Thursday, May 18, 2017

Bird-a-thon Lite

The Massachusetts  Audubon Society schedules its annual Bird-a-thon for the peak of spring migration when the possibility of fair weather, colorful plumage, and the absence of annoying tree leaves give us the best chance at varied sightings in a twenty-four hour sprint.

Northern flicker
 In the weeks leading up to the Bird-a-thon I worked on extending my stalking ability into the treetops. The uncertain balance point lies where the limits of the zoom lens meet the limits of wariness.

Turkey vulture passing the Halibut Point State Park Visitors' Center
 Birds with their superior vision maintain the upper hand in this contest. From the heights they keep an eye on the binoculars and cameras below.

Green heron
 Down at the quarry rim we photographers enjoy wide-open sight lines but so do the birds. They generally head for the exits at the sight of even innocuous intruders like me.

Double-crested cormorant
Their disappearance into the air pits admiration against frustration. The camera man can no more command a portrait than he can fly.

Spotted sandpiper
Sometimes the portrait itself doesn't fly, in the instant of composing, focusing, exposing, and not breathing or being visible. But perhaps you will manage enough for an indisputable sighting record, with GPS and dating authority, to contribute at the Bird-a-thon tabulation.

Swamp sparrow
There are fine points of identification to sharpen up.

Field sparrow
I studied distinctions among some of the 'Little Brown Jobs' - LBJs.

Often enough the pleasures of art and nature sweetened the pursuit of science and math on a ramble through the Park.

Chris Leahy at dawn
I joined Chris Leahy and friends at 6:00 this past Saturday morning for the Halibut Point portion of the Bird-a-thon.

Peering into the dim, pewtery skies the experts called out gannets, ring-billed gulls, and red-throated loons. From somewhere in the treetops they distinguished vocalizations of warblers: northern parula, black-throated blue, Wilson's. Their unfulfilled prize would have been to hear the drumbeat coos of a black-billed cuckoo, bringing their cumulative multi-year Cape Ann Bird-a-thon total to 199 species. But the cuckoo probably wouldn't show up for a week or two.

Red-breasted nuthatch
I added to my Halibut Point portfolio a sharp photograph of a tiny hyperactive nuthatch holding pose for a moment between branches of a spruce tree. Its spritely success within nature's pitfalls, its pert beauty, surely reprised the delight at the heart of each member of the Bird-a-thon band.

*  *  *

The Bird-a-thon Team entering Halibut Point State Park,
warming up to jokes for roasting Chris
at his retirement party from Mass Audubon this week.
Neil Emond photo
Ps - overdue warm weather brought the black-billed cuckoo to Halibut Point on Wednesday.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this post, and this blog, Martin. Exceptional.