I’d like to share with you a few of our feathered friends from my recent adventures. Now that I’ve been photographing birds for a number of years, and with the hundreds of thousands of clicks that I’ve done in doing so, I’ve finally learned when ‘not to take the shot.’
This has been a hard lesson to learn as I’m always excited when I see birds. Especially when I was at Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge earlier this week and there were about 200 Northern Pintail ducks that were….too far away.
Not all that long ago I remember my first visits to the Wildlife Refuges. Every bird species was new to me and of course I’d have to take their picture regardless of how far away they were or what the light was like. Sometimes I’d photograph a bird because I’d have no idea of what it was so that I could come home to try to identify it.
Over time I’ve managed to photograph most of the bird species found in the Eastern Flyway. So when I’m out in the field, I have to ask myself “Is it worth the shot?” Is the bird close enough, the light right and the bird cooperative? Do I have an image in my archives already that is better than what I am currently seeing?
One of these bird species I’ve been wanting to get a better image of are Horned Larks. There was one day three years ago that I was with two birder friends and we came across a wonderful and super cooperative flock of Horned Larks in the snow. I managed to get some images but felt rushed as birders like to look and move on where as bird photographers take their time to get the best capture.
Since that day, I’ve been searching corn fields in the wintertime when I’m out in the Eastern Shore and haven’t had the good fortune to find any. I’ve known them to spend time in the fields just going into Bombay Hook and scour once again I did on my way out on Tuesday. I keep my window down and listen for chirps, chips and birds singing. Doesn’t matter it’s 25 degrees out, I just crank the car heat. At last, I finally found…one.
I remained in the car so that I wouldn’t spook the bird and this was the best I could get.
You know, I’ll take it. A good bird is better than no bird. At least the Barred owl I went to visit was kind enough to be at home that morning.
In the Wildlife Refuges one drives a wildlife loop to enjoy the scenery and wildlife within it. It is an unspoken code of honor between the wildlife and the photographers that frequent these places. So long as you stay in your car, they’re okay with that. Get out and trust me – off they go! I was able to spend about ten minutes with the Bald Eagle at the beginning of the post watching him cling onto his branch and hold on when he was hit with a gust of wind. I finally decided to continue on leaving the Bald Eagle content in his spot.
There are some areas where the wildlife becomes accustomed to their human visitors. Like this resident Red shoulder hawk at Centennial Lake in Columbia. Desensitized to many walkers, visitors, dogs that walk by this Hawk sat on a tree next to the walkway. He would just glare at passerby’s but didn’t leave. I sat on the ground and watched him for a while before moving on to other things. Usually hawks see you from a long way away and quickly fly off.
The image tells a story of fisherman neglect as the tree has fishing line stuck in it. While watching the hawk I could tell that he knew the fishing line was there and intuitively kept his head out of trouble.
As budding bird photographers, you want to photograph as much as you can of each and every bird you see. It’s with practice that you learn the bird species and how to best capture them. Good luck!