|Photography: For The Birds - South Shore Breaker May 25, 2016|
Article and colour photos are reprinted below:
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.
Well, this week is for the birds. And I hope you don’t think of the origins of that saying while you’re reading.
There are lots of advantages to aging. When we don’t have the responsibilities of raising a family, and when we don’t have to worry about earning a living, we can slow down and appreciate things that we didn’t 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 didn’t 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.
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. It’s 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. I’ve 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 baby’s beak, move back up the pole, and repeat the process over and over again.
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, we’ve seen a nuthatch, a couple of woodpeckers, and a few finches. There is a huge crow population that I didn’t 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|