Hello. My name is Jeremy. And I am a birder.
It all started out so innocently. As a boy I enjoyed watching birds, but I couldn’t tell you what the proper names of them were. Unless it was a Cardinal or a Blue Jay.
As an adult I continued to like birds. I started casually photographing them. Not going to any extremes to seek them out, mind you. Just shoot snapshots when I would see one and sometimes try to identify it after I came home afterwards.
Then I made a career change a few years ago, that found me working in a building that had quite a few photographers that would go out together during lunch to photograph birds in local parks. I started going out with them.
This is when the real problem began.
“I really enjoy birdwatching with you guys!”
“Its called Birding. Not birdwatching.”
After shooting with my 200mm lens for a while, I realized it just wasn’t long enough. So I bought a 300mm. That should be all I need, right?
One of my co-workers was a hardcore birder. He kept a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly count of what species he saw, even breaking it down by county. Going out with him to shoot is where my real bird education began.
“Look, it’s a seagull!”
“That’s a ring-billed gull. There’s no such thing as seagulls”.
“Look, there’s a flock of seagulls!”
“Those are Herring Gulls.”
“Those golden finches are really pretty”
“They’re called Goldfinches”.
While my interest in birds grew rapidly, along with my knowledge, I still refused to be called a birder. I mean, after all, I didn’t keep count of what I saw. That’s the dividing line. Right?
“What’s that blue bird called?”
“Hey, look over there. It’s a Bluebird!”
“That’s an Indigo Bunting.”
It wasn’t long before I realized that 300mm wasn’t long enough. So I bought a 400mm lens.
“There’s a Cardinal!”
“That’s a Scarlet Tanager.”
“There’s a Scarlet Tanager.”
“That’s a Summer Tanager.”
Soon 400mm wasn’t long enough. So then I bought a 600mm lens. And then a D500 camera body with the 1.5 crop factor so I was shooting at an effective 900mm.
“I saw a Raven the other day!”
“We don’t have Ravens in Ohio. You saw an American Crow.”
I bought a Petersons Field Guide book so I could better ID the species I was seeing. Eventually things began to click and I was getting better at spotting and ID’ing. All the while my photography was getting better, and I was learning fast on how to react “on the fly” (pardon the pun) and adjust quickly between shooting birds in the sky, on branches, in dark areas, and in bright areas. I also started to learn their habits and mannerisms.
Still not a birder.
Soon not only was I able to ID a LOT of species, I was also getting good at telling the differences between the male and female versions. And I was starting to really learn their calls and sounds. Have you ever heard Eagles talking back and forth with each other? Its otherworldly. And the way that Great Blue Heron’s sort of “bark” reminds me of something from Jurassic Park.
Then last month I had some of my images published in LEO magazine, accompanying a story on birds. One of my images was also used on the cover.
Also last month I entered three bird images in the 2019 Ohio Nature Photo Exhibit/Competition, and found out that all three were selected to be part of the 30 finalist images to be displayed in the Caesar Creek Visitor Center from August 31st thru December 31st.
I’ve got an app on my phone that is great for ID’ing birds and also plays their calls so that you can study and recognize them better.
OK. Time to admit it.
Hello. My name is Jeremy. And I am a Birder.