Monday, October 12, 2015

Find an Excuse to Be Outdoors

I don't chase small birds. They are too difficult (in my opinion) to get near for good photos, they can disappear at the drop of a hat, and they rarely land where there is a decent background to set them in. With the birds I film, I stay in one place and they come to me.

That was the difference with this little Yellow-rumped Warbler — the bird came to me. They are surprisingly common in this area in the winter months. I think I have probably seen more of them than any other warbler. They have a unique digestive system which allows them, unlike most other warblers, to eat berries, so they are able to winter further north than most other warbler species.

While I am thinking about it, I use the term "film" in a generic sense for the act of photographing. It is no longer an accurate expression — even for movies —  because most of those are also digital. But, like the substitution of the word Kleenex for tissue, it is useful to easily express the activity of creating images.

The American Coot is a strange bird. It is not a duck. It doesn't have webbed feet like ducks, but rather has strange, lobed feet. They are also known as mud hens. They are also fairly long-lived birds, which might be why someone like myself is called an "old coot." They also build floating nests. Is that enough strangeness for you?

If I told you where I captured this image, that is, where I "filmed" it, it would probably lose some of it's mystique. Okay, I'll tell you anyway. It was behind Home Depot where I had parked to access what has come to be known as the "Depot" pond. The same pond where the welcoming committee consists of a Mute Swan with a nasty temperament. The one on the left is saying, "You're not gonna tell that swan we're here, are ya?"

Okay, so, getting around to the title of this little soirĂ©e into the bird kingdom — Find an Excuse to Be Outdoors. Think of being outdoors as a problem expressed as: "I don't get outdoors enough." As with any problem, you can't fight something with nothing. If you don't have some reason to go outdoors, you simply won't venture out.

At one time, my wife and I had a boat and liked to fish. These were two good reasons to be outside. Both activities just work better outside. I could probably regale you for hours with the things we saw and did pursuing these two activities. The point is, though, those two pursuits enriched our lives beyond words, revealing things about our world and each other that we would have never experienced otherwise. Those two hobbies aligned with our personal interests. Your interests may be totally different, but unless they only involve electronics, I will bet you can pursue them in the great outdoors.

These are Canvasback ducks. They might easily be confused with another duck: the Redhead. Their head is more of a mahogany red rather than the red-red of a Redhead, however, and the elongated bill sets them apart from the other. Look carefully and you will see that the two ducks in the middle have mud they picked up from the bottom of the pond up past their eyeballs!

A couple of environmental issues affect their numbers. One is the presence of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV). Their favorite grasses have ebbed and flowed in the Chesapeake Bay, largely due to weather systems that cause too much silt to be introduced into the main stem from the rivers that feed it. The silt smothers and decreases the sunlight in shallow waters causing the grasses to die off. No grass; no Canvasbacks.

The other problem is lead shot used in hunting. When they have their heads in the mud, they are also ingesting lead from spent shot, which poisons them and leads to their demise. Solutions are available in the use of other types of shot but, if you are a hunter, it as a moral issue having to do with poisoning the landscape and the animals which cannot make a choice about how or where to eat healthy. We are the gatekeepers; it is up to us to remedy this problem. Eagle numbers crashed because of DDT. Many more Eagles these days are dying because of lead shot. So are a host of other species. 'Nuff said.

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