booby or gull?  I'll take a Blue Footed Booby anyday!
Heermann's Gull
That gull was scary!  One time I watched one take out a human's dinner near Pier 5 in San Francisco.  While I laughed, I was horrified when all tens of gulls descended from their hiding places.  Let's just say that people cleared the walkways quick!  Bye bye clam chowder.  The Alpha gull fought my Marine brother in-law and WON!
The Booby babies are much cuter, aren't they?  Love their nesting on the rocky shores of these human-less islands.
So I reluctantly searched through every gull pic and sat with my bird guide and ID'd.
But when you have Cormorants, Tropicbirds, Boobies etc all around you, it's hard to focus. Blow that pic up and count the birds!!!  I dare you:)  And that's only a small part of that island.
Seals are cool mammals but we had to watch out as they were coming close to our boat.  There was a family that was feeding them which included their little boy. Mom and Dad thought it would be a great idea to bring him along.  Instead all 3 of them were on the floor throwing up for most of the trip.  And then they threw their plastic vomit filled bags into the water where these seabirds could get snagged.  Mexico has a long way to go on conservation.  One of my challenges is to hold my tongue in countries like Mexico. My challenge is to find programs that are working in this country over the next several years and visit them.
But back to EBIRD.  While many of the shots didn't turn out, I could successfully ID birds that I knew I had seen in the wild. But the question do I count a sky blackened by birds in the thousands? This year it has been Sandhill Cranes, Yellow Headed Blackbirds and Boobies.
Snowy Egrets
Ebird suggests breaking down a photo or a location into bubbles. In photography that is easy.  But without a camera, it can be challenging.  In the case of the Booby on the San Jorge islands, most of the island chain was covered with nesting birds.  I counted one bubble and multiplied it times the "bird clusters" in the photo.  It was conservative but by the end of my count from what I could only observe, I had counted nearly 4000 Blue Footed Boobies!!!
And that's a lot of Booby!  So it has been a fun journey through the photography.  I've nearly added 60 species to my lifelist....and I wasn't even birding at the time.  Just trying to get a pretty pic.  Which in hindsight aren't very pretty.  My eye in photography is getting sharper as are my skills in birding. And I'm finding so much more.  More tomorrow....


  1. Fantastic bird shots Chris.....good work again.

    Greetings, Joop

  2. your description of the gull. I would sure love to see a blue footed booby one day!

  3. I remember that past post vividly, mostly because it is something i will not be able to do, I am afraid of deep waters even if my tummy is strong in those conditions. The birds are so spectacular, it will be a shame if you will not share them. Just keep the best shots for those who want them, for us these are well enough. That first bird is even scary, wonder why it doesn't have a longer tail for balancing those wide wings! I wonder what all those birds eat!

  4. You have got the flight shots sorted Chris. Brilliant.

  5. sometimes we're just a little too critical of ourselves...your photos are awesome!! i especially like the hermanns gull...and the shot of the gull with his scissor-looking tail...AND the blue-footed booby and the red-billed tropic bird!! wow!! what a trip!!

  6. Great birds and post, Chris! The Boobies are one of my favorite birds. They are so cool looking. Love the cute babies too. Awesome photos. Have a great weekend!

  7. Fantástico lugar para las aves marinas.. La tercera imagen es espectacular.. Enhorabuena y feliz fin de semana..

  8. Water & birds...
    lovely combination

    xoxo, Juliana | PJ’ Happies :) | PJ’ Ecoproject

  9. those boobies would be amazing to see. you are a great birder, chris. :)

  10. Great bird shots and commentary!

  11. I so enjoy following your birder adventure.

    I saw frigate birds along the Caribbean, they are Huge. Still haven't seen boobies.

  12. I envy your trip to see so many new species. Your photography is very good, by the way. You need not feel embarrassed at all.

  13. You have got some wonderful pictures here - your love of birds come across very well in this post.

  14. Have you ever seen The Big Year? It's about birding and is pretty funny. My goal is to catch a photo of a hummingbird. Love how many birds you've photographed! You da man! You da man!

  15. What a feat to accomplish. That reminds me I need to go through all my pictures and get them organized and backed up. I love that last looks very HD.

  16. All of these photos are exceptional. I especially like the first one.
    Gulls do tend to be a bit forward don't they? The plain old white gulls that are very abundant in this area are very agressive when it comes to french fries.

  17. What an amazing place to go birding! I love your photos. I love the red-billed tropic bird! Wow!


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