A novice birder's observation of birds and other natural wildlife with wings ... or maybe not with wings...
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Because I grew up in Wisconsin, and my bird knowledge came mainly from my Grandmother, Mother and one cool bird identification book (which I apologize do not remember its title) which covered mainly birds that resided east of the Mississippi River, I had little knowledge of Western birds. Thus when I saw my first Clark's Nutcracker while hiking in Mt. Ranier National Park in 2006 (Below, 7-22-06), my first reaction was, "What is that?" and my second reaction was, "I've got to get a picture so I can identify it later." This might be another incident that eventually led me to to be interested in bird photography. I am always very happy when I see a bird I have never seen before, and doubly happy when I can identify it.
The Clark's Nutcracker is part of the Jay / Crow family and has an interesting etymology. It is named after the American explorer William Clark (yes - of Lewis and Clark fame), who encountered one of these birds in 1805 while he was on one of his famous expeditions. Clark's main job was a map maker, but he also took careful notes about the wildlife he encountered. Because he was the first person to introduce this species to the science world, it was named after him. The "nutcracker"part of the name is derived from the fact that these jays feed mainly on pine nuts, and with their long beak are able to dig deep into a pine cone to pull out the edible pine nut. Then they hide little caches of nuts all over the mountainside so they can feed during the long mountain winters. Not only do they count on the Pine trees for their meals, but the Pines count on the Nutcrackers to spread their seed all over to create new seedlings. Quite a symbionic relationship, eh?
Clark's Nutcrackers can be found along mountainsides ranging from New mexico in the south up to British Columbia in the north. I've seen them at Crater Lake Nat. Park (OR), Bryce Canyon Nat. Park (UT), and near Vancouver, Canada. Last summer ('09) Val and I hiked up to the beautiful May Lake in Yosemite Nat. Park (CA), and while we were expoloring around the lake, two Clark's Nutcrackers were chattering away and flying all over the place. They must have been having an argument, becausee they were quite noisy - probably arguing who ate the last pine-nut cache. It seemd that one was trying to get away from the other one, but the pursuer would not let him be. Finally after flying from tree to tree, one landed in the snow out in the open, and soon the other one followed - scolding the first the entire time. In the photo (Below, 6-22-09) the body language says it all, the Nutcracker on the left looks definately defeated with its head and beak pointing down in a slight droop while the one on the right is surely letting him know what he did wrong.
I am not taking any sides here, but can we say "henpecked?" ... or is it "nutcracked?"
Hello, I have always been interested in birds, undoubtedly influenced by my mother and grandmother. As a young boy I remember paging through my parents' bird books. Both my Mom and Grandma would identify birds by both their songs and their looks. I enjoy nature and being out in it as often as I am able. Being a teacher helps - as I have much of the summer to do just that. I have done some nature and wildlife photography, but until a few years ago I never thought about photographing birds thinking that it would be too difficult - too small and too flighty. After a few thousand photos, my girlfriend suggested that I open a blog sharing some of the pictures that I have taken and hopefully will be taking in the future.
During the 3 years that have been writing this blog, I have graduated from my first camera, a Sony Digital, to my 2nd, a Canon Rebel T1i, to finally my 3rd and current camera - Canon EOS7D. I started with the standard 18-55mm lens, which I soon found was totally impractical. I then purchased a Canon 55-250mm which I used for quite some time, until I bought a Sigma 150-500mm.and finally sold that one and replaced it with a Sigma 150-600mm, my current birding lens.