North Carolina county #79 Jordan Lake State Recreation Area - Ebenezer Point
I was sitting in the parking lot of San-Lee Park, having just completed my 78th county. My next stop was in Chatham County, but when I swapped to my spare camera battery, the camera would still not start up. I took it out and put it back in, but the camera was completely dead.
Could I have forgotten to charge my spare? I didn’t think so, but I wasn’t certain. My mind was reeling, trying to figure out what to do next. To start with, my phone was just about out of batteries. My charger had not been plugged in properly on my way there, and I did not charge the night before, so I was down to 2%. I had six more counties to complete and two non-refundable nights booked in a hotel, and I was three hours from home.
Reaching for a lifeline, I called Canon Support to see if they could help. They suggested I swap to a Canon lens and a new SD card. I realized I had my camera battery charger and a two prong socket in my car, but I couldn’t use it while on the phone due to my low phone battery. I told them I would call back. I began charging camera batteries. Based on the blinking lights, one of them had a good charge. I went through several iterations of batteries, lenses, and SD cards, all to no avail. I sat in the car, continuing to charge, hoping that would make a difference. I wiped a little moisture from the camera, as it had been humid and drizzling when I started out that day.
My camera remained a brick. Through tens of thousands of photos it had always been so reliable; I was at a loss. I called home, to talk to my wife and clear my head and let her know I might come home. I didn’t want to cancel the trip, but I also didn’t want to do six counties without a camera. Even beyond this blog, I often use the camera as a crutch for identification – when something is distant or hard to get a good look at, I know I can snap a photo and identify it at home. Also, it is always good to have a camera when birding, to be able to prove you saw something if necessary.
After two hours of sitting in the car, I decided to go to the next location without a camera. Lake Jordan is a large lake with several State Recreation Areas around it – Ebenezer Point was the one I went to.
My phone is a Google Pixel and takes decent photos. For most web purposes it is fine, but it does not have the reach to take bird photos. So I have no bird photos for this location. Of course, as I pulled up there was a Merlin perched in very close bushes, mocking my lack of a proper camera. It seemed to sneer as it made a high-pitched laughing call at me. I vainly tried to hold my phone up to my binoculars while it watched and then flew away.
Not many other birds made an appearance while I was there. An Osprey circled to my left and two Double-crested Cormorants flew across the water as I watched with my new spotting scope.
Getting to use the new spotting scope was the highlight of the trip for me. Even though there were not a lot of birds to see, finding out the new capabilities it provided was a brief respite from the nagging knowledge of a dead camera waiting in my car.
Finally, I had to face it. I slowly packed up and went back into the car. One last cycle of trying different lenses and cards and batteries to finalize my situation. But now the time away, the outdoors and the birding, had cleared my mind, as it often does. I remembered I had a camera at home – not a proper DSLR – but a decent camera I had used for birding before I bought my most recent one. It was slow and the sensor would not work as well when out of the sunlight, but I could make it work, and it was capable of usable bird photos at times.
I would be stuck with it for some time. I had another trip planned next week and Canon would not be done with any repairs in time for it, but the quest must be completed. I had come too far. Twenty-two counties remained.
After submitting my ebird checklist, I started the drive home. After an already long day, I would end up driving three more hours home, spend an hour searching for the pieces to my older camera, wolf down some food, get stuck in rush hour traffic on the way back and make it to the hotel at 9pm, exhausted.