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birding U.S.A.

It took more than a year of African safaris for D to finally admit that he had become enamored not just with the continent’s exotic birdlife but also with the hobby of birding itself. To S’s occasional dismay, he took his newly discovered enthusiasm for bird photography on our home leave travels, which meant that sometimes S would find herself hiking alone while D left the trail to follow some winged creature into the woods.

Anna's hummingbird, Mt. Tamalpais

Anna’s hummingbird, Mt. Tamalpais

It bears noting, however, that though she sometimes grumbled — as, for instance, when D left her sitting at a picnic table while he photographed the same hummingbird for half an hour — S also helped fuel this obsession. While D watched a hockey game in June Lake, for example, she made friends with another birding enthusiast and not only photographed a dozen different birds on his bird feeders, but also bought a nice ceramic bird feeder for us to hang in Chisinau.

turkey vulture, Big Sur

turkey vulture, Big Sur

Unfortunately, birding back on our home soil proved a lot more difficult than it had in Africa. For one, we tried to travel light, which meant that we left a lot of our camera gear behind when packing for this trip. We brought just one lens, which at 18-200mm focal length is versatile, but not nearly as good for birding as the telephoto lens we did not pack. We also forgot to bring our teleconverter, which would have greatly ameliorated the challenge of approaching close enough to get good shots.

willow ptarmigan, Maine

spruce grouse (female), Maine

Instead, D found that getting just within photo range was usually enough to spook his targets. Also, following the birds on foot through the forest proved a lot more difficult than cruising around in a safari vehicle while a local guide kept a lookout for interesting species. At first, we barely had any success, but by the time we had completed our 3-week trek through California, we had amassed hundreds of (mostly unusable) bird photographs.

hooded oriole, San Simeon

hooded oriole, San Simeon

Finding the time to actually sift through all these photos was also not easy, which is why this blog post was half a year in the making. Even so, it was a labor of love.

larger birds

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waterfowl and shorebirds

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jays and towhees, plus a robin and an oriole

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blackbirds and flycatchers

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sparrows and finches

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miscellaneous small birds

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*Note: We used Peterson’s Field Guide to aid in identification, but this method is of course not foolproof, especially when it comes to sparrows, finches, and other small birds that greatly resemble one other. If you find any errors in identification, please leave us a comment.

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. We’re becoming avid “twitchers” too. I find that it keeps safaris interesting after all these years. You’ll see zebra every time you go out, but there are ALWAYS new birds to see! Sweetpea is also becoming a little birder in her own right, with her own binoculars, and even accurately identifying some birds. “Mommy, a hoopoe!” “Mommy, an ibis!” Love her…. :)

    January 7, 2014
    • Absolutely right – safaris can become monotonous if the only thing you’re looking for is the big five. I just wish I hadn’t resisted birding as long as I did. We only really went on one proper birding safari (to Sosian). The manager there was telling us how she had a pair of British tourists who had been coming to Africa twice a year for three decades — they had seen pretty much all the animals but kept coming back because the birdlife is so varied that they’d find new species almost every time out. I definitely want to come back and do some more birding in Kenya, and elsewhere in Africa. And that’s awesome about little C.

      January 7, 2014
  2. Kara Freedman #

    Great pictures! It’s definitely worth taking the time to sort through all of them. I’ve never thought timeliness was too important anyway.

    January 8, 2014
    • Thanks Kara, I actually really enjoy going through our pictures, deleting the bad ones, cropping some, giving them all names, but man does it take a lot of time. I started sorting our photos a few months ago and still have about 4,000 pictures to go through after starting with close to 10,000 photos dating all the way back to the beginning of May.

      – D

      January 8, 2014
  3. webmastergoibibo #

    wow great pic, i like all pic.

    January 10, 2014

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