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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

World Bird Wednesday LXXIX

Sharing the Solitude

The Red-knot in flight.

    Suzanne and I made a bold move and lashed our kayaks to the top of our ancient pop-up camper and headed out for a romantic weekend at the Tawas Birding Festival. This was our first experience participating in such a event. The town of Tawas, located on the North East tip of Saginaw Bay was ready to welcome the crowds of quirky bird watchers. "Welcome Birders" was emblazoned on every business window and sign. It felt nice to be wanted.
    This is a tourist town noted for a massive sand bar that curls like a witches finger out into the blue waters of Lake Huron. A picturesque light house marks Tawas Point, one of the last nesting sites of the endangered Great Lakes population of Piping plovers. Just a few miles inland the breeding grounds of the Kirtland warbler, another extremely rare bird native only to a tiny portion of the Jack Pine forests of mid-mitten Michigan, beckons the faithful. Marshes abound as well, giving ample opportunity to search out a vast variety of winged creatures that fly over and through this legendary region.

The Piping plover with its many colored survival bracelets.

A Red-start emerged from the thicket for a meet and greet.

The Baltimore oriole is intensely colored and draws appreciative crowds.

“All conservation of wildness is self-defeating, for to cherish we must see and fondle, and when enough have seen and fondled, there is no wilderness left to cherish.” 
                                                                                                                  Aldo Leopold


     How strange it was to walk among the murmuring throngs of bird lovers with massive 500mm lenses slung around their necks. Here the rumor of a Indigo bunting caused a near stampede.
    Isn't bird photography at it's heart a solitary recreation? The herd mentality that makes sense in Disney World seems misapplied here. Is there such a thing as a wilderness around here anymore? Are these natural hot-spots so rare, and the appetite of the public so acute that we are willing to cue up for a chance to experience them? When does a natural attraction become a zoo?
    I get the same strange feeling when I see a Piping Plover with four neon bands around it's legs. It is odd logic that this endangered bird must be captured and decorated so often to help it remain viable in the wild.
    The fashionable plovers look like they might be as comfortable running from store to store at the mall as on our sandy shores.
    It's not that I don't understand the great work at hand here but the sheer simplicity of the experience of bird watching and photography is somewhat lost in a crowd.
    Still, it is good to know the passion for our bird life is being shared so widely. The impact this kind of popular attention makes on the local political and financial power brokers should mean greater efforts will be taken to protect these awesome treasures.
    Either that or they'll build a amusement park.

This is the home of World Bird Wednesday. A place for bird photographers from around the world to gather and share their photographs and experiences as they pursue Natures most beautiful treasurers, the birds.

You don't have to be a Bird Watcher or expert photographer to join in, just enjoy sharing what you bring back from your explorations and adventures into nature!

#1Simply copy the above picture onto your W.B.W. blog entry, it contains a link for your readers to share in the fun. Or, you can copy this link on to your blog page to share WBW.

#2Come to The Pine River Review on Tuesday Noon EST North America through Wednesday midnight and submit your blog entry with InLinkz.

#3Check back in during the course of the next day and explore these excellent photoblogs!

The idea of a meme is that you will visit each others blogs and perhaps leave a comment to encourage your compatriots!

Come on it's your turn!


  1. Some beauties today, I can't choose a favorite I love them all!

  2. I have a pair of Orioles that return every year... my bird today is the female Oriole.

    Gorgeous captures today. :)

  3. I am in awe of your photographic selections this week Dave! The Red Knot in flight is not only a superb capture, it is a rare find. And an endangered Piping Plover even more so. The colorful Baltimore Oriole kinda steels the show but I am captivated by the Gray Catbird.

    Your Aldo Leopold quote is prophetic and I know how you feel being surrounded by throngs of birders clamoring to see the bird of the hour, ala "The Big Year." I too prefer the quiet solitude of crowdless birding ;-)

  4. glad you mentioned the bands on the plover. i went back to look, and they do seem a bit much. i bet that birder throng was an experience!

  5. It's been a long time since I've been to Saginaw Bay and I've never been to the bird festival. Having been to some other events in some of those small towns, though, I can imagine the crowds. Birding is not really a crowd endeavor by its very nature. Neither is photography in general, for that matter. It would still be fun to experience something like that and you certainly took some beautiful photos! I love the Red-knot shot!

  6. I hope you are planning to publish a book. I will be waiting in line at the bookstore. Your pictures blow me away ... I dream of being that good ... you do it!

    Andrea @ From The Sol

  7. I have mixed emotions about the "birding in a crowd" thing. Most of the time I like to go out with myself or just one or two friends to sit or walk quietly and let the birds come to me. Once in a while it's fun to go to a meet-up but it's more for the comraderie than getting in a lot of birds that day. Although, having more people there, you tend to see more birds than you might find alone. I haven't been to a big birding "festival" though. I try to avoid large crowds in the woods. I'm one of those bird lovers with the big 500mm lens so don't laugh.

    I agree on the banding thing. I hate seeing all those bands on little birds.

    You got some good shots though. I guess you saw a lot of great birds.

  8. Springman, outstanding shots! Absolutely stunning!
    I've been involved in the photog stampede out here. For the most part, these people shouldn't be allowed on the planet. I would have thought that being a nature photographer would have instilled a certain love for nature. Instead the love of the shot seems to be the major driving force.
    It's a shame!

  9. I love what Andrea said - sign me up too. :)
    The Oriole is a show stopper - very colorful. I've never seen one so I'm enjoying your capture.
    I so agree that the plover is wearing way too much bling!

    In that crowd of birders I'm betting your photos stand out among them all!
    Great shots!

  10. Beautiful birds and photos. I especially like the Red Knot which I see here in Australia - but NOT in that beautiful breeding color. I can't imagine birding in a crowd like that - I prefer the solitary places!

  11. After being a lone birder for years it was interesting to bird with a bunch of other birders. I did learn from others but like you prefer to bird alone.

    All your images are outstanding (as usual) but I really like the Red-start and Oriole. Now I love the Catbird with the hint of red showing at the base of his tail!

  12. Lovely to see this post! Great shots!

  13. The birding festivals are fun..unless they are too crowded. It seems that birders spend money and draw big crowds. And a birding festival is very good for the economy..Your birds and photos are always wonderful. It is a treat to come here and see your weekly post for WBW.

  14. We went to a bird festival in Burns Oregon once where we were able to see the breeding dance of the sage grouse (before digital camera)..but it was wonderful. We hope to attend some here in Florida next season. But except as you say if it is too crowded, then .....)....

  15. Gorgeous photos, Springman. Sounds like quite an experience.

  16. you sure do tell a great story!! do you really think we are quirky??

    what beautiful color and crispness in your oriole images!!

  17. Im glad you are already enjoying your retirement!! I feel your pain as its no fun to try and have a solitary memory when you are co-joined with 100 people who are all trying to do the same thing. Been there done that. I recently went through the camping reservations at every state park in our state looking for a spot for the upcoming holiday....NADA! the first available in the entire state is October! SO I guess the motels are empty? Maybe who knows. I dont enjoy seeing legbands on wild birds either...I beleive in live and let alone.---I think the people who have been alien abducted should be returned with leg bands, just so we KNOW!!!
    Great photos Dave...I hope its not an amusement park in the end.

  18. I love your header!!!The Baltimore oriole is truely a beauty and you have captured it so well...I would anyday prefer to be out birding alone:)Have a great day!


  19. Fantastic images again. Your shots take my breath away!

  20. Great pictures you show.
    Wishing you a good day.
    Hanne Bente /

  21. You have become a tad cynical and rightly so. Paddle your kayaks over here where you can watch birds in peace and solitude.
    Sorry for posting a little late, ornery life gets in the way sometimes.

  22. Hi there – As a birder who has placed more than a few coloured bands on waders, I feel duty bound to defend the bands on the plover.

    For all the good sense that protecting natural places makes to us, without some form of quantifiable data, all calls for protection can be dismissed as mere anecdote. There is no way to object to the “there are lots of them just over the hill” argument without data. Presenting an argument to the “powers that be” without any data is almost certainly doomed as a way forward. Placing colour bands on birds is a way to gather more data with less interference – the birds can be tracked and identified without having to be re- caught. Seeing a rare bird with bands may take away from the naturalness of the sight, with the bird tainted by human interference, but that probably pales into insignificance compared to seeing the bird’s habitat concreted over and turned into a theme park.

    They way I think about it is like this – if I see a bird with coloured bands I record and report it. Each item of information is part of the drip feed of data we need to persuade a (generally unwilling) community that conservation is more than just a good idea, its essential.

    Complaining about a lack of wildness in a ringed bird seems to be placing your desire for a specific type of experience ahead of the long term well being of the bird’s species. Most birders (myself included) watch birds in places that would be essentially inaccessible if they were a real wilderness, so the act of turning up and watching destroys the very thing we come to see. In today’s world all things are just graded with a degree of wilderness in the sense that they are wholly natural, and putting coloured bands on birds is part of this spectrum.

    But enough!

    Your pictures are as suburb as ever – with the header being the standout. I also agree with you that the Disney World analogy of birding shows and such like.

    Cheers – Stewart M

    1. Points well made Stewart,
      and I agree, the big picture demands data backed arguments to keep a proper focus on conservation. I don't disagree with the importance banding, far from it.
      My larger point was, as a bird photographer alone in the woods my impact is relatively low. In a festival such as this, when there are hundreds of folk just like me, trudging over the same acreage, chasing the same bird, we become a nuisance. At least I think from the birds perspective we might be such. Our fingerprints were over everything. That's what effected me. These are good caring people all, our brethren. After all I had a 400mm lens around my neck too! It was good to apart of the community but I feared in mass, we might be a bit overly enthusiastic.
      This is the classic double edged sword in my mind. Could the birds we love fall victim to our best intentions? I mean I was about as close to giving up on bird photography as I've ever been this weekend. Is it in its own way exploitative? The paradoxes where whirling around in my mind, would Thoreau have written such as he had if bleachers had been set up around the pond for a thousand other naturalists? I think we all desire intimacy, it might be expecting to much.
      My comments about the plover's bands were not a criticism of the folks participating in important research, even though it kind of sounded that way. Forgive me there.
      Thank you for your insights Sir! Dave

  23. Excellent photography as always, just splendid work! I have been asked multiple times to join the local bird club. I thought about it long enough to make a call and then never did anything else about it. I have been told, "but they would know the bird hotspots." Well maybe that is true, and maybe I could get some nice images, yet on the other hand, I would be giving up my space and my independence in wondering at my own pace and coming and going when I want, or I choose not to. Have a great remainder to your week, stay safe~

  24. I am back again, just finished reading Stewart's comments and realized,hmmmm I took a couple of images of a gorgeous Pigeon a bit over a year ago, with multiple bands. I thought it to look different than other Pigeons, but never knew what it was. Now, I must find those images in one of my online photograph folders and share. That is so neat, I never knew what more than one band and colours may represent. I want to say it had at least 3 and maybe 4 bands of different colourations~

  25. Lovely photos of the birds. I have Norther Orioles to share this week.

  26. Your photos are always AMAZING!!! They take my breath away.

  27. You never disappoint, Springman!! Your shots are amazing and the experience would have been wonderful... except for the throng of birders. I myself, prefer to do so in relative solitude.
    That Baltimore Oriole is absolutley stunning (and perfect for your header). All your images are a delight to see and I am honoured that birders like yourself are happy to share your work with a mere beginner like me. Thanks for hosting :)

  28. intresting post Springman- solitude standing sometimes does the world of good to me, hours and hours of pure relaxation walking or siting and waiting just to see what is around the corner.... usually just a simple woodland bird that I can watch out of my kitchen window, ah but the fresh air! of course then the adrenalin rush to see the Indigo bunting or something else just as enthralling, watching everyone get high on such asimple pleasure in life.

    You just cant buy the atmosphere of our hobby, and sometimes sharing it with the masses is part of the fun.

    however dear sir, a complaint from your biggest fan..... WBW is getting so big that I have to give up an evening to get through the posts.... such is its ever groing popularity.


  29. Trying to catch up with my reading, Springman. I love your posts! You always have something smart, funny and interesting to say. And your photos are stunning... love the Baltimore Oriole, the White-faced Ibis... you could teach and inspire people with your skills in bird photography. I also enjoy reading the comments left by your readers. I agree however with Dave in the previous comment - WBW is becoming so popular- hard to keep up with all that.

  30. Your writing is as good as your photography--which is saying a lot!

  31. awesome stuff! More power to your blog!

    Posted yesterday!!!