Tuesday, November 6, 2012

My First Real Bird Observation

Before I get started with today's write, I want to apologize.  Blogging has become difficult with everything going on here in Southern Arizona.  I have been extremely busy with work and along with cooler temps, I have been out in the field more working and doing photography shoots. I'm back today again and look forward to catching up with everyone.  I have some amazing stuff coming up.  On one shoot, I actually killed my battery for the first time in camera history.  Thankfully I now have a spare camera:) Now for today's write.
My first real bird outing began back in June of 1997.  I write this post because a funny thing happened.  I've begun to document the work from my world travel.  And for the first time EBIRD questioned my data.  This is okay.  Thankfully, I know I am not losing my mind because I have photography from my college days(before I could afford a great camera) that support my memories. I loved photography as much as I do today. Today I'll take you into my first trek as a birder.  And surprisingly, I hadn't a clue that this day would be the first of my birding documentation.  It also made me smile because another birder by the name of Phoebe Snetsinger was still out there birding.  And in some strange way it made me smile.  Perhaps we crossed paths at one point during my crazy travels.  She was one serious birder while the other(me) blindly went partying with the people absorbing language data:)

My friend Kathie taught me about using EBIRD.  And it's a GREAT idea!!!  But she also warned me that I may get emails from bird doctors and specialists studying data.  I understood that and have no problem whatsoever clarifying my work and observations.

Mostly all of it has photo documentation to go with it.  I feel that if I don't see the bird or animal, it doesn't count as a sighting.  And if I don't get it on camera, it does not count as a real sighting.  Recently, I submitted a special day in Costa Rica back in '97 dedicated to my mother who loves all things parrots.  I combed the beach for the last remaining flocks of Scarlet Macaws at Corcovado National Park. We raised Macaws from eggs at my house.  My mother is a crazy parrot lady and many times our house in Wisconsin would sound like the Amazon rain forest.  I am not one for birds in cages and wanted dearly to see these amazing birds in their natural habitat.  So I researched and found the last remaining areas where they roamed freely.  And in the summer of '97 I left for Costa Rica in search of the Scarlet Macaws.
This is the 2nd flock with 26 macaws. You need to blow this pic up to see the specks:)
We arrived at the park via a truck early in the morning with our only food in a backpack and mosquito net.  We fought mosquitoes, boa constrictors, and caiman.  It was like the Lost World of Jurassic Park.  And my 3 friends and I walked alone along the coast of the Pacific Ocean.  One day I left them behind to observe Scarlet Macaws.  It would become my first serious documentation of birds and I needed pics to show my mother. I studied their flight patterns and eating habits.  I spoke with locals(thank you Spanish!) and figured out where they'd be hanging out.
First flock of 21.  There were more but the camera only caught part of the flock.
And I waited.  Loud squawking could be heard nearing my position. And it was exciting.  I'd see them....these magical birds.  3 flocks during my morning observation would pass over my head.  I'd track them to the trees and write down their behaviors etc to send a letter back home to my family.  In all I had counted near 80 of them and it was incredible. They were like scarlet clouds along the tropical edges of the forest.
The 3rd flock leaving.  
Back to EBIRD.  A question came back to me.  This number seems incredibly high.  I was saddened by the possibility that perhaps these birds do not number as they once did.

So I pulled out the old dusty photo album and counted the black specks in the air and confirmed that my numbers were accurate.  I was disappointed at the time because I wasn't able to get the shots that I do now, but somehow last night I was happy to be able to see the dark specs in the sky.
Since my journeys to Costa Rica, I have also spotted them in the Amazon Rain Forest during a breakfast with several curious monkeys:), and heard them on the isolated island of Coiba near Panama.  But since I am taking this birding thing seriously now, I can officially tell that for me, my documentation began during the summer of 1997 in Costa Rica.  While it was specific to only the Scarlet Macaw, it still counts as a valid bird outing.
 More tomorrow....


  1. Cool post, the Scarlet Macaws are beautiful. I missed them in Costa Rica. I have not been using EBIRD seriously. One winter I did do the project feederwatch and I love to do the great backyard bird count. I have a few lists on EBIRD for my backyard. I am happy to see you are seriously into documenting your birds. Great post.

  2. Very nice shots Chris..... nice to see.

    Greetings, Joop

  3. Great post Chris. I enjoyed the reminiscing and the photos.

  4. that's neat that you sought them out in the wild because of your mother's passion in raising them. :)

  5. Great captures, Chris. Happy hunting :)

  6. A very special mission started you birding.

    Can hardly wait to see these and other exotic birds and animals in CR. Think I'm going to have to rent a bigger lens. And get a field guide.

    PS-I finally watched "The Big Year" last night. Awesome! I'm not quite that dedicated.

  7. Fantastic post! What an adventure that must have been...noticed Gaelyn's comment. I too found The Big Year a delightful movie! And, since you asked about books several posts back, may I suggest Ghost Birds by Stephen Lyn Bales. The information about the book can be found on my sidebar, as well as links to his blog (natue Calling)and website (The Ijams Nature Center). It isn't a bird any of us will ever see, sadly, but the book is amazing, and I think you will love it!

  8. Wow! You've been birding seriously for 15 years! Sounds like a marvelous adventure to Costa Rica.

  9. Wonderful to get the chance to see Scarlet Macaws in the wild Chris :) Some lovely atmospheric shots there. I really enjoyed reading about your first bird outing.

  10. goodness..you are one fascinating dude
    ...can an old lady sy that?......I so enjoy all your travels..sometimes I think it's all a tale...no one could do all of that! But I know it is true...and you are my hero....
    a true passionate of nature

  11. 15years of birding, wow that is impressive Chris...your photos and documentation just gets better and better. Enjoying both so much..

  12. You are truly a world adventurer!!

  13. Sometimes I question whether I spend too much time photographing and not enough time, camera free, enjoying... But, I'm so thankful to the camera for allowing me to see things so closely, seeing what I would otherwise have never even noticed. Life's always taking us in new directions and we're left scrambling for balance. I wouldn't have it any other way!

  14. I miss Costa Rica! Wish I was there.


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