Any Kayak Birders Here?

Since retiring I’ve really ramped up my interest in identifying birds that I see or hear. I’ll get in my kayak at the local reservoir and see lots of species that I don’t see in the suburbs. I’ve begun using eBird as a way to find and report uncommon/interesting birds. Here’s the puzzle… I’ll see a species A LOT but other people are either hardly reporting it or not reporting it at all. I’m thinking maybe I’m not a very good birder… or… people are becoming so sedentary that they don’t paddle to where the birds are. Anyone else seeing this?

You may be seeing birds from the water that others can’t see as well from the shore, especially if the shore is lined with trees and brush.

And you’re identification skill may not be as good as others.

I have difficulty with migrating warblers, sparrows and waterfowl.

You’re right. The shore is lined with trees for the most part. I guess kayaker/birder-who-reports-on-eBird is a rare bird. Here’s what I’m seeing. There are big colonies of Cliff Swallows under the bridges that are hardly being reported. There are also smaller numbers of what I’m 99.9% sure are Least Sandpipers flying and walking around that are totally not reported on eBird. I’ll keep working at my skills!

I saw a kayak fly by the other day.
I have two paddling friends who are great at bird ID both visual and by song.

I’m not in the income bracket that lets me risk getting the good camera with the long lens dropped in the lake. Wish I was.

Neck strap to keep from dropping and buy used to get cheaper.

I love seeing wildlife when kayaking. Almost fell out the boat gawping a few times.

I don’t have a waterproof camera with enough magnification to be good for birding while paddling. I have one that’s 5x, but that’s not good for anything other than very close, so I rarely bother with it.

I don’t even carry binoculars when paddling.

Most of my paddling is doing laps for exercise and the bird identification is as good as I can get as I fly by or when I spook a green heron or similar along the shore.

I don’t actually bird while paddling, but I do see birds while paddling.

This isn’t all that related to your question, but I hope related enough. I could write about a bunch of favorite aspects of seeing birds while paddling, but in the early spring, one favorite of mine is the pied-billed grebe. I never used to see them at all, but paddling, and more specifically, paddling shortly after ice-out, has let me see lots of them. Pied-billed grebes are magicians. They are already small, but when you get reasonably close, the first thing they do is sink so that only their head is above the water, so now they are truly hard to see. They’ll do that while assessing how much of a threat you are. Then they slip beneath the surface, and if you are lucky, you’ll see them reappear - just the head - VERY far from their first location. After they disappear again you have virtually no hope of seeing them again. As I said, they are magicians.

Sort of like loons

I’m sort of a kayaking birder, I guess. I like to keep up on what I see and hear for when the unusual occurs, I can recognize it. When I retire, God willing, I’ll get a bit more serious with it.
Unusual sightings for Florida so far are the Red bellied Whistling duck, Black vented Oriole, and a Lazuli Bunting. Fun stuff. Only the Whistling ducks were actually observed from a kayak, for what it’s worth.

I forgot to include my local pair of Whooping Cranes, with their two year old boy child. They are very cool too! I really should use the ebird sight, I’ve only posted about the Whistling ducks on that.

When I retired I joined the local bird club. Went on an outing with them and saw my first Pied-billed Grebe. Yup… went down right there and popped up way over there. The club SAID that a Black-bellied Whistling Duck had come way north and taken up residence at a local lake. I went to the lake several times to see it. All I saw were Canada Geese.

Not a kayaking birder. Canoeing birder. I got a relatively inexpensive zoom lens Canon SX60 HS for getting bird shots that make them look like birds, rather than ink blots.
From FL . for example the Wood Duck

From my back or front yard

all from a bobbing boat.

@string said:
Sort of like loons

Loons can do those things, but almost never demonstrate them so profoundly. I find loons, even as shy as they are, to be far more tolerant of boats, and never actually sneaky in their mannerisms, and perfectly likely to pop up within some reasonable distance from where they went down. They never come up so far away that you have no hope of ever seeing them again. Pied-billed grebes take shyness, stealth via buoyancy-control, and marathon underwater swimming distance to extremes that I’ve never seen from a loon. That’s what makes pied-billed grebes so much fun in my book.

Last week I discovered that I have a nesting pair of pileated woodpeckers in my back yard in Indiana.

A couple mornings ago I heard an unfamiliar call and looked out my bedroom window to see a black and white warbler in the red bud tree a few feet away.

This year I’ve learned two more calls that cardinals make, for a total of four calls, so far.

Pied billed grebes are fun to watch. They look so small compared to most other waterfowl.

I’ve only seen one loon while paddling in IL.

I’ve been paying more attention to small birds this spring and have identified five new species of warblers, as well as ruby crowned and golden crowned kinglets and eastern towhees.

Last year I started wearing eyeglasses and had to get long eye relief binoculars to accommodate them. I got the Celestron Trailseeker 8x42 for $189 and am very satisfied with them for birdwatching.

For terrestrial birdwatching, I use aCannon PowerShot SX500 IS, which does quite well, considering my ineptitude, but my pictures pale compared to pics by two people in our local Audubon chapter. Those two have great equipment and know how to use it.

Now the birds are garnering my nature watching time, but soon the insects visiting my native prairie plants will redirect much of that attention.

This spring, my birdwatching has adversely affected my yard work, because everytime I hear an interesting call or see something flying, I grab my binoculars and or my camera. I’m like a dog when it sees a squirrel.

I paddle yearly on a lake in New Hampshire and see loons regularly, sometimes with babies on board. They can certainly evade a boat easily if they want to, and can stay underwater a heck of a long time, but they seem quite unconcerned with paddlers inching up a bit. I’ve also seen them - even more thrillingly, they’re very impressive large birds - while swimming. Once I was at eye level with a loon about10 feet from me.

Thanks Kayamedic! Beautiful shots.

@Rex said:
Thanks Kayamedic! Beautiful shots.

Yes, they are.

On those pileated woodpeckers, I had always figured they lived “in the big woods”, but a few days ago I saw one in town. It was a part of town with plenty of forest, but nothing like “the big woods” I thought they needed.

@Guideboatguy said:
On those pileated woodpeckers, I had always figured they lived “in the big woods”, but a few days ago I saw one in town. It was a part of town with plenty of forest, but nothing like “the big woods” I thought they needed.

I guess they just need enough dead trees to feed on.