Wednesday, May 25, 2016

For The Birds

Photography: For The Birds - South Shore Breaker May 25, 2016
This article was published in the May 25th edition of the South Shore Breaker. If you'd like to read it online, here is the link: Photography: For the Birds.

Article and colour photos are reprinted below:
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Did you know that to say that something is for the birds is calling it horse manure. Apparently, the saying originated in New York. Before the advent of cars the undigested oats left in the streets in horse droppings nourished a large population of English Sparrows. Another internet source says that it is US Army slang that originated towards the end of WWII. Whatever the source, if you say something is for the birds, you're politely saying that it’s horse poop.
Evening Grosbeaks

Well, this week is for the birds. And I hope you dont think of the origins of that saying while youre reading.

There are lots of advantages to aging. When we dont have the responsibilities of raising a family, and when we dont have to worry about earning a living, we can slow down and appreciate things that we didnt have time for before.

My interest in birds started about 15 years ago when I was given a hummingbird feeder. I had never seen a hummingbird around our home, so I thought it was an impractical gift that would never get used. However, I made up some sugar water, hung up the feeder and waited and watched. It didnt take long for me to discover that we actually had quite a few hummers. After watching them for a while, we could spot them from quite a distance away. Over the years, I planted more and more flowers that hummingbirds enjoy. They liked flitting from flower to flower, and then taking a rest on our clothesline.
Hummingbird

There is quite a learning curve when it comes to bird photography. A good way to start is by setting up a feeder in your backyard. After practicing with taking photos of birds on your feeder, move on to try to capture them in a more natural setting. Its good to have a tree or shrubs nearby, or even to set up a bare branch for the birds to land on while they scope out your feeder.

Until the birds get used to you, they will scatter when you get too close. Take a photo, take a step, take a photo, take a step. Move slowly, and the birds may let you move in for a closer shot. Focus on their eyes, and your photo will have more impact.

Be patient. Ive learned a lot about birds while waiting for photo opportunities. We have watched a female woodpecker move up and down our wooden feeder pole while feeding her youngster. She would grab a seed, move down the pole to her baby, drop the seed in her babys beak, move back up the pole, and repeat the process over and over again.

Woodpeckers
We had many Evening Grosbeaks at our country home, and watched many families get raised. We watched the parents feed their young, and we watched as the juveniles became better at flying and landing.

I learned many bird calls, and started to identify the birds we had around just by sound. Goldfinches, purple finches, nuthatches, starlings, barn swallows...each and every species have different characteristics to watch and learn about. Our forest had owls as well, but I never did manage to capture one with my camera.

We live in town now, and are heading into our first backyard bird season. So far, weve seen a nuthatch, a couple of woodpeckers, and a few finches. There is a huge crow population that I didnt appreciate when we first moved in, but now I enjoy watching them as well. Mostly we have been watching the antics of a couple of squirrels that are enjoying their new local diner and having the added entertainment of driving our dogs crazy.

Hummingbird in flight
As you progress in your bird watching and bird photography, you may just get hooked and start traveling to satisfy your habit. Be forewarned...its addictive, and it can start to get expensive if you get into specialized lenses and other equipment. There are a few members in our local photography club that devote hours and hours to each bird outing. The results are worth it, and I have seen bird photos from our members that could grace the covers of magazines. But bird photography in the wild is a bigger challenge, and a focus for another day. My advice is to start small, and who knows where your wings will take you.

1 comment:

sybil said...

Oh Sara.

Those images ! Your photos really inspire me.

I love watching birds on the three feeders outside my window; one flat, on a drop down of sunflower seeds and a suet block. I see birds here that I never saw in Eastern Passage an for the first time since moving here in 2009 have seen a Cardinal.

My bird list includes: Downey and Hairy woodpeckers (lovely couples); red breasted Nuthatches; Juncos; a zillion Chickadees and Blue Jays ... oh and Purple Finches. I suspect I've had other birds but can't tell one sparrow-like bird from another.

Your article is beautifully written. I'm sure you're a big hit with the readers.