Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Some bird names are just great. Click to see a larger picture, look towards the center. There's a bird with a greenish back, and a bright white eye-ring. I'm pretty sure it's a White-Eye, and almost as sure that it's a Japanese White-Eye.
My bird book says they're 10-11.5 cm, and that looks about right to me. This weekend, I took a ton of pictures, trying to get one that was clear and showed the eye well, and this is the best I got.
I was thinking about why I enjoy birding the other day. Face it, I'm not a good birder at all. I'm slow recognizing birds I know, and slower figuring out what I'm looking at, even if the bird is cooperating by hanging out and letting me look for a long while. And yet I do enjoy it.
Partly, I enjoy that birding makes me slow down and look around, and look more carefully at what I see. I notice birds more, and feel okay about just standing still, listening, and trying to relax my eyes so I see things better. I'm not one of those Enclyclopedia Brown people who notices everything, so thinking about birds helps me notice more. (I think my lack of paying close attention also contributes to my difficulties finding my way in newish places, too.)
I also like that way that I learn birding. Starting out, you basically see a bird. Then, after a while, you see a duck, or a gull, or a passerine. And as you get more familiar in a given area, or with a given sort of bird, you see a Glaucous Gull or a Black-Headed Gull. And as someone who's got a lot to learn about birds, I'm constantly aware of what and how I learn them.
For example, this weekend I saw some ducks. On the most basic level, ducks are pretty sexually dimorphic, with males generally being quite a bit more colorful than females. Beginners such as myself generally focus on the males, because females are quite a bit harder to tell apart. So, there were these ducks. And when I first started looking at them, they looked like they had sort of cinnamon colored heads. And I couldn't find anything that looked quite right as I glanced through the book. Then I started noticing a yellow patch on the underside of the tail. And then as I got closer, I could see that the cinnamon head actually had a beautiful green patch to it. And that helped me see it as a Green-Winged Teal. Once I got a sense of the coloring and shapes from the book and from looking at some birds, then I could see the green patch a lot more easily on the head, even at a distance. And more reliably, when I came across another group later. So for now, I have a sense of Green-Winged Teal, and I recognize them. (The color on the picture doesn't look as green or yellow as the bird looked in less glaring light, but it was the best picture I took.)
So I like the way that learning even basic bird identification makes me think about how I learn, how I look at things.
Posted by Bardiac at 2:07 AM