December 16, 2018
I am almost always surprised, when I go out looking for birds to photograph, that there are so many different ones that haven’t flown south for the winter yet. I am not new to being out in nature and watching the wildlife around me, but I am new to photography and to birding–so there’s a lot I don’t know. I never realized, until I started taking pictures, that the bluebirds, cedar waxwings and goldfinches would still be here once the cold weather came. When I’m out for a walk and see birds flitting around me, I can’t usually tell what they are unless I’m using binoculars or a telephoto lens. A ‘real’ birder, on the other hand, would probably be able to tell exactly what bird it was just by its size, flight pattern or silhouette. I’m just a ‘real birder’ wannabee. I’ve got a long ways to go!
What happens now, when I take pictures, is that I shoot almost anything that looks like a bird—even if it’s not a particularly good shot, because I can at least use the picture later to help me identify it. Oftentimes, when I stop to take these random pictures, another bird will happen along, and maybe another and another. That’s what happened today. I had stopped to take a picture of a bird that was barely a silhouette in the tree ahead of me. It wasn’t a good shot by any stretch of the imagination, but, as I zoomed in, I could tell that it was a bluebird—so there must be more close by! When I took the camera down from my eye, I saw more birds flying to and from the same tree –as well as to the grassy area below. Miraculously, one of those beautiful bluebirds landed on a bright red sumac berry cluster not more than twenty feet from where I was standing! Perfect! A blue-bird on a red plant! Then, as if on cue, a buttery colored cedar waxwing landed on another sumac plant! Wow! There were goldfinches zipping around the fields as well, but none of them were as cooperative as the bluebirds and the waxwings, so I never got a good picture.
Another surprise for me on my photo journey today was realizing how much I’ve under-appreciated the little brown sparrows. They’re not brightly colored and are as common as fleas, but they always seem to be singing or chattering about something—which can brighten even the dullest of days. As I was finishing up my picture walk today, it was the sparrows who filled up the late afternoon air with song. What a delight to hear all of their joyful voices as I headed home.