Documenting the Birding Adventures of Scott Whittle
Monday, September 1, 2008
After a restless night, I woke up around 5am, and decided I might as well do some birding. Seeing as there are no current rarities in my area, I decided to go upstate and try to get better photos of a couple of birds I already have for the year. By about 7:30 I was at Bashakill, a beautiful wetlands preserve that I've already visited several times this year. Using information from John Haas, the local expert for Sullivan and surrounding counties, I found a pair of Common Moorhens feeding amoung the vegetation there. I'd seen this bird up at Perch River, but it was very distant and my photos were very poor. While these birds were still a little ways off, I got much better photos, and then spent and hour looking for rail and cuckoo and whatever else was around in the area.
By 9am I was on Cooley Road in Sullivan County, where White Winged Crossbills have been seen regularly. I ran into a couple of other birders who were already there for the same thing, and we had a couple of looks at one or more crossbills, perching high up in the spruce trees and singing. Again, I was able to snap some recognizable photos (previously, I only had an audio recording from Ferd's Bog). So far so good!
Around lunch time I spoke with Curt McDermott, and he mentioned that there was a birding group nearby checking out the sod farms. Sod farms grow, well, sod, and they are popular for birding in the fall when American Golden Plover, Bairds Sandpiper, and Buff Breasted Sandpiper are all possibilities. I met up with the group just as they were entering Pine Island Sod Farm, and we drove a in a caravan around the fields scanning for birds. Within minutes we were on a good-looking bird amound a large group of Killdeer. We conjectured that it was a Bairds, and when we drove up further we got close enough looks to confirm it. Again, I got some distant but recognizable shots. Three good photos in one day is excellent this late in year, and my collection of pictures is getting to be substantial.
I have about 5,000 photos so far for the year, with documentation of 327 of the 328 birds I've seen, and only four of those are audio recording only (Whiporwill, Chuck-Wills-Widow, Red Crossbill and Sora). Only Black-Billed Cuckoo has eluded me altogether, and I still have a chance at that in the fall migration. I can't emphasize enough how the camera and audio recorder have allowed me to bird beyond my actual ability....birds that might otherwise be tough to ID can be either confirmed or disregarded from a good photo or recording, and it lets me share my experiences with all the expert birders in the state.: in a way it's like bringing the best sight and ear birders with me wherever I go. And just like birding with an expert, the camera keeps me honest...I can make as bad a call as I want in the field, but when I go home and look at the photos it forces to recognize what I was right and wrong about. It's been a great educational tool, and has accelerated my learning process significantly. Of course, I also love to take photos, so just getting a beautiful shot of what I see and sharing it is very satisfying.
My name is Scott Whittle and I'm a professional photographer (www.scottwhittle.com). I have an MFA in Photography from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. I started birding as a teenager, and then dropped it for many years. I started to bird again in 2007, and have been birding since then in Brooklyn, NY and Cape May, NJ.