In my day-to-day birding life, I happily shoot the same birds over and over around the West End and the downtown seawall: sparrows, hummingbirds, chickadees and finches, mostly—and sure, crows and geese and pigeons too! Though when I shoot those they’re either doing something super interesting… or I’m really starved for wildlife photos, and I usually feel that either Nature or I are really not trying our best.
(Sometimes I do get surprised on my daily walks, like the Pacific Wren hanging out on the seawall, the Savannah Sparrows on English Bay, or the Savannah Sparrow on Sunset Beach that turned out to be a Lincoln’s Sparrow.)
When I go and explore outside my neighbourhood, I’m usually all about discovering new birds or reconnecting with rare ones. That’s where the real rush is: the avocet at Reifel! The Golden-crowned Kinglet, also at Reifel! The cute little Dipper at Lost Lagoon! The Virginia Rail at Piper Spit! The damn White-throated Sparrows I can never seem to get a good picture of!
Because when it comes down to it, the joy is about getting and sharing those good photos. If it’s something rare or new, all the better, but I need to remember that it’s really not necessary! A couple weeks ago I went out to Maplewood Flats followed by Colony Farm, and saw… nothing but regular, common birds. And, to my surprise, that was totally okay!
I mean, it helps that my photos were amazing.
Side note: “common” is definitely a spectrum. See that Cedar Waxwing above? I don’t encounter them very often, haven’t gotten many good pictures of them, and they seem to come and go without set migration seasons. They’re not rarities as such, but definitely not as common as, say, Song Sparrows.
Same for Golden-crowned Sparrows. For one thing, we only get them half the year in the Lower Mainland, and I’ve only ever seen them a couple times around downtown, but they’re reliable visitors to places like Reifel, Piper Spit or Boundary Bay. I remember, in my early birding days before I started doing the rounds to those faraway spots, seeing photos of golden-crowns on Instagram and pining for these gorgeous little birds. And I was still learning just how many sparrow species there were!
For the last week, even over the weekend, I’ve been pretty much chained to my desk due to a project deadline preventing me from going out to enjoy the wildlife—not that there’d be much of it, what with the short days and the cold. But I took a short walk and it feels good to reconnect with my feathered neighbours. Part of me wants more but hey, isn’t this how I started birding anyway? I don’t need to be hunting rarities or even the perfect photo every day. Most days it’s enough to see a robin digging through dead foliage, or hear a Flicker calling in the distance. It’s okay. I can relax. The rarities will be there when I’m ready.