My New Game

by Sandy Komito on April 12, 2012

I’ve reached the age and stage in life where I can say anything I want, do anything I want and not worry about what others might say or think. That’s the great part of turning 80.  And I like that.

Last year, on April 10th, I started a new birding game for myself.  That day, I finally broke down and bought myself one of the new Canon auto-focus digital cameras.  The lens, which is a 100—400 mm, is stabilized, which means I probably can get away without having to lug a clumsy tripod along.

One of the reasons I delayed getting into the digital age was because I had bought a digital camera eight years earlier, couldn’t even figure how to set the date in the camera … gave up and threw it into some drawer (where it remains to this day). I told this to the camera salesman who promptly offered to set the correct time and date for me.  He convinced me it could be done, and I was hooked.

I left the camera store, headed home and opened the Canon instruction book which stretched out to 324 pages.  I began to read the first dozen pages and quickly passed out, luckily just before my head exploded. My initial foray into reading about the electronics of digital photography convinced me that English is really not my language. At least none of the supposedly English words they used in the instructions helped to clarify things in a way I could understand, as far as just what it was I had to do to make this thing work.  For example, the instruction book used the word format. Okay, I know what it means in English and can even use it in an English sentence.  But in camera language, it means erase! Well why didn’t they say so?

Lots of other English words followed that had meanings different from my understanding of English.  It was like having to learn a new foreign language. This time I was determined to try a little harder and bought a book called Canon EOS 60D for Dummies. I could identify with a book title like this. This book was a mere 370 pages which also assumed I understood Digital English. I’m happy to report I’m doing pretty good now. I’ve had the camera for a year and the book for more than eleven months. Well, I must be doing pretty good because I’m already up to page 24!

Let me get to the point as to why I bought the camera and what I hope to do with it.

The first thing I had to do is give the camera a name. I decided to call it Mr. Camera, just as some years ago, I named my purple pants, Mr. Pants.

Now that my camera had a name, I embarked on a mission to help Mr. Camera get a life list. And since I’m the one making the rules, I can of course, make any rules I want. I especially like this since it gives me a great sense of empowerment.  Okay, here are the rules:

1.  Mr. Camera can only count birds that are on the ABA list, which presently numbers 970. This should keep me busy for a while. This includes all birds including extinct, accidental and vagrants ones. Even birds where there is only a dead specimen that no one had ever seen in real life is on the list of 970.

2.  Mr. Camera cannot count anything that is dead, captive or restrained in any way. This rule also eliminates the extinct birds but does allow the photographing of birds from foreign countries where only a dead specimen or part of a specimen exists here in some collection.

3.  Rule #3, allows me to photograph any bird on the ABA list anywhere in the world. Just this little rule improvement has injected a whole new excitement into my foreign birding travel. It has also caused me to go back to many places both domestically and internationally and look for and photograph the ABA birds.

4.  For this game, birds that I formerly photographed with my other cameras don’t count. Only pictures taken by Mr. Camera count.

5.  I’m the sole judge as to whether I can satisfactorily identify the bird in the picture. Enlarging the picture as much as possible is permitted. I just have to see the pertinent field marks.

Mr. Camera and I presently have about 540 species and am hoping to reach 600 by the end of the year.  Stay tuned.  I’ll let you know how I make out.

Maybe by that time, I can figure out how to get some of the pictures off Mr. Computer and share them with you here.


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  • Gwdenton2

    I was glad to meet you and Mr. Camera at Patagonia Lake State Park one Sunday morning in November.  Little did I know that the friendly guy who was helping me identify some of the unfamiliar (to me) birds was one of the world’s most renowned birders. You might remember me: I had seen what turned out to be a Rufous-backed Robin just as you arrived.  Now that I have become more involved in birding, in no small part because of the helpfulness and generosity of people like you on my trip to Arizona,  I am grateful to you for spending time with me that could otherwise have been spent more profitably with Mr. Camera capturing images of birds for your list. Good Luck in your latest endeavor.

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