Previously, I’ve mentioned why I enjoy bird photography so much. The challenge, the frequent failure and the eventual rewards all make it an incredibly enjoyable hobby. A fortuitous byproduct of photography is that is really helps out with identification. This doesn’t happen as often anymore, but when I was a traveling novice birder, I would often identify birds by scrutinizing the photos on my computer. Usually I have my hunches and am able to confirm them in the field, but from time to time I completely misidentify a bird.
For instance, I have no real memory of seeing my lifer Purple Finch. Robert and I made a stop at
two winters ago to look for White-crowned Sparrows. I snapped a picture
of a bird that I must have written off as a House Finch at the time, but
when I got back to the computer I saw the picture and realized I had made a
mistake. But hey – free lifer!
|Upon further review - much more different!|
An even more unusual situation is when I have a similar realization while viewing my photos on the computer, but it comes months or even years after I snap the picture. This has taken place only twice: once in
with an Orange-chinned Parakeet (which I originally assumed was a more
common Crimson-fronted Parakeet) and once in the mountain town of Ronda
in Spain where
I got my lifer Sardinian Warbler.
|To be fair, it would have been easier to ID if we had a good Nicaragua bird guide.|
Fortunately I have a much clearer memory of finding the Sardinian Warbler than the Purple Finch or the parakeet. The town of
has one major tourist attraction – a gigantic stone bridge spanning a chasm
nearly 400 feet
deep. I was hiking down into said chasm and, of course, birding along the way. Spring
was right around the corner, which meant the birds were quite active, and I ran
into European Goldfinches, Red-billed Choughs and a Common
|Looks like something out of Lord of the Rings!|
I came around a bend and saw this small black bird sitting on a branch. Unfortunately I only got one shot of the back of the bird, hiding (for the most part) the bright red eye ring that would have been a dead give away. I assumed it was one the very common Blackcaps, which is a pretty embarrassing misidentification as there would be no white throat, and the back would be grey.
|A lifer is a lifer!|
That remained my identification until last July, almost a year and a half after the picture was taken, when a random bout of nostalgia led me to flip through some of the pictures from my semester abroad. After gaining more experience with Blackcaps during the course of my stay, I instantly realized I had made a mistake in my first month of Spanish birding and that I’d actually seen a Sardinian Warbler! And that is why I will continue to take pictures first and ask questions later… even if it’s sometimes much later.