The big difference between bird watchers and bird hunters

January 6, 2021 Birds, My Solo Trip, The most beautiful places in North America

Bird watching has been a passion for me. I get very emotional when I see the birds. I can even endure cold, heat, rain, and mosquitoes to enjoy them. Despite the fact that I don’t like hot weather, I can walk through the rainforest and bear high temperatures for the infinite pleasure of seeing them, hearing their song, and photographing and filming them. 

An incredible and beautiful view

Since I am not a scientist, learning their names is a great challenge. I try to research them using traditional guides and technology, and at the same time, I try to read as much as I can about them. When I see a new bird, I want to know if it’s a migratory bird, where it breeds, what it eats, and if it is endangered.

I love being in the woods and sitting quietly, waiting for the birds to get used to my presence. I let them get closer to where I am waiting, silently and without moving.

This entire introduction is to explain what birds mean to me.

Ah! And I don’t eat them either! Even chickens and hens seem beautiful to me, and although at one time, years ago, I also ate them, now it would be impossible for me to do so. 

I remember when my oldest daughter was little. She asked my dad why people ate chickens and how they got killed. My dad explained to her the method used by the poultry packing plants and the “machines” they used to kill them. Her eyes watered, and she asked if the “machines” they used were “gentle killing machines for chickens.”

This anecdote stayed with us in our family forever; of course, neither she nor I eat the chickens anymore. My idea with this post is not to dig into the issue of whether to eat chicken or not, but I wanted to explain what all birds mean to me and the love and emotions that they awaken in me.

Snow geese in a flooded rice field close to the Mississippi River

Today I had a wonderful experience, which turned into a surprise and deep pain. When planning my trip, I was trying to locate places where I could find birds, although I was aware that it would not be very easy during winter. The truth is that I couldn’t find many places to go birding on the route that I traced. 

After leaving the city of Memphis, I crossed the Mississippi River, and I was very excited. It is a legendary and beautiful river, but I was disappointed because I could not find where to stop to enjoy it and take some shots. I tried different places, but finally, I got an image taken with the cell phone from the car window.

Mississippi River

I wondered why the river did not have a park near the city so that its residents and visitors could enjoy it. Suddenly I managed to see a number of birds on the side of the highway. There were so many that I could not believe it. 

I couldn’t stop on the highway; all I could see were large flocks of birds rising from a lake and circling around. I felt my heart beating so hard that I didn’t know what to do. Finally, I saw an exit.

Without hesitation, I left the highway, not knowing if I could go back or if there was a way to reach the lake I had just left behind. While driving, I realized this was an industrial area surrounded by freight container lots, a strange place for birds to migrate, though! Finally, I found a small dirt road bordering the lake and returned to where I could see the birds.

Snow geese in their winter migration in Oklahoma

Luckily, I was able to enjoy, photograph, and film them. It was absolutely beautiful and exciting! Although the birds were quite far away, there were so many… hundreds or thousands, even hundreds of thousands… Being able to observe them was a wonderful gift to me. They took flight in groups, clouded the sky, returned to the water … frolicked, and seemed to have fun. 

Snow geese in their winter migration in Oklahoma

They weren’t fishing, even the ones in the water. They were swimming and resting.

After a little while, I knew I had to go. I had several more hours to drive and didn’t want to get to my hotel after dark. So, with my emotions in my heart and my bird images on my cameras, I said goodbye to them, wanting to find more information about them later on. I didn’t even know what kind of birds they were. I just assumed they were geese because I saw them through my telephoto lens, but they were not the species I knew.

Upon arriving at the hotel, I googled and located the place. To my great surprise, the information I found was that they were snow geese (Chen caerulescens). They breed in the Arctic grasslands during the summer and migrate south in the winter, traveling in gigantic flocks. 

Snow geese i

They can be completely white, dark gray with a white head, or mixed. They became almost extinct due to excessive hunting at the beginning of the 20th century. They were protected until the 70s when their hunting was allowed again due to the great increase in the population. Today, their population has increased so much that people see them as a plague in some places.

Now, hunters can kill them during their migrations without any restrictions. They can kill as many as they want and attract them using electronic sound devices. Tours are offered to go hunting them, and there are special places where hunters can hide from birds to be more efficient.

Hundreds of snow geese in their winter migration

It all sounds terrible to me, and it hurts because it shows me that, for us humans, nature is there only for our service. One way or another, we hurt it and don’t even wonder about it. I just wanted to tell you about my feelings and what you think.

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