Thursday, 16 August 2018

Chasing & Framing birds... birding in North America

I am sure this works for every birder like this only - you are going to a new place for birding, you spend time studying what to expect and you dream about seeing a few of these target species. Firstly, there is no way that it is assured that you will see the bird - secondly, as and when you see it - it might turn out to be a fleeting glance and finally for a person like me - the trophy hunt might not be what you thought it would be. After all - for a camera-wielding birder like me - carrying a trophy home is a very high priority.

I planned to cross the 'seven seas' (as foreign travel is known as in India), and bird in the USA. With that kind of travel, you expect a lot of lifers as the birds separated by such large distances over millions of years are specific to that land mostly - evolving in that land dependant upon the weather, flora, diet and a million other factors. Even the natural predators or the lack of it dictates how the birds evolve in a particular place.

Okay, this is how I do it - I travel to a far away country, dream about getting some target birds and when I am back home - picture of one bird that I clicked is framed and adores a wall in my house. When I prepared to visit America - the bird I wanted to hunt and carry as a trophy was 'Roseate Spoonbill' or a 'Painted Bunting'.

That being said - it always so happens that the 'Luck factor' - that one did not consider plays its part and they become - the 'Best Laid Plans'. This is never unexpected - atleast for me - I do spend nights dreaming about the million possibilities I may come across and even though I do have a dream trophy - I am really open to other possibilities.

In this blog - I would like you to please tell me - what bird should I frame? Below are some of the best pictures I have got of my 'Dream Birding trip to the USA'. I am also sharing my comments along with all the bird pictures that figure here.

Painted Bunting
The first bird that I propose is the Painted Bunting, a bird on my highly desirable bird to see and a bird that made me travel a total of 220 miles for this picture and only sighting. I give the credit of this sighting to my bird guide, Mr Bill. The colours are beautiful, though the perch is not natural - the bird is stunning, to say the least. I could have prayed and wished for a better perch, shade, shadow and a million things but I will still be at peace with this picture on my wall.

Eastern Kingbird
 A common, black and white bird, that was seen a number of times - each time I got drawn to it. I have, like a million pictures of this bird but this one is one of my best and from the closest quarters. That having said, I really had to give a ton of patience for this picture, almost moving at a top speed of a few inches a minute 😀.
Northern Cardinal
Common bird had a new meaning in my dictionary of birding with Northern Cardinal and the American Robin. Both these birds were seen from New York in the northernmost of my trip to Houston, the southernmost of my visit. Of course, the male is absolutely spectacular, but somehow it was not very easy for it to come and pose for me. When it did pose - it was a time of my life with me throwing every shutter sound I had. Alas - the session lasted the first click noise and this is what I got, like so many other times - the rest was, a bit of wing, foot, and a blur.

American Oystercatcher
Oystercatchers were beautiful and had to be on top of my birding list. Though the close encounter with this bird was only once, the encounter was worth its time spent got me the satisfaction that I might not have got at the best of the temple praying to the Almighty. The photographs I got did justice to that moment of time.

Snowy Egret
 Frankly, this bird was not the kind that I had decided to hunt. Having word 'Egret' suffixed made my preconceived mind to almost set aside the idea of chasing this bird. Well well well, imagine the surprise I got when I saw this one in full breeding plumage, it was an ecstatic feeling that one gets when you have achieved 'Nirvana'. Unfortunately, this remained one of the best images, clicked at Anahuac NWR.

American Pelican
A brown bird, the stories of which made me get goose pimples all over my body, a success story of American conservation that got this bird declining all over its range to be commonly visible. These are the small success stories that keep my faith in the human race. The bird was magnificent to say the least and to see it flying was out of world war series when bombers skimmed the wave tops going towards the enemy. To see it dive bombing the high seas in search of fish was another something. An experience that I will surely carry in my heart for a long time to come.

Laughing Gull
Though I did see it troubling the people all over the place - this beauty of the bird, like so many other gulls are not really afraid of humans. That gave me an opportunity to wait for it to sit nearby and pose before I clicked the shutter and shot it a million times over. I am including this bird in my list even though some people may scorn over my choice.

White Ibis
A near perfect perch for this beauty of a bird. Ibis is one bird seen in my visits to all the continents I have touched for birding, Indian Subcontinent, Africa, Australia, Europe and now America. The basic characteristics of the birds remain the same but the awesomeness of all the subspecies I have seen does not diminish. I am once again grateful for my bird guide, Mr Bill to position his truck in which we had gone birding in a perfect position to get this picture.

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
 The Yellow-crowned Night-Heron was pretty as expected, what I had not imagined was the nature of the bird - that would let me get some good snaps. The first time I saw it was in Sheldon Lake State Park. I almost went down to a crawl to get near the bird and get some worthwhile sightings. After that first day - every day was a Bonanza - with the birds all around in all drains - just name it. I have got a few shots of this bird and will not mind framing this beautiful bird to adorn my wall.

American Skimmer
 Skimmers were on top of my priority and saw them twice in the US. Both time in Texas with my bird guide. That is where the happy story ends. The first time - they were sleepy and dozing off at a distance. The second time over they were skimming the fish in the seas and I shot not less than a billion photographs - and as they drifted away I had a satisfied smirk on my face. It vanished the moment I saw my pictures. They were horrible. I had left the camera at some God forsaken settings and almost all were a washout. Oh, how I wanted to kick my butt. Here is one that is highly cropped and somewhat looks like the bird I saw - only thing is it is nowhere I wanted. All the same, it figures here as there is no other bird that is like a skimmer...

Roseate Spoonbill
Picture no 2 of a pair of Roseate Spoonbill. The chicks are not theirs just for record sake

Another bird that was top of my wanted list but unfortunately this one, though seen fairly close did not give me the kind of pictures I had dreamt off. I have included two pictures that I picked out and did not want to leave either. So I shall leave the decision in your hands. The bird is beautiful and thinking back on my time spent there - I wish I had more time with these beauties before moving on.

Northern Parula 
It is actually a shame that more number of Warblers did not make to this list. All the warblers that I saw there were stunning but as expected they hardly sit still for more than a second and be a photographic subject. This one bird that was busy singing on a tree did give some shots, but being in harsh shadows, I hardly call this the best of the shots I had expected.
This bird makes to the list with an interesting story behind its sighting. We were travelling on a birding trip with our bird guide, Mr bill and it was just a flicker of a bird that was seen. I almost jumped out of my seat as I shouted Mr Bill to stop for the bird. Oh, my Indian habits of shouting and stopping, well will keep that part of the story for some other day. Bill was gentleman enough not to shout back, stop the truck and take to to the place I said I spotted the bird, the bird too was kind enough to stay there for some more time so that I could validate my sightings. Though the drain was thick with reeds - it did come out for this one shot and here it is - making to my top bird list.

There are so many birds that should have made to this list but birding is not easiest of a passion and sport to pursue. Below this, I will list out the birds that deserve an honourable mention, even though they did not make to this list. Do Vote - will eagerly look forward to your comments and choice of bird.

Cedar Waxwing

American Robin

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Wood Duck


Carolina Wren

Black-bellied Whistling-duck
 Already voted by me one of the prettiest ducks seen by me in the US, ahead of Wood Duck, unfortunately, did not make to the final list of mine - a vote can move it up though.
Eastern Bluebird 
White-winged Dove

Ruby-throated Hummingbird
 Hummingbirds were very very high on my priority list, and I did get some shots of these beauties. The first time I saw them - they were just like bugs flying across my ears. I appreciate them and meaning they give to life. Unfortunately, the best of my pictures do not do justice to what I wanted. Some other time - I suppose.


Great-tailed Grackle

Boat-tailed Grackle

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Great Blue Heron


gs said...

Your dedication par excellence, beautifully penned and amazing snaps......👌

Unknown said...

I really enjoyed this blog and always do.
I would have to vote for your photo of the Eastern Bluebird.
I hope you won't think bad of me but the photo of the "American Pelican" is the "Brown Pelican". The other pelican that we have is the American White Pelican.
Thank you for always sharing all your experiences with birding!
Have a great day!

KisBak said...

Wonderful post sir .. love the colors of the east coast :-)

Kaypius said...

Superb work, both with the camera and your pen!

Bob Bushell said...

Fantastic collection of American birds.

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