Monday, April 09, 2007

Is birding too dangerous for me?

Recently, I signed up for a couple of birding listservs which have been incredibly informative. However, this morning, there must've been some bad juju in the air because the following three postings came over the wire in pretty rapid succession:

First, I was reading a post about a woman who was birding at Scotia Barrens; I was looking at her rather short species list and thinking, "oh--she saw a pileated and a wood thrush--I gotta get out there!" but then I read why her list was so short: she and her husband were the victims of a flasher who stalked them and then exposed himself! I won't be going there alone any time soon!

Then, I read a post titled "Millbrook Marsh TICKS" (not my marsh) in which the writer started a discussion about how many ticks there are in this area now. Ticks? Isn't it still too cold? And these aren't just any ticks--they're deer ticks, the ones that give you lyme disease! Then someone mentioned finding sixteen ticks on themselves after a hike through (where else?) Scotia Barrens! Boy, I don't care WHAT kind of birds they have out there--count me OUT! You know, I was on the marsh this weekend, and I didn't even think to check myself for ticks. What if I have a little deer tick somewhere like behind my knee or something, and I get lyme disease and die!?

Finally, I got what I guess was some sort of public service announcement about the forthcoming "Spring Gobbler Season," which warned that birders and hikers might want to consider going somewhere besides State Game Lands during the season. "You don't want to interfere with lawful hunting activities." Well, no I don't, if by "interfere" you mean I'll be walking along some verdant path, looking for a brown thrasher or something, and then BOOM! I catch a bullet in the chest. In that case, no, I guess I don't want to interfere!

I didn't realize birding could be so dangerous. Sheesh!

While on the marsh this weekend, I did get some interesting photos as I scouted out a path to better observe where the herons of last year seemed to hang out. Here's a shot of the area, looking toward the back of my house in the center of the frame:

My house looks so small from this vantage point.

In this photo, the second tree from the right, set back a little way, is--I think--the tree where the herons roosted last year, and right near where I saw the heron a couple of weeks ago, coming in for a landing in the grass:

It's kind-of hard to tell whether that's really the tree or not; I mean, usually I'm about 200 yards away, viewing this whole scene through the scope. This time, however, I was maybe 20-30 feet away from the tree in question, standing on a mown path next to the creek that runs behind the marsh. I didn't want to traipse in there and start looking around and stirring things up (smart move, after reading about the ticks everywhere!). I just don't know if I'd even recognize a nesting site if I saw one, so I just wanted to scout locations and then have a really good birding pal come over and do the professional looking, you know? That'll happen in May, so be sure to check back then for a full report (and hopefully some photos).

While I was out there, I was really hoping the heron would actually come in for the evening. Now it was really cold this past weekend, and I was very bundled up (complete with peripheral-vision-blocking hat) because I have a cold or allergies or something, and it was snowing on and off. It was late in the afternoon, about 6pm, so the light was dim at best. Suddenly, I saw something flying over! I jerked my camera up and snapped a shot, almost falling over in my excitement. I got one good shot, then tried to hide in some cover, then lost the bird. I wasn't even sure it was a heron, but I knew it looked huge! So I go home, download the photo, and here's what I got:

Obviously, that's no more a great blue heron than the man in the moon. However, it is a pretty neat shot of a raptor of some sort! Not too bad for a half-way-tripping-over-my-own-feet photograph! Any offers as to what kind? All the buteos seem to have more fanned-out tails; this guy's is obviously long and straight. Some sort of falcon? I won't even try to guess what kind. Help, oh ye raptor people out there!

I also saw some Canada geese coming in for the evening:

I love their plaintive little honks. You can hear them all night on the marsh, getting stirred up (I guess whenever they hear something moving) and honking and complaining until everyone settles down again.

Once I got home from my little adventure and warmed up with some hot tea, I got some great baby photos:

Kisses (top) and Cookies on the Little Tower of Kitty Power.

Clawsie on my desk, next to her new little friend.

Niblet, however, refused to sit still for more than one photograph. Seems he had some very official E.B. (Easter Bunny) duties--dying eggs, gathering candy, etc.--that he had to attend to. He was rather serious about his duties.

Can't you see I'm busy?

However, now that his big day is over, I'll go grab a quick snap of him. I think I hear him in the living room . . .

Hey! Is that my trig homework?


Patrick Belardo said...

You have yourself a lovely picture of an Osprey.

Like any outdoor activity, yhere are some real hazards and other nuisances to birding - chiggers, disease-carrying mosquitos, thieves, etc. And when traveling in remote areas around the world you have even more crazy stuff to deal with.

Mary said...

Dangerous is right! I need to watch for fire ants (oooo...makes me shiver). This was a funny post - the way you described getting that shot of a raptor.

Your KITTIES AND BUNNIES are so cute. Do they get along OK?

Susan Gets Native said...

Shoot. Patrick beat me to it. Osprey are TOO COOL.
I get the heebie-jeebies when I go birding by myself sometimes. I have stopped telling my mother when I go out alone. But I am alway sure to tell my hubby where I think I will be...just in case he needs to call in the police dogs.
Ticks seem to dislike the taste of me, so I should be safe. Mosquitoes are a different story.

dguzman said...

Wow--lifer and #80 on my list. Cool!

You know, it's funny that I felt very safe on the marsh; I guess it's because my home was always in sight. But in deeper woods, etc., I think maybe I will not go without a partner.

AND I'll check myself for ticks! I had the idea of getting some hip waders, then I'd duct-tape my shirt to them--it would be like a Level 4 biohazard suit!

Mary, a compliment from you on the humor of my post makes me all warm inside! Your posts (especially the shoe/side of the road/construction worker one) kill me!

The bunny and the kitties all get along, though Clawsie is a little short-tempered. But I'm lucky that they love each other.

Susan--I don't know about ticks, but mosquitoes, fleas, ants, and every other bug seems to think I'm their personal chew-toy, so I'm worried now! I think you're right--I should definitely not go alone to remote places and/or let people know where I am. At least I had my cellphone with me; that's something. I just really enjoy the solitude of birding and hiking alone, but maybe I should rethink this approach.

Mary said...

I've been birding alone and I do get the heebeegeebees sometimes. I usually have my cell phone in my pocket but that's not any type of protection from large mammals or serial killers. Mosquitoes eat me alive and I've had a few ticks in my lifetime.

None of this stops me from going out alone, though.

BunnyLuver said...

Hey - I think there is a pic of Niblet in Birdchick's book - check out her recent posting about it!!!

LauraHinNJ said...

Know the osprey by its bent wings; it usually looks like a flying *M* or a hefty gull. I'd might be looking for a nest of theirs if I were you.

I don't go along with the idea of being afraid to be out alone in the woods. Know where you're going and let someone else know too, and be safe, that's all. I think as birders we're pretty darn aware of what's going on around us and would be hard for someone to sneak up on, don't you think?

dguzman said...

That's the spirit, Mary and Laura! I may get spooked at the thought of a tick on me, but let's face it: I'm a loner when it comes to being outdoors. Not that I mind it when Kat's along, but I really like going at my own pace. Now, if I had a Chet Baker-like companion, that would be different. But for this committed kitty and bunny lover, it's solo birding or nothing!

Thanks for the osprey tips, Laura--I've got a pro birder coming over in early May to search for heron and bittern rookeries; I'll add ospreys to that list!

God, I love spring!

dguzman said...

Bunnylover--Niblet will indeed be appearing in Birdchick's Disapproving Rabbits book! How about it--my baby's going to be a star!