"If I don't believe in solipsism, who will?" - Al Batt

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Ups and Downs

A pleasant day. Up and about fairly early to get over to the group bird walk at Estero Llano hosted by our friends Steve and Sue, assisted by Huck and Doug. Actually we ended up going alone up on the dike to check the Llano on the other side for waders and waterbirds before the wind came up. On our way back to join the group we bumped into Dave Seals who was looking for a reported female Blue Bunting - a report of a report of a report. Frankly I have some doubts.

There are the ABA big life number individuals who blow into town, check a bird or two off their life list and fly off to their next "big bird". It can become a driven, competitive sport, and often very self-centered.

On the other hand we have Dave Seals, one of my birding idols. He is in his mid-80s, still hard-muscled and looks like he could kick my ass. His old eyes can still I.D. a hawk high up in the sky like a black spot, and this time of year will again be working the annual hawk count at Santa Ana NWR.

He is a modest man who first began birdwatching in 1943. Dave Seales is a behind the scenes workman, who along with his lifelong birding buddy, has been banding birds every year since 1949! Instead of chasing birds he has quietly spent a lifetime gathering knowledge and establishing population baselines. 

There seems to be a natural hostility between birders, some even carrying moderately sized cameras, and the people who are primarily photographers - often taking pictures of birds they cannot identify. They can both be trophy hunters - birders are often after a rare bird sighting, the photographers are after a perfect photo. 

It has been observed that the larger the camera, the closer to the bird the photographer seems to want to be. Birders have unwritten rules about approaching birds, taking turns viewing and never blocking anyone's view. The big camera and wide splayed tripods take room, and the only room available often seems to be in front of the birders, even if it means setting up and blocking everyone's view and spooking the birds with blinding flashes of light. The birder's hobby of quiet bird observation does not interfere with the photographer, the photographer's hobby goddamn well does.   

We talked about the issue with this fellow, a regular at a water drip that attracts birds. Lorna told him that the front of his lens should never be closer to the water drip than the front of her binoculars. He seemed stunned that people would hate him and his damned camera (with two flash units?). He is probably not a bad person, he is just frickin' clueless.

Harumph - Gunnar


Redwing said...

Very nice tribute to Dave Seals, and appropriate distinction between people who love birds and those who tick them off. That camera is ridiculous. I thought the whole point of a big camera was so you didn't have to get that close? It reminds me of the guy who was chasing the Crimson-collared Grosbeak through the thickets of Frontera. He had this outrageously large camera which was surely useless in such a closed space.

Carolee Colter said...

What are they all looking at down on the ground in the second photo?

Gunnar Berg said...

Cochineal scale insect (red dye) on the cactus.

Gunnar Berg said...

A bird lover and the bird counter can certainly exist in the same body. Often. We have seen the others too often. Stamp collectors. (No offense to all the stamp collectors of the world)

Redwing said...

I do know a birder here in BC who is obsessed with data related to birds. He's also a serious stamp collector! Still, there's a fine line between traveling to see a bird you've never seen before, and traveling to add it to your count.

Gunnar Berg said...

An important line though.