Monday, April 8, 2013

Sans Images


Wilson's Warbler
One of the things I struggle with like any birder, I suppose, is getting better shots of birds.  If I see a lifebird, but don't have great photo documentation, I get a little irritated.  The little ones are the trickiest! All of the birds featured on today's post were birds I had seen first but didn't get great shots of at the time. Take for example the Canyon Wren.  I saw the bird.  Tried to get a pic.  Ended up getting the rear end and it was gone.  Then I hear the descending call and it seals the deal.  I have to count the bird but without a decent shot.
LBJ(Little Brown Jobs) or LGJ(Little Gray Jobs) can blend in perfectly with their surroundings.  They move quick and it's important to note the field marks.  My ears are faster at "spotting" than my eyes.  The Bell's Vireo caused me a bit of confusion because it is a relatively new bird for me.  I had only seen it twice and with another birder who knew the bird.  Apparently there are 4 subspecies.  Plus Gray Flycatchers, Bushtits, Gnatcatchers, etc etc. If you don't get great observation time, these little birds become impossible to ID. So it's all about the observations!
Bell's Vireo
One of the thrills about birding is that I can't always predict who will make nice showings for the day.  I may have seen the species 100 times.  But on the 101th view, the bird might be doing something spectacular. The Lesser Yellowlegs held myself and another photographer captive for 20 minutes as it ran around with its buddy chattering away.  It made for some great laughs during their chases.
Greater Yellowlegs
Shorebirds can either be too far out, hidden behind reeds or against the sun.  When these Greater Yellowlegs made for a great show, I took the opportunity to snap off the shots.  Before this day, these birds were always out of photo reach or on the wrong side of the sun. 
A Wilson's Snipe happened to also make an appearance for me out in the open.  But the sun was setting and it made for tricky photography.  I had seen this bird last year but had poor photos to go with the sighting.  Now I am more comfortable with the shot below.
Wilson's Snipe
If I see a lifebird, I mark it down but make a mental note that I need a better shot.  A lot of energy goes into those first shots.  I would like to put a book together in several years of all the birds seen around Arizona.
Several of the birds on my list today that I don't have great shots of include the Canyon Wren, Red Crossbills(high up for the camera), Pinyon Jays(seen while on a slow moving bus loaded with wall to wall tourists at the Grand Canyon), Rough-Legged Hawks(seen while driving with 3 cars riding my tail), White-throated Swifts(oh so high!), and many of the Swallows(oh so quick!). A couple of the nocturnal birds(too dark) and of course the little birds(very spastic)......
Take for example the shot of the Warbling Vireo below.  It was too far to get a nice close up yet I was still able to get a shot of the bird.  The same goes for the Williamson's and the Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers!
Elf Owls are small.  You all know how I love owls.  Well I stayed one night alone in a canyon in total silence.  My eyes were adjusting to the encroaching darkness.  And then I hear the call!  With my ears, I followed the faint yet continuous call.  Two other birders were in the area and had been friendly with me earlier so I led them to the sound because my eyes are terrible at night.  Having two other people look for this tiny bird would be very helpful.  It paid off.   We spotted the little tiny owl that looked like a knot in a Sycamore tree.  He was so cute.  I have a policy about filming nocturnal creatures.  No pics with flash.  And therefore, I do not have photo documentation.  I'm hoping to get shots of this bird one day.
The Lucy's Warbler.  I met this bird for the first time in mid-March.  Afterwards, the Lucy's Warbler seemed to be everywhere and allowed me some nice observations and pics.  It's the bird with the cinnamon crown and coverts. 
I also do counts at my school.  As of today, I was standing at my friend's classroom window when a Dusky Flycatcher flies right in front of me!!!  No camera.  At work.  Frustrating.  I am parallized as I am forced to watch the bird without a camera.  Inside I fight the frustration as I observe the bird alone.  No one realizes how exciting it is to see this bird.  Students snickering as I scream, "NOOOOOO!!!" as the bird flies away.  The "old man" who should have died at the age of 30 clearly had lost his mind. Oh teenagers. And yet I just saw the Dusky Flycatcher!  I just have to believe that I will eventually be in the right place at the right time with my camera to capture these birds.  The same thing happened with the Burrowing owls...and then on one perfect day, an owl sat perfectly in front of me.
Why is it important to get those shots?  My eyesight isn't great and constantly challenges me.  I need the pics to study at home.  I also heavily rely on my ears to help locate birds.  Once I have the photos, I can relax and bird.  That's why I enjoy birding at Sweetwater so much in Tucson.  I know all the birds well enough to practice my listening skills and develop my bird calls.  In a sense it's my training ground that always seems to have one or two new finds each time I visit:)
So I finish off today's write with this question.  What birds/animals/plants/bugs would you like to get better shots of?  And if you're a photographer in general(of all things not just wildlife) what would you like to get shots of?  Some fun journeys ahead.  Stay tuned for more! 

20 comments:

  1. i'd like to get better shots, period! but that means i need to learn my camera settings. :)

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    1. It's embarrassing to admit but I don't know all of mine either:)

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  2. I know the frustration of trying to get great shots! I thinkyou do very well.

    One thing I really hate is posting a so-so photo after trying several times to get a better shot and then the NEXT week getting the shot I had been hoping for all along. Sometimes I wish I were more patient about posting. HaHa! Right now I'm trying to get a super shot of a hooded merganser...and trying desperately to stop myself from posting the mediocre shots I have. ;)

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    1. We are on the same page!!! Holy cow! I do that as well and I'm trying not to use up so much of my photo data space. Buffelheads would be great to see up close.....and a Hoodie....oh yeah that one as well. Why do they have to swim so far away??

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  3. I really like your policy on not using flashes on nocturnal birds. I feel the same way. True, I do not get photos of many of those nocturnal birds, but prefer they are disadvantaged because of a flash. White-throated Swifts is a bird I have decided I will probably never get to photograph. To my knowledge they probably do not land on a perch anywhere in the daylight and getting photos is flight is next to impossible for them as are many swallows. At least most of the swallows will land on a perch now and then. Lesser Nighthawks are also troublesome, but people do stumbled upon them on tree branches in the daylight at times. Great blog post and I can really relate to this!

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    1. Glad I'm not the only one that experiences this. I always feel guilty as if I should have a pic but I'm thinking that there may be creative ways to capture these birds on camera. Just haven't figured it out yet:) I don't like stressing out the birds when found feeding or nesting. When there are people around, I fiddle with my camera or IPHONE to look like I'm doing something else because I want to keep their areas clear of people. That Elf Owl was so amazing. Such a tiny tiny thing. Owls are so interesting to me.

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  4. Being patient and getting that just right shot is tough, even with Butterflies when you are trying to get one to open it's wings.

    The other day I saw the Red Headed Sparrow or House Finch singing outside the bathroom window here at my mum's house. He and his mate were foraging seeds of all things the Sow Thistle. I wanted a shot, but couldn't do it from the bathroom with the old screen in the way and any attempt to get close and photograph would have been a bust.

    Beautiful shots tho Chris

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    1. Thank you! It sounds like a Finch to me. Those butterflies are tricky!! I'm finding plants now that are native and beneficial to the birds and wildlife for the yard. It really has had an effect on the populations of birds here. Pretty amazing. I'm still working with plants...just not posting much about them right now:) Once we've cleaned up the leaves around our Live Oaks, I'll start showing the gardens again:)

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  5. I like to be able to zoom in on anything in nature! Maybe one day, I'll have a grown up camera...but it has to be easy to use. :)

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    1. Agreed! They're coming out with easier cameras every year. I find that my cell phone takes some pretty awesome shots but I still need the zoom on my camera to see those birds up close:)

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  6. I always want to get a photo of the life I see around me, be it big or small, to help jog my memories of being there. I'd like to get better at video and remember to take pics of people too. It really is an obsession taking shots of the bird/plant/animal/place and somehow makes it seem more real.

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  7. Great post and photos again Chris :)

    So agree with your policy about not using flash at night Chris. I'm hoping to go and see some badgers later in the year and I won't be taking the camera because I just would not risk using flash.

    To be honest there are loads of birds I would like to take better shots of or any shot. Just have to accept that many are too far away or too small for my camera and lens!!

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  8. Frustation is part of life and we never seem to be learning... but the fun is all what matters.

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  9. You're so right Chris the smaller birds are really tricky, I think they just dart around so much quicker! My bigger galahs and corellas are so easy, especially when they're feeding. So you'll have to let us know when the book is published Chris, put my name on the list for a copy :)

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  10. I would love to photograph wolves, show Ron a live Mountain Lion (and get photos of course), Snowy Owls and Saw-Whet Owls. Mostly though I just enjoy being out in nature and photographing what ever I am fortunate enough to see.

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  11. Oczywiście, że chciałabym robić lepsze zdjecia szczególnie ptaków. Do tego trzeba dużo cierpliwości, którą mam. Potrzebny też dobry aparat, a ja mam tylko kompakt. Mimo wszystko każde zdjecie ptaka cieszy. Pozdrawiam.
    Of course I would like to take better pictures especially of birds. For this you need a lot of patience, which I have. You need a good camera, and I only have a compact. After all, every photo of a bird happy. Yours.

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  12. I think you did a great job of capturing some of these smaller birds, not an easy task for all the reasons you mentioned. I have even pointed my camera in the direction of the bird song
    and hoped for the best, and guess what,... sometimes it's worked and I've captured a bird that I had'nt been able to see with the nakid eye!!

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