I must admit, there are two things in life that completely elude me.
One…melting chocolate. The second? Capturing birds on film. After joining the Anne Arundel Bird Club in January, I first thought that these birders were, well… a bit wacky. After all, who stands in the bush for 15-20 minutes making bird sounds in the hopes of seeing that life list bird?
Even Steve Martin got into the appreciation of birding by starring in the 2011 movie “The Big Year” with Owen Wilson. I’ve always enjoyed birds so long as they are outdoors. Honestly I like waterbirds best, they’re big so you can’t miss seeing them. So when I went out on my first birding field trip with the AABC to see Tundra Swans on the Bay, I became intrigued.
So I headed on my next field trip to Greenbury Point which is a peninsula across the Severn River from the Annapolis waterfront. This is when I first witnessed true birding, with pishing, and soundtracks of a screech owl playing in hopes to attract songbirds, I really started to wonder if I was hanging around sane people. But my curiosity stayed strong – after all, I do love birds. Surely there is something to this.
Leaders of these walks are known to create an e-bird list and post the list on Cornell University’s E-bird website Here. This is a very active website/inventory of birds and where and when they’ve been seen. When I saw the list from the Greenbury Point field trip I was blown away. Just where was I? Where were all of those birds? I think I saw maybe…three? The leader saw hundreds ! I was not going to be outgunned by the experts, so now the challenge is on.
It was recommended to me by the Bald Eagle Paparazzi to purchase a 100-400mm L Canon lens and pair it with my Canon 7D for my birding kit. When I received the lens, the weight of it created a new set of problems. I already have a tough time getting focus, Now I’ve got to hold 5 pounds and not move it? Yeah..right. But I’ve been practicing as I’m looking forward to visiting the Bald Eagles at Conowingo Dam this November.
So now that I’ve caught the birding bug, I sometimes refer it to as being a crack addict. I see one little silhouette of a bird and I go bonkers. Like a dog that gets distracted by a squirrel at the most inopportune moment.
But I am now seeing things that I’ve never seen before. With good fortune, I have a wonderful garden which attracts a bit of wildlife. I do have some bird feeders in the yard, but this past week have added more. The benefit? More birds !!
Then something happened that I never thought would, I have become a stalker. Standing by a bush in the garden, I must have spent about a half an hour watching Ruby Crowned Kinglets buzz back and forth in a small bush. These birds are about two inches big and are in constant motion! I never knew I had them in my yard, and am so excited that they are here. So they have been my practice bird. If I can capture a good photo of a kinglet, surely I can get a good Bald Eagle photo in November.
I decided on my last birding field trip that the big lens autofocus needed to be serviced, so it’s out for repair. Using my backup 70-300mm 5.6 IS USM Canon lens, I was able to get fairly close to the bush filled with kinglets. I had heard that these birds can have a red crown, but I had yet to see one. And then…all my waiting paid off !
So now I know how those professional birding photographers get such amazing shots. Not only do they have great equipment, they spend countless hours and endless patience waiting for just the right moment, with the right light to capture that gallery shot. I am now thoroughly humbled by their expertise, photographers like Phil Lanoue Photography and Bird Light Wind just blow me away with their fantastic bird photos.
Birding has certainly taught me to really slow down and truly observe the environment around me. I’ve seen things that were probably always there, but never noticed before. It is also a great teacher that having patience truly pays off.
Taking off for now !