Sunday, June 28, 2009

It takes all types - Part 2

Sandy Ridge Reservation is a great place to bird. One of the things the place is known for is the nesting Bald Eagles. Ever since the park first opened about a dozen years ago, there have been eagles.

I was working my way around the marsh when I spotted a photographer with a tripod looking at something in the middle of the marsh. I quick scan had an Osprey on a dead tree. I continued to bird my way along the path until I got to the photographer. He was one of those very eager types who couldn’t wait to tell everyone passing by what he’s found.

“Check out the eagle” was the first thing he said to me. I took another look with my binoculars just to be sure and I confirmed that it was in fact an Osprey. I pointed that out to the photographer. He then proceeded to argue with me. He told me he’s been a wildlife photographer for 30 years and he knows a Bald Eagle when he sees one.

The "Eagle"

The "Eagle" - using a zoom tool

He then asked me “What kind of birder are you?” As I walked away I thought to myself “the kind that knows the difference between a Bald Eagle and an Osprey.”

About 150 yards further down the path I passed another birder who asked if the photographer was looking at the Osprey?

“He sure is. Go chat with him about it.”

Sunday, June 14, 2009

It takes all types - Part 1

Earlier this spring I was birding the trails behind the Rocky River Nature Center and I was having a great day. The warblers were back and in good numbers, gnatcatchers were everywhere, and I had already booked 4 different vireo’s. I was in a good mood.

The same couldn’t be said for the angry hiker. First, a little background. I was on one of the hiking trails. The trails are packed gravel and they are 6-12’ wide, averaging about 8’. These are wide trails with lots of room to navigate. They are open to all users except bikes, horses, and motorized vehicles.

An Example of the Trail

A Group Able to Walk 3 Wide

While I was watching and photographing a particularly cooperative Hooded Warbler, I could hear the crunch of the walker's footsteps while he was still 100’ away. I moved all the way to edge of the trail which was about 10’ wide at this point. When the walker was 15’ away, I could hear the distorted roar of music from his iPod headphones. The next thing I know he was standing right next to me.

I’ve often have walkers stop to talk while I’ve been birding here. Most are just curious. As I turned toward this guy, I could tell he wasn’t curious about birding.

“Why the bleep do you birders have to be so selfish and bleep up the hiking trails?”

My response was “Huh?”

“You birders stand around and look at birds and block the bleeping trails for the proper users. This is a hiking trail, not a standing around trail. Get walking or go find a birdwatching trail. Dumbass!”

My response was “Huh?”

He then spun on his heel and stormed away.

The Angry Hiker Leaves

I was confused, perplexed, and a little angry. What was up with this guy? He’s lucky I wasn’t carrying my scope and tripod. Bogen makes a sturdy product and I once had to wield it in a threatening manner to scare off a doped up homeless guy. I felt like putting this dolt out of his misery. It probably wouldn’t have been hard to hide a body in that wooded area.

The funny part is that he really didn’t want a debate. He never turned off his iPod. He had it turned up so loud he wouldn’t have been able to hear anything I said. Maybe he’ll have “unfortunate” incident at a crosswalk. It’s the least we can hope for a guy who listens to Metallica while hiking in the woods.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Prairie Spring

Pete Dunne has done it again. I’ve read everything he has written and I’ve always been impressed. His latest volume, chronicling a 4 month trip across the great grasslands with his wife, really nails the sense of place.

The grasslands of the west are amazing. The wide open spaces and the diversity of wildlife not seen elsewhere is simply spectacular. Most birders think in terms of woodlands, marshes, and beaches. Not enough think of grasslands. I think this book will change that. Pete’s vivid descriptions are as good as photographs, maybe better. You can almost picture yourself riding along in the camper with the Dunne’s, maybe sitting in the back with the dogs.

Pete tells good birding stories but he also tells good stories. The book is as much about prairies as it is the birds as it is about the journey. One minute we’re learning about grass ecology. Then we are studying Longspurs. Then bison. And the belly busting menu at a micro-town bird festival.

If you should decide to explore the prairies, this book will also function as a bit of a travel guide and trip planner. I know it has me thinking about travel. I’m jealous that I can’t take four months to go birding.

The best part? There is more to come. Prairie Spring is supposed to be a series of four books linking places and seasons. I’ll be eagerly waiting for the next installment.