Keeping New Year’s Resolutions . . . Hiking, Birding, and Photography

Keeping New Year’s Resolutions . . . Hiking, Birding, and Photography

      Back in January 2013, before my work life went crazy, I wrote about New Year’s resolutions for the Mountain Gazette. I outline some suggested resolutions that I thought would make the sporting world a better place and sportsmen better people – if that is possible.  Among the resolutions I suggested was “Take up a new and complimentary ‘hobby’; something to get you out in the woods during the off season. Take up photography, bird watching, hiking, canoeing – something to get you outside; something you can do with family or friends….”
Tri-Colored Heron and Great Egret, Cape May, NJ

I decided to follow my own advice (for a change) and take up several “hobbies” to compliment hunting and fishing activities. And while many hobbies don’t come cheap, they don’t have to be expensive (unless you get a new camera and new hiking shoes, and a new backpack…not that I’m saying I did…).

Being outdoors keeps me sane. Some people have no problem dealing with crowds of people, tons of traffic, and lots of buildings and pavement. Not me. I need the outdoors to recreate and regenerate. When I’m in Vermont, I’m surrounded by the outdoors. When I’m away, not so much.

My “hobbies” bring me outside when nothing is in season or, God forbid, I don’t have time or feel like hunting or fishing. When I’m away from Vermont these same pursuits give me a great excuse to head for the hills – not that I need too much of a reason.

 

Sky Meadow State Park, VA

I started snowshoe day hiking on the western slopes of Mount Mansfield after hunting season was over and before trout season opened. The woods were almost empty and I certainly didn’t overheat.

Friends in Virginia told me about Sky Meadows State Park, which has become a favorite – especially the section that runs along the Appalachian Trial. Wherever I am on the weekend I look to see what local trails are available.

Sometimes the weather is less than desirable or I simply don’t have the time available for a good hike. Enter the hobby of birding. I used to bird back in high school and my early fatherhood years – both periods of time with my friend Tom Kenefick. Back in the day, we’d pack our daughters Lauren and Katie and go looking for Bald Eagles at Mason Neck in Virginia. We’d tie feathers on the girls and let them flop around in their winter coats hoping to attract some birds. (Just checking to see if our wives ever read my blog.)

Great Blue Heron, Huntley Meadows Park, VA

In fact, back in high school we birded with David Allen Sibley (once). David was in my class and Tom and I ran track with David’s older brother Steve and sister Anne. We went out one night trying to call in owls. We stayed out through the dawn and ended up in a marsh, trying to convince David to leave so we could grab some breakfast. To say that David had an unusual level of focus for a high school guy would be a gross understatement, certainly where something other than girls was concerned. Of course, having more focus than either Tom or me was a low hurdle to clear.

So, I’m birding again and taking some short side trips to various locations near and not so near and it has been a lot of fun.

Whimbrels, Cape May, NJ

The Tri-Colored Heron, Great Egret, and Whimbrel photos were taken on a September trip to Cape May, NJ. The shots were taken from a boat in choppy water. I was using a Lumix GX-7 with a 100-300 lens. The camera has an anti-vibration feature, which was handy shooting from a boat.

I saw 34 species of birds on my Cape May trip. Many of the birds were firsts for me. Kind of neat. It gets me out and is an interesting challenge to learn to identify new birds. It is like preseason scouting, where you aren’t sure of what game you’ll actually find.

One interesting sighting while at Cape May was a Whiskered Tern. You won’t find it in your local bird guide since it is from Africa. It was visiting Cape May when I was. It was only the third sighting of this bird in the United States. Frankly, it wasn’t an impressive looking bird. It was nice to add such an unusual sighting to my life list.

Expect to see many more photos in coming posts. I already have quite a backlog.

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