The Joy of Birding – One Click at a Time

By: Andrew McGivern, curator of exhibitions on October 9th, 2013

Each fall, the Woodson Art Museum presents its Birds in Art exhibition. The Museum’s galleries are filled with over 120 paintings, sculptures, and works on paper – the country’s best indoor bird watching.

Cat Bird

Over the years, I’ve developed quite an appreciation for our fine-feathered friends and have decided to compile a life list to document the avian species I encounter. My life list is different from those of other birders. I’ve chosen to only include birds that I can identify in photographs I’ve taken.  Thanks to the precision and convenience of digital photography, this goal is much easier than it would’ve been with film photography.

Cape May Warbler
Black-and-White Warbler
Yellow Warbler

Although I’ve always enjoyed watching and photographing birds, a couple of events this year sparked a greater interest. In the fall of 2012, I led a group of Museum travelers on a ten-day trip to Cuba that combined cultural interaction and bird-watching outings. On the trip, I took photographs of some of the most beautiful birds I’d seen in the wild. It was fun maintaining the list of birds that we identified.

Magnolia Warbler

This spring, I photographed a number of warblers in the Wausau area when a snowstorm slowed their migration and they waited for the weather to break.  I had no idea how beautiful and diverse the spring migrants were.

Common Yellowthroat

Even with a digital camera, photographing many bird species can be a challenge. Warblers, for example, instinctually hide behind branches and leaves and may make an appearance for only a second or two before moving back into hiding. It takes great patience and an understanding of the various species to know how and when to get their picture.

Wilson’s Warbler
Palm Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Cormorants on Lake Wausau
Horned Grebe on Lake Wausau

If you’d like to see more photographs from my visual life list, I’ll be leading Art History 101: The Birding Connection, Wednesday, October 16, 12:15 – 1 pm. I may even throw in a few surprises; join me on this virtual birding excursion!

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