Sunday, January 12, 2014

Birding...Weather and Time Dependent?

Yes and no is my answer, here's my story. We're in the midst of a several days of clouds, precipitation mix; at times this makes it difficult to bird and photograph. After spending most of the day inside, I felt a need to go birding noting the immediate conditions as ugly, but not impossible for wildlife watching. As a rule not checking the weather beforehand is not smart, as unbeknownst to me, this high wind warning was coming online (jpeg below) from Weather Underground.

 Oblivious, I loaded the car with gear, a low cloud deck overhead and a smattering of rain drops...no worries :-). My main plan was simple, spend 1-2 hours outside looking at birds (mostly perched raptor and waterfowl). By outside, I mean I could bird from my car given periodic rain squalls. Arrived at Lee Metcalf NWR at 1:24 pm and parked next to Pond 6 on Wildfowl Lane. Rolled window down (note: use your vehicle as a "blind" even in good weather) and scoped out the waterfowl present. Immediately noted Gadwall (Anas strepera), a target species. Quickly grabbed my camera rig (Canon 70D with 70-300 zoom). Started capturing images from the dry, cozy interior of my Subaru. 
Gadwall pair

Birding is kind of like playing (not the game) with dominoe tiles, once you find the flock you systematically look at each individual bird checking off the identification just as if you tip over the first dominoe tile set-up in a line and they all fall in an order. Outside the usual species my next dominoe was a Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata) followed by a female Barrow's Goldeneye (Bucephala islandica). Yahoo! three year species in the space of FOUR minutes (hey dominoes fall quickly :-). 
Northern Shoveler (right)

Barrow's Goldeneye

Good thing too because the wind/rain/snow went postal at about 1:45 pm. Headed home as visibility declined rapidly and birds took refuge. The video below captures the conditions at home. 



In the final analysis my birding was a success. Yes, weather and time impact birding, but only in so far as, (not strictly negative or positive) your "plan" unfolded. A 2007 published book by Chip and Dan Heath titled Made to Stick makes an interesting point of "plans/planning", especially by the military. The military has figured out that "plans are useful, in the sense that...the planning process forces people to think through the right issues." The authors boil this down: "...to succeed, the first step is this: be simple...find the core of the idea."  I followed the authors advice and core-planned 1 to 2 hours "looking at birds". It turned out great...this time. Find something great...with a plan, of course!!!