I received some interesting emails after my last post There’s No Place Like Home. Most were requests to see my backyard bird photography studio or advice on setting one up, which will be the subject of my next post. However, one email in particular made me think a little after I read it. Given the outpouring of support for Pledge 2 Fledge, I decided this post should be about the beauty of common bird species.
You see, the reader of my last post seemed to think they were getting bored with just photographing the same species and wanted to branch out (pun intended :-)) into different species but didn’t have the time or companionship to make that next move. What I tried to do in this post and in my email response to the reader, is show some common backyard and park species doing something special or looking really good!
One of the most important things in bird watching in my opinion is observing varying bird behaviors and learning to appreciate and see the differences in the birds as the seasons change. How could you ever be bored with that?
I hope you agree, that there is beauty in common. Now go out and enjoy some common bird species! And remember, we are all out here because Birding is Fun!
Images captured with Nikon D3x w600mm f/4, TC-14e II on Lexar Digital Film
I had a hunch when I woke up yesterday that I was going to find a Willet’s Nest. As I arrived at the location I would be scouting, it seemed that there were signs all around me (I know, bad pun! ;-))
I approached a location where I had seen Willets for several years. The location in my opinion was perfect. Salt flats, sea grass and rocks along the road to shelter the nests. The only skepticism I had was the knowledge that this location floods a lot and the chances of chicks surviving here are slim given the flooding. But I have seen Willets here for several years now during June and July so as I said at the start, I had a hunch.
As I approached the area I planned to observe, I found several Willets calling. I parked the car across the road, rolled down the window and waited with my camera on a bean bag pointing out the window. After about an hour, I saw my first chick. Just as quickly as it had jumped up on the rocks, it jumped back down before I could make a click. Unfortunately I didn’t see another one! But I was thrilled to see my first Willet chick even though I didn’t get to photograph it.
Images captured with Nikon D3x w/600mm f/4 and TC14-EIII on Lexar digital film.
This is a re-post of my first article for Birding is Fun!. I want to take a minute to thank Robert Mortensen for honoring me with an invitation to become a regular contributor to BiF. I have been a reader of their blog and the individual blogs of several of the BiF contributors for some time. I hope you all enjoy the article.
A common misconception shared by many amateur avian watchers and photographers is the need to venture deep into isolation in order to photograph interesting species. I am often asked, “How far into the wilderness did you have to go to make that photograph”. This mindset often stops would be beginners from taking the plunge and becoming part of the birding revolution. The truth of the matter is you can enjoy bird watching from many places easily accessible to everyone. In fact, most successful photographers search out such locations. If you think about this, it makes perfect sense. The logistics and physical effort of carrying heavy gear on long hikes is not practical even for the rugged wildlife photographer! My own experience with hiking to remote photographic locations usually results in landscape photography, which requires a significantly smaller and lighter kit than wildlife photography.
I’ll share a secret with you. One of the best locations I photograph birds is my own backyard. Yes, you heard me right, my own backyard. It takes a little planning to ensure you are able to control the elements like background, light and perch size but the results are usually worth the effort. In fact, you need to control these elements regardless of whether you are in the wilderness or at the end of a fishing pier. Some of my favorite places to photograph are all public areas. Beaches as well as state and national parks are fantastic places to start looking for easily accessible wildlife.
The two images above and the Northern Flicker below were taken in my backyard. I know what some of you are saying, that I must live on a farm. The truth of the matter is I live in a suburb of New York City, in Fairfield County, Connecticut. While I might have a little more land than most, I don’t live on a bird sanctuary. But I do work hard to create an environment on my property that encourages bird visits. I always have full bird feeders and I provide water sources for the birds to drink. While some will say that’s a great idea, it really is not any different from how bird reserves operate in the southwest. They tend to set up bird blinds around food and water sources and in some instances provides branches as perches away from where any trees are located. Even if photographing in your yard is not practical, I promise you with a little effort and imagination you can find locations within your town and state where wildlife thrives not far from your local coffee shop.
The Internet is a great place to start your research. Local bird and wildlife organizations are a great resource when looking for places to photograph. Your local Audubon Society can usually make several suggestions if you call them and ask for help.
Lastly, local and national parks and wildlife refuges are scattered across many areas. Most people are shocked to find out just how many wildlife viewing locations there are in their community! Another fantastic resource is the Birding is Fun website and the websites of the many regular contributors. Many of us bird regularly and are not shy about giving away locations where you can safely and successfully view birds.
Once you select your locations, I promise you will be amazed at how many different species of wildlife you will encounter in your community. You will ask yourself how it is that you missed seeing the wildlife around you for so many years! Connecticut alone is filled with a healthy wildlife community. Many people associate Connecticut with the mansions of Greenwich but the opportunity to learn from and about its wildlife is enormous. Connecticut is home to hundreds of bird species. Over 400 bird species have been identified in Connecticut.
So if you are reading this post and you have been thinking about becoming a birder or avian photographer but have been afraid to start because you think you need to travel to exotic locations, I am here to tell you that viewing wildlife doesn’t need to occur only in the wild. Don’t be afraid, start in your yard!
I’m truly blessed to have one of the best Dads anyone could ask for. But I’m more blessed with the 3 best children anyone could imagine. After spending the day with family and friends, I took some time to enjoy the sunshine and do some birding. I don’t have time to write much so you will just have to enjoy the images :-).
Images captured with Nikon D3x, 600mm f/4 w/TC-14eII on Lexar Digital Film.
Lets face it, not a lot of people spend time photographing and/or watching Wood Storks. They are not the most graceful of birds or the most beautiful. I started following the path of this one wood stork trying to watch and learn about its biology. It was very interesting to see how many different food sources it was able to pluck from the marsh grass.
As I came around to another part of the sanctuary I saw a few Wood Storks breaking branches off the surrounding trees in preparation for building a nest in the rookery. While these birds are awkward looking and not very graceful, you can see from this picture that they clearly have very good balance. This is particularly true given their really long legs. This bird uses them almost as stilts. I wish I had a chance to study the species while they were caring for their chicks. Maybe next year!
Images captured on Nikon D3x, 600mm f/4 on Lexar Digital Film.
I visited Wakodahatchee Wetlands in Delray Beach Florida back in March. It is a wonderful wildlife sanctuary. If I had any complaint about my time visiting it would be that the location gets very crowded and its difficult to lug around big glass and a tripod. Some of the locals use the boardwalk for their morning walks which adds to the crowds and the vibration on the deck. Not ideal for sharp images.
One of the species that really seems to thrive there are the Anhingas and Great Blue Herons.
When I look at the image above, I almost think these 2 birds are human. Their gesture shows care for one another. It also shows cooperation as they build a home together (my wife would like more cooperation with the laundry). 😉 Its funny how at times, even a technically incorrect or poorly created image can still pull at your heat strings.
I observed at least 4 GBH nests as I walked the boardwalk at Wako.
This little guy was hidden in the bushes and very abruptly popped his head out of the next, looked around for a few minutes and demanded to be fed.
Images Captured with Nikon D3x, 600mm f/4 on Lexar Digital Film
This spring migration has been light in terms of species calling my property their home. It could be in part because of the hours I am keeping at work and the lack of food in the feeders :-(.
One species that seems to call our woods home year round is the White Breasted Nuthatch. White Breasted Nuthatches are active, agile birds with black, gray, and white markings. They are commonly found at feeders and dine on insects and large seeds.
They also have big voices for such little birds, often making as much of a racket as Blue Jays.
Images Captured with Nikon D3x, 600mm f/4 on Lexar Digital Film
The Blue Winged Teal is one of the most beautiful of the dabbling ducks.
This species of duck travels vast distances during its migration. It is the first of the species to head north in the spring and one of the very first species of any bird to head south in the fall. The Blue Winged Teal covers migration distances that range from Canada and Northern USA to South America.
Captured with Nikon D3x, 600mm f/4 w/TC-14eII on Lexar Digiatl Film
The Boat Tailed Grackle is one of those bird species where the female is as beautiful as the male.
One of the things I love about photographing birds in Florida is that my hit ratio or “keepers” are better because the concentration of birds is higher and they seem to be more habituated to humans than those in the Northeast (at least thats what I tell my wife :-))
These images were taken just at sunset. In fact the image below was taken in overcast conditions, otherwise it was a gloriously sunny day.
Its hard to appreciate the iridescence of the males feathers but they are stunning.
Images captured with Nikon D3x, 600mm f/4 w/TC-14e II on Lexar digital film.