On the Move: Bird photography is a rewarding retirement hobby
Retired and in mid-70s, clinical psychologist Udo Rauter has become an avid birder and an avid photographer of birds, two hobbies that evolved from different beginnings.
Rauter was born and grew up in Germany. In his teens, when he knew nothing about photography, his father gave him his first camera, a Leica. He learned to use it “by the seat of his pants,” he says. He trained for a career in hotel work, which required that he travel and work throughout Europe, thus learning the languages of different countries. He became fluent in English, French and the Swiss tongues.
“I took pictures wherever I went to send home to my family,” he says.
Eventually, he came to the United States and a job at Hotel America in Houston. He attended the University of Houston, receiving a doctorate in clinical psychology. It was there that he met a girl from Pennsylvania, who became his wife.
He left Texas for a year’s internship in California, which led him to a job in New Hampshire and snow. He’d never seen snow before and found it exciting. Rauter became the Director of Clinical Psychology for the New Hampshire State Hospital, where he stayed for 30 years.
While in Houston, Rauter and a friend bought a car, intending to travel the United States, Central and South America. Rauter contacted magazines with offers of his pictures and stories to accompany. Those big plans died when his friend announced his engagement to be married.
Learning more and more about photography soon led to a need for more advanced equipment. He bought an Olympus and then Nikon and bigger and more complex lenses. Today he uses only professional equipment.
Rauter began to photograph birds in his back yard in Chichester just for fun. He joined New Hampshire Audubon and became an eager birder.
He has traveled widely to find rare birds, sometimes just to our coast, other times farther afield. He and his wife did one birding trip down one coast of Florida and up the other side. They traveled to Lake Erie to follow a reknowned migration path for warblers.
“We saw hundreds of birds and hundreds of birders there,” he says.
Warblers are our friends. They feed on mosquitoes and other obnoxious insects, which is very nice for us humans. Warblers travel over 3,000 miles to be in our area in the spring and summer months. They travel at night, when the air is cool, and will cover as many as 300 miles in a night, often totally exhausted by daylight.
The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests has exhibited Rauter’s work. He has photographed hawks, and a collection of his owl photos is currently on display and for sale at the Audubon House.
“Birding added a new dimension to my life,” Rauter says. “It gets you close to nature, the birds, their lifestyles and habitats. On Lake Erie, we were treated to the sight of the rare, today, Bicknell’s Thrush and a blackpoll warbler.”
He told of hoping to see the Bicknell’s thrush on Lake Erie. A small boy asked him what he was looking for and when Rauter told him, the boy turned, pointed and said, “there he is,” and there he was indeed.
Rauter fills his retirement hours with many interests. He and his wife volunteer at the homeless Shelter at the First Congregational Church. He cannot be disturbed or distracted during the World Cup soccer games. With a satellite dish, he listens to international news stations, in particular China and Russia. It’s interesting to hear how different nationalities interpret the same news, we agree. Rauter plays golf and is a hiker. He meets for coffee at Panera with a men’s group and he’s in love with his dog.
Although Rauter says his bird pictures are “just a hobby,” he’d like to find a market so he could share them. They are too beautiful to keep hidden in a computer.