Tag Archives: birding photography

Rare birds and rare birders

birdersatsunrisebybrucestambaugh

A beautiful sunrise greeted these birders in search of a Snowy Owl.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Birding is one of my many hobbies. I’m no expert birder to be sure. I merely enjoy the sport, and try to weave birding into every travel opportunity.

Birding is an activity enjoyed by folks of all races, religions, cultures and countries. I’m usually side-by-side with men, women, boys and girls wherever I bird.

When these good folks discover I’m from Holmes County, Ohio, I often am asked the same question. Why do you have so many rare birds there?

I smile, pause, and give them my standard answer.

“It’s not that we have any more rare birds than other places,” I say. “Rather, we just happen to have a lot more rare birders.”

That’s when I get the looks. Some vocalize their consternation. The nonverbal cues from others reveal their puzzlement. Still others get it right away.

I believe that the Holmes County, Ohio area has so many unusual bird sightings because it has so many outstanding birders. Many of them are teenagers or young adults.

bird habitat, Ohio's Amish country

Attractive habitat.

The varied habitat of the Killbuck Valley and adjoining manicured farmlands east and west create familiar, safe harbor for a wide variety of birds. Marshes, ponds, brushy fencerows, and extensive stands of woodlots provide excellent cover and feeding grounds for birds big and small.

Birders who reside here know to keep a look out for anything extraordinary. If they see or hear something unusual, they tell someone. An authoritative local birder identifies the bird, and the word spreads near and far.

Many of these bird watchers are Amish. It’s a hobby embraced by their culture and family structure. To be sure, birding is an exercise in which all family members can participate, and be out and about in the nature that they love and embrace.

It’s no coincidence that Amish folks have discovered many of the rare birds sited in the area. Now, it’s not simply because they are Amish that they find the birds. No, they see the birds because they pay attention to their surroundings.

Swainson's Hawk, Holmes Co. OH

Juvenile Swainson’s Hawk.

Take the latest rarity, the juvenile Swainson’s Hawk discovered recently in a newly mown alfalfa field half way between Berlin and Walnut Creek. Workers at Hiland Wood Products noticed particular peculiarities about this bird, its behavior, its flight pattern, its coloration, and its diet.

When the bird was pointed out to skilled birder, Ed Schlabach of Sugarcreek, he easily identified it. Ed works at the company and is a reputable birder.

Ed not only knew what the bird was; he knew that it was a very rare find for Ohio. In fact, the typical range of this buteo is well west of the Mississippi River, and mostly in the southwest, and only in summer.

What the hawk was doing here was a mystery. Ed knew that birders everywhere would want to see this magnificent specimen. The word went out through phone calls, birding lists, emails, texts and social media.

There is always a rush to see a rare bird. Most often such birds do not hang around for very long. This young bird chose to stay for several days, and also picked a spot to easily observe it, whether on the ground or in the air.

For many birders, the young Swainson’s Hawk was a “life” bird. That is, it was the first time they had ever seen this species.

Once again, we can thank the many rare birders who reside and work in our pastoral abode for this latest mega-rare find. Rare birders find rare birds.

Amish birders, Holmes Co. OH

Amish birders.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

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Illness reawakened appreciation of life’s little things

Pileated Woodpecker, bird and shadow

A mere shadow of himself. © BruceStambaugh 2014

By Bruce Stambaugh

I had a lot of time to think and reflect over the recent holidays. It wasn’t what I had in mind. In the end, it may have been what I needed the most.

Like so many other folks, I got the flu. Mine hit just before Christmas, not good timing with the family gathering for the holidays. We had a lot planned, too.

I’ve learned that plans sometimes have to change, whether we like them to or not. I isolated myself from the grandkids until I was no longer contagious and felt well enough to participate. Even then, I kept my distance and paced myself. When the chill subsided, I snapped a few photos from the house.

This current flu outbreak has been particularly bad, spreading fast and furious. I got my annual flu shot, but medical officials said this strain had mutated, rendering the vaccination no defense against the illness’s manifestations.

grandkids, grandchildren, pajamas, Christmas morning

The pajama gang on Christmas morning. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

The other problem was that the initial symptoms behaved more like a head cold than the flu. This strain was more a respiratory influenza than an intestinal one. Consequently, most people were out and about unknowingly spreading more than good cheer at the holidays.

Sneezing and coughing were the first signs that all was not well. Then came the chills, aching and sore throat. Many people had fevers, too.

I pitied children and older folks. Both groups had little resistance to fight the flu’s harshest effects, fatigue, and fever. Unfortunately, some even died from this infectious infirmity.

Not only did this sickness spread rapidly, it stayed with people for days on end. Often, it morphed into other physical issues, like strep throat, sinus infection or laryngitis. This exponentially extended the time of sickness.

It respected no boundary lines either. People all around got sick. Health officials declared this influenza occurrence an epidemic. It certainly was in my family. The flu bug spanned three generations among my close relatives.

As I lay shivering beneath warm blankets, all I could think about was how lousy I felt. Then I heard of someone else getting sick, and I felt even worse. Not that it was my fault, but I felt bad for them.

It wasn’t until I reached the end stages of my round with the flu that I began to recognize just how thankful I was for life’s little things. Yes, I had missed some traditional gatherings with family and friends. But the times of solitude gave me opportunities to reflect on the good that had come into my life.

I appreciated the homemade Moravian ginger snap cookies paired with warm mint tea my wife fixed for me. That and the bubbling sodas and the clear, cold water kept me hydrated.

Amish horse and buggy, Amish buggy, New Year's Day

Our neighbors headed out for a New Year’s Day gathering towing a load of presents. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015.

A rare bright, sunny morning bathed the dormant earth in radiant beauty, and warmed at least my soul. So did notes of encouragement from others that came via phone calls, texts, cards, and emails.

I found great comfort in those thoughtful gestures. They helped me heal. I wanted to return the favors.

When I discovered another person had the flu, I relayed what information my own doctor’s office had given to me. It was about all I could do. For once, my message was pretty short. Rest. Drink. Eat. Take your medication. Repeat.

Of course, you don’t have to get sick to be thankful for the random common occurrences that better and brighten your day. Just embrace and enjoy them as they occur. And don’t forget to say thank you.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

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Ready, set, go.

Sandwich Tern, shorebirds, Sarasota Floriada

Ready, set, go. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

On a recent, all too short visit to Sarasota, Florida, I was fortunate to catch this Sandwich Tern on a post in a marina in Longboat Key. The tern looks like it is ready for lift off, but the exquisite bird was only stretching its wings.

I thought the back lighting of the late afternoon sun really highlighted this bird’s beautiful winter plumage, and its distinguishing yellow tip of its bill. Not only that, it was a “lifer” bird for me, meaning I had never seen one before. Sandwich Terns seldom venture into the hills of Ohio’s Amish country, where I live. They tend to stick to the east coast, and especially enjoy Florida’s lovely coastlines.

“Ready, set, go” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

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Preening

preeningbybrucestambaugh

Preening. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014

The mid-morning sun beautifully highlighted this Mute Swan preening among the lilies in a bay near Port Clinton, Ohio. The position of the lily leaves, soft greens behind swan, the silvery water and the faint reflection of the swan made “Preening” my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014

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Filed under birding, Ohio, Photo of the Week, photography