Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Sometimes the camera is more useful in documenting something rather than producing "a work of art." Taking photos of storm damage to your home to submit to an insurance company would be an example of this. There have been a couple of times where I have seen birds flying at a far distance and could tell by the characteristics of their flight that they were something I hadn't seen before.
There is another useful thing about a camera and that is the ability to "digitally zoom" in on a picture, to increase something within the frame until it can be seen more clearly. Beyond documentation, the result is not going to be worth much, but it will allow you to confirm what you have seen or identify something you would never have been able to identify with the naked eye.
I saw these ducks from a far distance. What attracted my attention was that, from a distance, the wings appeared to flicker on and off like a light switch being flipped on and off. I took a picture with the express idea that I would examine the birds closer when I got home on the computer. But, once I looked at them, I couldn't identify them. Yes, they looked similar to a duck in the guide, but those ducks were found way over on the West coast, Mexico, and parts of Texas. So, I figured that couldn't be it.
I found the name of a very knowledgeable birder in a newsletter another friend had given me, so I sent him the picture and asked if he could identify it. Well, wouldn't you know, it was that species - the Black-bellied Whistling duck - and my photo was hard evidence of a species that had been spotted several times, but no one had previously documented photographically. That was kind of cool.
Another time, my attention was attracted to another bird far in the distance. The way if flew, which was like nothing else I had become familiar with in that area, was what got my attention. Again, I took a picture and found upon looking at it on the computer that it had the unmistakable profile of an Ibis with the down-turned bill. It is probably the Glossy Ibis since there are only two ibises indigenous to the East coast and the other one is white. While their summer range extends into this region, it remains the only Ibis I have ever sighted.
Like the Sandhill Crane I saw recently, there are vagrant birds that, for whatever reason, can be out of the normal territory. It is always a good idea to eliminate the more probable solutions before moving on to the exotic, however.