In Flight

Flying and training are so intertwined it never ends... indeed we as pilots are trained to fly all the way into the crash site. It's almost like humans were not intended to fly! And this week I will continue both flying and training, hopefully not into a crash site! For the next year or so my training will be rather intense and frequent as I transition from just a commercial pilot to a "biologist-pilot". Becoming a certificated commercial pilot was just the beginning. So stay tuned to the blog and I will update my progress!

Over the next 2 weeks I will be gaining skills in the art of identifying and counting waterfowl... from an airplane cruising just above the treetops at 100mph. I have always been an avid birder, constantly working on my life list and challenging myself to id birds by sound and/or sight. But this will take my birding skills next level! When you identify a bird its really so much more than sight and sound though... its a Gestalt observation. If you took psych you may recall Gestalt refers to the idea that observations are not simply based on one thing but on patterns and configurations of the entire observation window. This is a great thing to understand with bird identification... its important to take in everything AROUND the bird in question... not just the color, shape, activity, sound of the bird. But indeed its habitat... everything around it.

So if you see a bird in the water you might note how deep it is- is it a large body of water or a puddle? Or is it covered in vegetation, duckweed, tall grass or in timber? Is the water fresh, salt or brackish? What time of year is it- spring, summer, fall, winter? When you take this Gestalt approach to bird ID you can very quickly narrow down to just a few bird species. And with practice all of this happens in mili seconds.

So if you can't tell a prothonotary warbler from a vulture worry not. I am a trained biologist and am about to have difficulty differentiating waterfowl from a speeding plane... but I know the secret to bird id. It is the same secret that will get you to Carnegie Hall. You know how to get to Carnegie Hall don't you? PRACTICE!!!

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