Archive for February, 2011

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Sabbatical

February 9, 2011

Don’t worry – Contact Calls is not going away. In fact, I imagine that when I return from my journey through South America, I’ll have a lot to talk about here. However, until then, most of my creative energy is being directed to my companion blog, Neotropical. I know I mentioned that in the previous post, but I wanted to make it abundantly clear to anyone dropping by here that this is not a blog that has been abandoned.

I will say this much though. My first 40 days in South America have been very rewarding and a great learning experience, even though I have only really been actively birding during about 10-12 of those days. I’ve picked up triple-digits of lifers already in just visiting Colombia, and pretty much sticking only to mid-elevation habitats. I’ve also been doing a lot of sound recording, using my new rig extensively for the first time, and doing recording in a major way for the first time since my previously-discussed sound recording workshop out in California last June. After some initial concerns about how I was going to actually use my rig on a regular basis, I seem to have arrived at a pretty usable system, where I can have my recorder and mic handy along with binos and my SLR camera. It sounds like it would be tricky to have all that dangling off me during a hike, but it’s actually not that bad. I’m certainly not speedy, but I wouldn’t be anyway.

The only concern with my system is preparedness for rain. I have to bring my daypack with me, stocked with my dry-bag, “duck back”, and my rainjacket/windbreaker. So far, a couple times I’ve been caught out in the field during some inclement weather, but fortunately have averted any damage so far. When I go to the Amazon in a couple days, I’ll have to worry about a bit more than that though – namely, humidity. The accumulative effect of high humidity on my microphone is a source of concern, and although I do have some mitigating measure ready to implement, I don’t know how that will actually work in practice.

Anyway, at least up to now recording has been wonderful, and I have enjoyed my tropical birding to a greater extent because of it. I find that capturing the sounds of the birds has added an entirely new dimension to the experience, as the obscuration of the forest doesn’t impede the ability to record like it does for photography. Photography of cloud-forest birds is quite challenging, and although I’m making progress and learning things as I go, getting recordings of singing or calling birds makes me feel a stronger connection to the places I visit. Some of the highlights so far include brief (but loud) samples of Chestnut-capped Piha, Dusky Piha, Slate-crowned Antpitta, Common Pauraque, Tropical Screech-Owl, Blackish Tapaculo, White-crowned Tapaculo, Black-crested Warbler, Whiskered Wren, a faint whistle from a Barred Fruiteater, a chorus of lekking Red-ruffed Fruitcrows, a cacophonous Cauca Guan, and some dazzling whistles and creaks from a Black-collared Jay.

But back to the topic. For the next few months, whatever bird-related topics I have will probably be posted to Neotropical instead of here, just so my parents know I’m still alive. Check there for the latest and greatest on my disposition!