Sunday, March 10, 2013

Birding Buddies

Western Screech-Owl at Eagle Island State Park, Ada Co. Idaho, found with one of my birding buddies, Jason Talbot.
Birding buddies. We all know them - those pairs of local birders that get out together often and seem to always report great birds. Birding buddies may consist of couples, co-workers, or just friends. Regardless of how the pair is composed, birding buddies regularly make me jealous of what they are seeing and celebrating together. In my birding world there are "Lew & Gary", "Cheryl & Denise", "Jay & Heidi", "Norm & Gail", "Kathie & Chris", "Darren & Steve", "Mia & Ron" and a dozen more. You know what I'm talking about, right?!

Birding in pairs has a unique set of advantages...four eyes and four ears... and sometimes more optics and cameras...all of which can be aimed in multiple directions to better accomplish our daily birding mission of seeing/hearing and identifying as many birds as possible. Birding in pairs is still a small enough human contingent that relative quietude is maintained so as not to scare away the objects of our pursuit.

Because of my young family and work schedule, I am mostly a lone birder stalking the woods in quiet solitude. It can be nice to be alone. Birding solo certainly has its place in developing one's skills. Yet, birding with another person has always yielded more results both in the number of birds identified and in the sense of fulfillment while birding. There is also that element of sharing special bird sightings with another human being and celebrating cool findings and life birds that cannot be enjoyed at the same level alone. There is no question in my mind having a birding buddy makes birding more fun.

Below are direct results of having a birding buddy...(all close-up pictures in this post were digiscoped using a Swarovski ATX spotting scope and handheld iPhone 4s)

Jason saw movement in the fallen branches and brush that I did not see. He immediately suspected a screech-owl. We both started glassing the brush pile and surrounding trees. Knowing that Western Screech-Owls are cavity nesters/roosters I began inspecting every hole in every tree. BINGO! I saw a cute gray face filling a hole in a tree snag.
Closer view with the spotting scope...
Zoomed in on the spotting scope at Sixty Power!
Had we not been birding together, I likely would not have stopped, not having seen any movement. Jason may not have found the owl's roost. And we certainly would not have enjoyed the close-up views and photographs without the use of my spotting scope, and it sure was fun celebrating this really cool bird sighting together.

Just the day before, Jason had alerted me to the presence of a Northern Goshawk that he had seen while hiking with his daughters in the foothills above the city of Eagle, Idaho. He invited me to come see it and together we scampered across the hills and re-found it. 

This was a particularly important sighting to me as I had only seen a Northern Goshawk on one previous occasion. I was a beginning birder then and my father-in-law and I were on our first trip to Patagonia, Arizona. We had this hawk in our scope for a good half hour. We studied it close. I remember being very confident in our determination that it was an adult Northern Goshawk. Yet, I still get eBird reviewer and eBird user questions about that sighting from several years ago. In conversations with Arizona birders, they too have questioned the likelihood of a Northern Goshawk being present there. So much doubt from others that I have begin to question the identification myself. 

Well, now, because of Jason, I have finally had soul-satisfying views and photographs to prove this most recent sighting of an adult Northern Goshawk.
Do you have a birding buddy? Do you know of birding buddies that make you jealous like they do me? Do you find that you identify more birds while birding with a friend? Does birding with a buddy make birding more fulfilling for you?


  1. Wow -- love those owl captures. Amazing that you spotted him. He blends right into the tree trunk. Very cool!

  2. Ha! Yes to everything!

    Swell work Robert. You and your birding buddy make a powerful team! I'll add y'all to my list of duos that make my envious...

  3. Without my birding buddy (Mia)I'd miss most of the birds completely. I'm the driver and she's the spotter. She has better eyesight and knows her ID's better than I do. And she's great company to boot. She's even been known to invent some new species occasionally, which makes for great fun in the field...:)

  4. What, hasn't everyone heard of the Long-billed Shoveler? :-) Ron is great company too and we have a marvelous time whenever or where ever we go looking for birds. Unless he hasn't had his chocolate covered donut.

    Four eyes are better than one.

  5. Ron and Mia are the best of birding buddies! Great post as well, Robert. Birding with others is so much fun, and part of the reason I enjoy it so much. Of course birding alone has its perks, but there is nothing like sharing a wonderful moment of watching a sleeping screech owl, nearly not seen, with a friend.

  6. If I didn't bird with Kathie, or vice versa, we'd miss out on a bunch of great birds! I love those chases but I also love the company and an extra set of eyes. The more birds we list; the better birders we become:) That Western Screech Owl is fabulous! Great post!

    1. Rohrerbot, birding with you has changed the way I bird. I'm glad we are a team!

    2. I'm glad our spouses are okay with us birding....actually I think they enjoy it:) They get the house to themselves for several hours. Robert, you're always welcome to join us. But I do understand what you are saying.....I did this alone for 1 year and it wasn't as fun. I always equate the experience to watching football(both sports:) with a group of friends. The difference, however, comes from something called exercise. And occasionally guacamole is served. A certain someone loves Mexican food:)

  7. Robert, while I have had sporadic birding buddies, until recently I did not have an almost daily one! LOL! It was an adjustment because I was used to birding alone for the most part, but i find I really like it for all the reasons you mention, and now I find that if i see a new bird by myself I wish that Chris was there to share the experience with me! One day I hope that I or we can bird with you and be birding buddies for a day! It's funny, but I thought of writing a similar post, but you beat me to it! Great Post!

  8. Oh, and I forgot to tell you, congrats on the Northern Goshawk, a bird I still need on my Life List! And the owl as well. Great pics but he looks MAD!