I’ve written, a bit, about birding at Goose Pond, near Linton, Indiana, last weekend. The highlight of the trip was spending malmost an our observing a pair og whooping cranes at sunset. I set up my camera and tripod and shot close to 100 frames as these birds fed, badgered sandhill cranes and took flight into the sunset (actually they flew to the north at sunset).
I was with my friend and willow weaver, Greg Adams. He shot quite a few photos, too.
He emailed me early Monday morning asking me to check the backgrounds of my shots. He attached one of his photos. In the background, little more than a white speck, there appeared to be a snowy owl perched in a tree. He urged me to check mine and, sure enough, the same large white bird appeared in many of my shots.
Like any good birder I was filled with hope and skepticism. Snowies live on the tundra where there are no trees. While I’m sure they have perched in trees when this far south the one that I’ve seen spent its time on the ground, on fence posts and on rooftops. The little dot of a snowy in my crane photo looked out of place.
I wanted it to be a snowy. None had been reported on Goose Pond that weekend and there were hundred of birders pocking around every nook and cranny. What a great story I could tell if I missed seeing one (watching other rare birds) but accidentally got its photo!
Using Picasa (Google’s photo editing software) I “enhanced” the image. This is not an area of expertise for me. I cropped out the dot and enlarged it. then I played with the contrast aadjustments until I could see more.
What I saw could not be a snowy owl (durnnit!) Though I cannot see any more of the bird in the “enhanced” photo, it’s pretty clear that it has very long legs. The white area does not taper to a head. It remains wide and rounded — clearly (or unclearly) this is the breast of a large bird — probably a red-tailed hawk. Above and on the sides I can almost make out the outline of wings, head and mayb, even a bill.
Dissappointing, but no surprise. Ina sense we are lucky. I would have hated to miss spotting a Snowy Owl and not knowing it.
The lesson learned is to avoid being so fixated on THE BIRD to miss the birds. how many times have I fixated on a wood duck only to miss the ivory-billed woodpecker at my back? (Probably never — but you get it.) Look around. Look behind. Look beyond.