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Flashback Friday: Confessions of a Travelling Bird Nerd

Updated: Apr 8, 2022

I've been a bird nerd for a very long time. When I look at my travel photos, I am often struck by how many bird photos I have in my various albums. Yet, many of my nearest and dearest were quite shocked when I confessed to being a Bird Nerd early in the pandemic times. I started putting out bird feeders and making weekly visits to our local bird sanctuary during the worst of pandemic restrictions. I'd always liked birds but now I decided to learn to photograph them to prep for a future African wildlife safari. Once I started photographing them, I got hooked on learning how to identify them and their various ranges. Due to my travels, I have discovered that I have a pretty impressive birder's "Life List", which is possibly the nerdiest list I've ever created. Many years ago, I worked on helping develop curriculum that honoured Indigenous principles of learning. During that project, I was honoured when an elder of the Musqueam Nation identified the Heron as my Spirit Animal. I see herons everywhere I go. My nearest and dearest connect me with the birds so herons do a lot of prodding/nagging for me. It is not at all unusual to get messages from friends and family that begin with "I just saw a heron and....". I love it.

Great Blue Herons are plentiful along my daily walking routes on the West Dyke Trail.

Today's Flashback Friday theme will feature some of the avian beauties I have been lucky enough to catch on camera during my travels. Some birds are fabulous models. They are still and pose beautifully in the open. Others (hummingbirds) can be jerks as they dart around, hiding deep within the shade and foliage, or aggressively doing their birdy things.

Mady and I spent a magical day on the cliffs of Latrabjarg, Iceland amongst some of the 10 million Atlantic Puffins that come ashore to breed in Iceland annually from May to August. The 440 meter high cliffs are one of the most western points in Europe and is known as being the largest bird cliffs in Europe. Puffins are only one of many different species in the area but they are most definitely the stars. These beauties are unafraid of humans and will allow very close contact. I have hundreds of photos of puffins. Every one is beautiful. Puffins are always Instagram Glamorous. Just a word to the wise: it's a long drive to the cliffs and there are absolutely no gas stations once you leave the Ring Road. Make sure your tank is full. We coasted into the gas station on fumes and fervent prayers to Icelandic Vikings

Again from Iceland, this is a parent Arctic tern feeding a youngster beside the sidewalk in Jökulsárlón, the Glacier Lagoon. This action was taking place within arm's reach of where we were sitting on the ground. The babes stayed put while the parents were in a constant loop of fishing and feeding. These birds are circumpolar which means they "winter" in the Antarctic and breed in the Arctic. That's a lot of flying for a relatively small bird!

This gorgeous Snowy Owl had been rescued in Ireland after eating poisoned prey -- likely household vermin like mice and rats. She was unable to be returned to the wild, and was being used to educate farmers and homeowners on pest control without poisoning the food chain. The trainer and this lovely female were taking a break after a demonstration in the small town where we stopped for lunch on our way to Cobh, Ireland.

Peacocks are everywhere in Portugal. They roam freely in every public park and frequently pose for photos. They know they are beautiful and will hiss and shake their feathers in displeasure if you do not demonstrate the appropriate amount of awe in their presence. I'm not sure how many photos I have of peacocks but I'm sure the number rivals the puffin shots.

In Peru I took a boat tour of the Paracas National Reserve, a coastal sanctuary that labels itself the Poor Man's Galapagos Islands. I was thrilled to see penguins and I was ridiculously pleased to get a nice shot of a Blue Footed Booby and her young. Go ahead, giggle. You know you want to.

Blue Footed Booby (giggle) with nestlings

The best tour I've ever taken was a jungle expedition into UNESCO World Heritage site Manu National Park in Peru. This exploration, led by Amazon Wildlife Peru, was a remarkable experience and the best tour I have ever joined. I always look for one Over-The-Top-Once-In-A-Lifetime-Opportunity (OTTOIALO) or Splurge for every trip. These are things that I probably spend too much on but never regret. This trip was an OTTOIALO. I will do it again, if I return to Cusco. This beautiful bird (above) is a Crested Quetzal, which roughly translates to "bird with beautiful plumage" in the Aztec language. The colours are magnificent.

An early start on the river one morning just before dawn saw this little burrowing owl guarding a ground nest created on one of the debris islands common to the Amazon river system. The river channels are constantly changing and re-routing. The only people who successfully navigate these waters likely grew up within the buffer zone of the National Park. It is forbidden to enter most areas of the park and it is required by law to avoid all contact with Indigenous people outside of the buffer zone.

The national bird of Peru is the Andean Cock of the Rock.This handsome bird has a strange set of head feathers that extend over it's beak looking like some sort of weird helmet. It was the first really cool bird I saw on that tour and I was thrilled. I've been told that it is considered to be quite an Bird Nerd Achievement to be able to check this bird of one's "life list". How impressed are you?

Hummingbirds are a favourite bird of mine. They are small and feisty. To be honest, they are also total jerks. Each is tiny little ball of anger and outrage, fiercely guarding their food source and territory. We only get two species of hummers at home: the Anna's and the Rufous but in Monteverde, Costa Rica there are many, many different species. I visited the Hummingbird Garden in Selvatura Adventure Park which attracts 14 different species. I sat, alone, in the middle of the garden watching hundreds of birds flitting around, feasting and fighting on the many different feeding sources provided.

This grumpy looking hummer is called a "Charming Hummingbird". He was one of the smaller birds who waited for an opening before darting in for a quick feed before returning back to his branch.

This stunner is a Violet Sabrewing. He's kinda mid-sized and very quick. I loved how his feathers caught the sun. I promise not to do many posts totally dedicated to birds on this travel blog, but I had to get it out of my system. I encourage you to look at the birds around you. There is a lot more beauty than most people have the time to notice. There are some fabulous apps like Merlin to help you identify birds by photo. That particular app is also developing a data base to identify birds by their song. I like looking for birds when I'm hiking or camping. It's amazing how much pleasure I can get by spotting a new bird and being able to get a decent photograph. I'm hoping I'll get a chance to use my wildlife photography skills on some exciting big game in Africa and Australia in the next few years.

What catches your attention when travelling in natural settings? Do you notice animals, plants, natural formations? Thanks for sticking around, early followers. Welcome to the newbies! It's a thrill to get a notification that I've gained another member or someone new has stumbled in. I'm glad you found your way here. Become a member, say hi in the comments and join the conversation. Let me know what you're enjoying and if there is a topic you'd like to see in the future.

Please share the link and help me grow my audience. Enjoy your weekend, New post coming Monday!


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