A bird that was not a Common Yellowthroat flew up and perched on a branch very close by and I immediately realized that I was looking at a Mourning Warbler. This was quite a good fall bird. But instead of observing the bird, I automatically reached for my camera and took a few photos before it dropped out of site. I waited to see if it would pop back up but like a typical Mourning Warbler, it was gone along with my opportunity to study it. I looked at the photo on my camera view finder and was satisfied with my initial ID. The bird was definitely a Mourning Warbler, likely a first Winter Bird. While I felt lucky to have at least gotten a "documentation" photo, I felt a bit torn about my actions. Should I have spent more time looking at the bird instead of trying to capture a photo?
This is a tough one and open to debate as I fully recognize the value of accompanying photos for the data in eBird to be of the highest quality. However, there is a drawback if this becomes the standard as the focus could very likely (IMHO) interfere with the art of learning good field observation, taking field notes or take away the joy of just enjoying what is being seen. My MOWA example, is one where I certainly felt pressured by this process to get a photo instead of enjoying the moment. Yeah sure, I was lucky to get a photo to look at and enjoy later but what if I had missed getting the shot. I would have missed both the image and the chance to enjoy "that" moment in the field.
It's a bit of a dilemma. The camera has become a valuable part of my getup and I have no plans on changing that but I may reevaluate "when" to get that photo. Of course, when it comes to a rare or uncommon bird more documentation, is always better. So what about you? Do you take a camera while out birding? Do you find it sometimes could get in the way of birding?
Tags: Mourning Warbler, eBird, Queens