Friday, April 16, 2010

Bird watching versus bird photography

I do my mountain hosting at PCMR with a wonderful group of people. One of them, Dick Pick, turns out to be an avid wildlife and landscape photographer. He has done some wonderful shots of hummingbirds. You can see some of them on his web site.

Dick and I left on a photography journey before dawn yesterday morning. Our first stop was the Sage Grouse lek. There were dozens of males ready to do their courtship dances, but no females were in sight and the males were too far off the road to make a good picture. We watched for a while, enjoying the show, but disappointed with our luck. After a number of trips, I still haven't managed to capture what I got two years ago. It takes a combination of close males, interested females, good light, and no loud birders in other cars.

From there, I wanted to show Dick where I had seen a flock of turkeys. Sure enough, they were there. There were at least four Tom's prancing around and dozens of hens. Same luck though. They wandered off to the far side of the field in the deep shadows. When we decided to quietly get out of the car to use tripods, they decided to quietly move even further away.

Just as we gave up and were leaving, we saw a group come out of some trees, cross the road and head up into a field. They were all hens though. I'm not being sexist, but it is the males that really fluff up and put on a show. It was fun to watch the line of hens march right up the field in a line, easting as they went.

The next stop was the Great Blue Heron rookery. We drove around and drove around, trying to figure out how we could get close enough for a reasonable shot. It's tough because they nest at the tops of very tall trees, right along a river, surrounded by private property. I think the only hope is to find a willing landowner and I haven't done that yet.

The last stop was a quick one closer to home. I had seen two Sandhill Cranes on my way to my CrossFit workout. We found them again, but even they refused to come anywhere close to the barbwire fence we were trapped behind. Frustrated at this point, I took a shot.

It was fun having another photographer to make the trip with, but I sure wish the birds would cooperate a bit more.
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