This Is For The Birds

This Is For The Birds

Sunday, July 29, 2012


On June 24th, 2012, I went back to Long Run Park for a second day in a row of birding. Although I managed to get some good images and was presented with a very pleasant and fortunate surprise, I was not able to get, what I would deem to be, any real quality photographs. Upon viewing the images of the day on my computer, it seemed that every one of them was a bit flawed, and most of those flaws could be attributed to a thick canopy of early summer leaves impeding the sunlight in varying degrees.

I learned early on that summer vegetation and foliage poses problems, creates obstacles when it comes to bird photography. It is so much easier to get well-lighted, unobstructed views of birds in November than it is in June; but November's birds aren't June's birds, and the challenge, the essence of bird photography is to take advantage of opportunities within environmental situations as they present themselves.

It was a clear, sunny day, but it was hot: really hot. The temperature was already in the low to mid eighties with sunrise, and rose to the low to mid nineties by noon. Thus, just as I frequently did during the day, the birds smartly took to the shade.

Consequently, the shadows wreaked such havoc on the would-be quality of so many of my results that I am quite reluctant to even use the term quality in referring to what I would normally display as my top five quality photographs of the day. Accordingly, what follows are the five pictures of the day that I simply like the best.


First of all, the spider webs and stuff hanging off his chin are my fault. This is the last of numerous pictures I took of this guy. Normally, he's not really afraid of me. He often walks the ground very close to me, foraging through the grass; and when I happen to get a little too close to him, he flies off to the lowest branch of a nearby tree. Just prior to capturing this image, I got really close to his preoccupied meanderings through the grass and made him fly through an area where neither he nor I would normally go. In fact, I got spider webs all over me too as my pursuit of him took me under the very low reaching branches of the tree in which he's perched.

I hope he forgives me.

Secondly, it took a lot of brightening up to get this picture to look as it does, so pay no attention to the nauseating background.


The above image of a Barn Swallow doesn't look that bad, but it, too, required a lot of work—in real time and during the editing process—to get it to look as good as it does. The bird was under a canopy of leaves and at the end of what seemed like a tunnel of foliage.


The above Tufted Titmouse just came down and started walking around on this picnic table which was adjacent to the one where I was sitting, taking a break in the shade. I very, very slowly raised my camera and squeezed off this pic. It, too, took a lot of brightening up to get it to look as it does.


The above pictured Green Heron was my aforementioned pleasant and fortunate surprise. I hadn't seen it since the tenth of June, and I wasn't expecting to see it again this year; but there it was, making all kinds of noise and making sure I saw it. I got six shots of it, and this one was the best. In fact, it turned out to be the best quality photograph of the day.

Were I displaying, my top five best quality photographs of the day, this one would be number one; however, I'm displaying my top five favorite captures of the day. Seeing the Green Heron and getting the above image was like a wonderful, unexpected gift given to me by Nature. Photographs one, two, and three, however, required a lot of effort that turned out rather successful. Moreover, how often does one get up five feet from a Red-winged Blackbird with spider webs stuck all over it, how often does one get up twenty feet from a Barn Swallow perched and preening on a limp in the shade, and how often does one have a Tufted Titmouse join them for a break in the shade at an adjacent picnic table?

And then, there's my friend below who decided to show me what it looks like when one sings with feeling. This capture should probably be number one, but as in American Idol, the judges sometimes get it wrong.


The four syllable song it was singing was similar to the sound track featured in this site, but his was much more bold and forceful.

So much for my five favorite pics of the day. What follows, in time line order, are the next one dozen pics that I found favorable.

Just to reiterate a phenomenon of the day, in getting all of the below displayed pictures, expect for the immediately below American Goldfinch (whose eyes cannot be clearly seen), I was dealing with birds in shadows, birds under thick foliage, birds in the shade.

The above pictured American Goldfinch was not in the shade. It was out in a wide open field, but I caught it from its dark side. That was just the kind of luck I was having that day.

I kept clicking and waiting for the above Red-winged Blackbird to come out of the shade and get into the sunlight. This was as good as it got. I feel that this photograph turned out pretty good. It required little editing, and I like the little lavender flower up near the left corner. However, the stark contrast between the sunlight and the shadow—as well as the out-of-focus near background—is a bit disconcerting to my eyes.

If I were reading his mind correctly, he was kindly telling me to leave him alone. I didn't: at least not for a few more minutes. Remember one and five of my favorites of the day?

I hope he forgives me.

Saturday, July 7, 2012


I have, all my life, been fascinated by birds. I’ve kept them, bred them, rescued them, and recently settled for just sitting out food for them. In the spring of 2010, I borrowed a family member’s camera to take pictures of birds that came to my back patio to feed. At the time, I did not know that I would be still doing it over two and a half years later, did not know I would get so involved with bird photography, did not know that it would become somewhat of an obsession.

Two and a half years can be a long time in that regard; however, for a man over fifty, picking up a camera for the first time and trying to figure out how to produce quality photographs, two and a half years leaves me still wet behind the ears.

Nonetheless, starting from near total ignorance, I have, of course, learned a lot about photography, bird photography, and even more about birds since that spring of 2010. I’ve learned about cameras, lenses, sun-to-subject angles, what kind of shoes to wear in dew-soaked grass, and even how to somewhat ward off chiggers.

I’ve also learned that, when it comes to photographing birds, it’s difficult to get them to pose, be still, and say cheese in the location where conditions are ideal. Thus, I have adopted the strategy of just taking the shot. Unlike as in the old days of film, a wasted digital frame costs nothing but the energy it takes to delete it. Consequently, I frequently end up with beautiful shots of empty branches of birds gone by, horrid blurs of birds going by, grainy distant shots, and colorless silhouettes. For most such bad outcomes, the delete key is applied with little or no pain or regret.

Having adopted the just-take-the-shot strategy, I accept the facts that I will still sometimes be too late or too far, and that some digital images just can’t be saved. Pain and regret does, however, come into play when I miss or get a bad image of a rare sighting.

Concerning painful misses of rare sightings, for me, there are three types of misses.

First there’s the total miss of a rare sighting. These types of misses can happen for many reasons. Not having a camera at the ready being the most common reason. A total miss can also occur when the bird, that seemed to be there when I clicked, doesn’t show up in the picture. In those cases, I know it instantly. I experience real and deep pain and regret for short while, but the intensity of those feelings soon decrease to mere vestiges. The miss is never forgotten, but the pain, more so than the regret, soon vanishes not unlike the bird that didn’t show up in the frame. I remember a Great Blue Heron flying majestically before a stand of trees, but I’ll spare you those details.

Another type of miss occurs when I get a good picture of only part of the bird or miss parts of it necessary for a quality photograph. If I only get one image of a rare sighting, and it turns out like the image below, the pain and regret will come and go as long I can’t bear to delete the file into non-existence.

This image of a Red-shouldered Hawk was the last of about twenty shots, so this miss doesn’t bother me so much. Had this image been the only one I managed to get, though, it would haunt me.

Then there’s the type of miss that occurs when I get a blurry bird. In the case of a rare sighting, that pain and regret promises to linger, has a substance insomuch as I will always be able to see what could have been. In an effort to assuage that pain and regret, like a doctor feverishly trying to save a dying or flat-lined patient, I pull out my editing tools and attempt the often times impossible.

Below are photographs of three birds that represented a first and only sighting and digital capture at the time they were taken. For two of them, that still holds true: the Golden-crowned Kinglet and the Double-crested Cormorant. All three images came out in a condition of poor quality, and had they been images of a species more common to my area, I would have deleted them immediately. They aren’t, however, so I tried my best to save them.

This Golden-crowned Kinglet appeared in the tree outside my bedroom window. It was 5:20PM on January the 8th, 2011, and very near dark.

I spotted this Yellow-billed Cuckoo in a small tree overshadowed by many larger trees. It was 1:43PM on July 10th, 2011, the sun was straight up in the sky, and the overshadowing trees were in full foliage.

I spotted this Double-crested Cormorant as soon as I arrived at Long Run Park on the morning of November 12th, 2011. It was 8:13AM, I was at least three hundred feet away from it, and the sun was rising pretty much on the other side of it. In fact, the only way I was able to identify it was by how low it swims in the water.

As one can detect, I have great external excuses for the above three near tragedies, but sometimes there just isn’t one. Such would be the case with the image below.

The Tufted Titmouse is fairly common in my area, but this shot got messed up due my own jittery excitement and fear of not getting the shot off in time. This out-of-focus image was captured on September 25th, 2010, at Jefferson County Memorial Forest. It was the first photograph I ever tried to save with editing tools, the photograph that motivated me to seek out and learn how to use editing tools. It’s good, it’s bad, and it’s ugly, but it’s not deleted.

In closing, I leave you with three photographs that turned good and bad, but not ugly.

I just took the shots.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


On the morning of June 23rd, 2012, I got off to a relatively late start, arriving at Long Run Park at approximate 9:15AM. I felt I had slept through some great opportunities, but yet held hopes of coming across something special. I did. We'll get to that later. First, though, I'd like to show off my top five quality pictures of the day.

When trying to determine which of my finished photographs are of the best quality, I must take into account the quality of the original photograph and the degree of editing I chose to apply to it. As amateurish as my photographic skills and equipment are, my editing skills and competence with available tools rate at an even lesser degree. In constant arguments with myself, I have many times—against my own better judgment—chosen to over saturate to a point of cartoonish color or over sharpen to the point of eye-searing sheen.

Truth be told, a lot of the photographs that I take cannot be saved, or even edited to apresentable degree. Such, however, was not nearly the case with my top five quality photographs of the day; and here they are, starting with my number one.






Upon seeing my uploads from camera to computer, the photograph of the above pictured Northern Mocking looked far superior in quality than any of the others. I sharpened and brightened it a wee bit, and that was it. The other four required a bit more work.

Now, I present twelve runners up, in time line order.

Northern Mockingbird (11:22AM)

As stated earlier, I did come across something special on this day. The two photographs immediately below, and the photographs from my previous blog post Love Birds depict that something special.

The photograph immediately below has not been edited at all: one in a million. I tried to sharpen it, but, in doing so, lost the sharpness, the clarity of the eye: one of the two valuable features of this photograph. Thus, you are looking at one of the only unedited photographs I will ever put up in permanent public display. Click on the caption link or the picture and you will somewhat see the female's eye I so wanted to preserve. Better still, click here and find it in the slide show option.

Black Vulture (11:33AM)

The photograph below has been heavily edited, but in my opinion, it turned out nicely.

Black Vulture (11:39AM)

I have plenty more photographs of this event, of the pair, and I hope to someday find the time and an excuse to display them on The Bird's Nest.

Eastern Wood-pewee (11:53AM)

Great Blue Heron (01:02PM)

Great Blue Heron (01:20PM)

Mallard Duck (01:28PM)

Mallard Duck (01:31PM)

Mallard Duck (01:31PM)

Wood Duck (01:35PM)

Wood Duck (01:35PM)

Wood Duck (01:36)

All in all, I would like to thank the Mallards, the Wood Ducks, the Great Blue Heron that I chased around for over thirty minutes—with both my Canon and Nikon—and especially the pair of Black Vultures who also kept me captivated for over thirty minutes, and put on quite a show.

Take a bow.

Monday, July 2, 2012


On Saturday, June 23rd, 2012, I came up on a very intimate display of what think could only be termed affection. I was surprised and captivated by what I saw.

Again, I apologize for the poor picture quality of the the below photographs, but the subtance of the images is what touched me.