January 05, 2021
I have been asked how my birding went in 2020 so I thought it was time to give a report. The answer is good and yet not so good. I ended the year with photos of 26 birds. Due to the pandemic, I restricted my travel and never got out of the state. Even more, I never got out of Northwest Arkansas. While my official “photo” count was 26, I saw at least another 20-25 species that I was not able to get on camera. I was using my phone for the pictures and the birds were often too fast when I located them and then too far away when I got my phone ready. I received an attachment to take farther pictures, but this included an automatic wide angle and made it difficult to find the small bird in the frame. As with any new venture, there was a huge learning curve.
I dropped numerous hints that I would like a digital camera with a telephoto lens for Christmas. Much to my surprise, Santa (Melissa?) came through. While the old Pentax automatic I used to take pictures in the Middle East was point and shoot. My new Canon EOS was not. I tried taking pictures and even read the accompanying instruction booklet (this was a fat book that featured the same 25 pages in eight different languages). Although I was able to get pictures, they were all just a little out of focus. I finally broke down and went to the YouTube sites telling me how the camera worked so I could improve my shots. As always, it helps when you listen to the experts.
With my new knowledge in hand, I decided to take some bird photos to get the new year started. I was going back up north to the mountains where I have always seen lots of birds. Since it was a new year, I could take shots of last year’s birds and hopefully add the ones I was too far away from previously. While this was a good idea, it did not happen. When I came out of work the birds were nowhere to be seen. There were always crows scavenging the ground and vultures soaring in the sky. Today there was nothing. I even drove around town looking for birds to record but still found none. I finally gave up and started driving home. I took the highway even though I knew it bypassed any potential bird havens. Again, I saw no birds until after crossing the river back into town. It seems I need to be more purposeful if I am going to get my birding off to a start in 2021.
Thoughts: When I finally did see birds along the highway, I was hesitant to stop and take a picture as the cars were whizzing by at 70 mph. I decided to go to a local nature center to drop a line in the water and record the birds I saw at the park. There were no birds and I fished for half an hour without a bite. I finally heard a goose but could not locate it but using my 800mm telephoto I got my first bird of the year (Canadian Goose). As I reflected on the day, three points came to mind: the huge learning curve, listening to the experts, and being purposeful in my efforts. These are three points we ignored fighting the virus in 2020. America’s leaders assumed we already knew everything, our people failed to listen to the experts, and as a nation we never created a purposeful plan to overcome the crisis. Even with a vaccine, 2021 will not make a difference until we do what is right. Follow the science. Do the work. Change is coming and it starts with you.