April 27, 2008

Forced to Bird

So, last Monday I was scheduled to depart for a week-long training in Denver late in the afternoon. I figured it was the perfect chance to buzz down to one of Southeast Arizona's birding hotspots to see some cool birds since I had a couple hours to kill. Wouldn't anyone get up at 3:30am, drive 300 out-of-the-way miles to spend two hours looking for one of these?

Ok, maybe not, but it was so worth it. Not only did I finally get to share a shady patch of forest with an Elegant Trogon, I was able to add an additional six species to my ABA life list. The day didn't start out very well, however, when, after having already reached Phoenix, that sinking feeling of disappointment began to overcome me. I reached over to the camera sitting beside me in the passenger seat and deftly clicked open the battery compartment. Sticking my finger into the empty compartment confirmed what I already knew. I had left my camera battery plugged into the recharger back at home.

I made a quick and desperate stop at a 24-hour Wal-Mart hoping they might carry an extra one that I could use for my birding trip, but to no avail. Oh well. I'd have to do without my camera for this trip. It was a big bummer, too, considering all the cool species I anticipated seeing. I was finally able to bum a battery off of a stranger for a few minutes, enabling me to get a couple quick shots of one of the more exciting lifers I encountered, a Northern Pygmy Owl eating a lizard:

I like this shot, even though it's a bit out of focus, because you can see the "eye patches" on the back of its head. I showed up just a few minutes too late to see the owl copulating with its mate, though. That would've been fun to watch!

Anyway, the experience taught me a good lesson, and forced me to just enjoy the experience of birding, rather than focusing on trying to capture the "perfect shot". I discovered that when I take my camera out to go birding, I spend all my time concentrating on developing my photography skills, and often forget to simply enjoy the birds I'm seeing. Not to say photography isn't enjoyable, but it's nice to be reminded why I started birding in the first place.

That said, it would have been really, really, REALLY nice to have my camera with me when the Elegant Trogon perched beautifully on a branch no more than 15 feet from me. Oh well...

Anyway, here are the other exciting lifers I saw that morning:

Northern Pygmy Owl
Chihuahuan Raven
Flame-colored Tanager
Hepatic Tanager
Plumbeous Vireo
Yellow-eyed Junco

1 comment:

Patrick Belardo said...

I did the same thing a few weeks ago, but it was just a leisurely trip to a spot here in NJ. Cool owl! So jealous! Beth and I are going to Portland at the end of May and I hope to find one. Great lifers too. My first organized birding trip was to SE Arizona. We spent hours looking for Flame-colored Tanager and the only thing we found was Pete Dunne on the trail.