As the calendar rolls to 2015, it brings another "reset" to my annual bird photography count. After being inspired by the motion picture titled "The Big Year", I was motivated to participate in the contest according to my own rules and guidelines. Instead of counting birds seen and/or heard during a single calendar year, as a photographer, my goal was to create a collection of unique bird photographs. Only competing against myself, I snapped a total of 38 birds in 2013 (partial year, started around Easter), 99 birds in 2014 for a grand total of 106 unique bird photographs taken mostly in or near New Jersey.
Granted, these numbers are far from impressive against the expert birders that actually complete a Big Year, but for me they represent how much I have learned in the past few years through my photographs. As a novice birder, identification is much more difficult than it looks. I learned this lesson early in my personal "big year" when I mistook a Hooded Merganser for a Bufflehead. Both are ducks but the resemblance stops there :) and I uncovered my mistake after eagerly downloading my photo! The Hooded Merganser is now one of my favorite birds and very easy for me to recognize.
As I look forward to another year of SCUBA and another year of bird photography (yes sometimes I get to combine these activities!), I have set some personal goals for myself. I want to learn more songs and calls, figure out which sparrows come to my backyard feeders and find my first owl (I hear the snowy's are back this winter - wouldn't that be exciting to see)...and maybe crack the 3-digit count for a single year.
To celebrate the new year, I cruised by Lake of the Lillies in Point Pleasant Beach (NJ) and was not disappointed. This lake is a block from the beach and boardwalk and is a gem for birding. No "life" birds for me today but I was able to capture some unique photos on a beautiful but windy day. Started the year with 7 photographs including a pair of Hooded Mergansers with crests blowing in the gusts of wind...photograph taken but not needed to identify these birds today.
Honorable mention also goes to a pack of Northern Shovelers skimming the surface of the pond looking for food.
A cute pair of American Coots look for food on the bank of the pond, unbothered by the "tail-wind".
And a quick pass by the Manasquan Inlet on my way home rewarded me with a Herring Gull munching on a starfish for breakfast.
Other photos taken but not displayed here include Double-crested Cormorant, Canada Goose and Great Egret.