Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Another Day in Paradise Pt 2/Robert Bateman

Dec 3/4 2013 Boundary Bay, Delta B.C. Sunny and Cold.
What can I say, the sun was out and there were birds everywhere. For starters, there were three long-eared owls all perched in one tree. The birds were sunning themselves while trying to sleep. Everyone loves an owl, passersby on horseback, construction workers, joggers, dog walkers all stopped to view the birds. I heard later that everyone kept a respectable distance EXCEPT for a few overzealous photographers who in their rush to secure the perfect pose eventually forced two of the birds to re-locate to another tree. Shame on you! We all get hyped when we see a new bird but take a hint from the birding community and respect the bird's space. This type of asinine behaviour gives us photographers a bad name.

Long-eared Owl (Asio otus)

Here is my shot taken from a respectable distance after which I left for 72nd Ave where the following images below were taken.

 My target bird was the American Tree Sparrow which I found just east of the 72nd Ave parking lot. I 'phissed' it to the tree in front of me with the sun on my back.
American Tree Sparrow (Spizella arboreo)

Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca)
On composition and Robert Bateman
Last week I attended the Langley Field Naturalists monthly meeting and a very interesting talk by B.C. Nature President John Neville. His talk centred around the calls and behaviour of the raptors of Canada. The talk was fascinating and we all had many questions.
As you may know John has spent years recording birds many of which can be found on his excellent Cd's.
As a sidebar to his presentation, which he delivered in braille were artist Robert Bateman's finely detailed paintings. 
For years I have stuck quite closely to photographic compositional principles such as the two-thirds rule, use of leading lines (like the Fox Sparrow shot above) and other ways of making images more pleasing for the viewer. However, I was really struck by Bateman's use of space within the picture frame. In some of the images, the bird would be right on the very, very edge of the photo and I mean almost touching the edge or other times smack in the middle. The result were quite different from the close crops many of us fall into the trap of producing time and time again. Both have their merits but sometimes we forget in our rush to get the perfect close-up view that the bird's environment is often forgotten.
 I learnt much that night, not only from John but about how my personal vision may be being stifled by always trying to conforming to the 'right kind of composition' as well as shooting too tight.
This something that I will work on in the new year as a self assignment.

Great-blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

Female Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus)

"Perfect symmetry" Trumpeter Swans (Cygnus buccinator)

White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)

I photographed this Cooper's Dec 4 on 64th Ave. It was chasing down songbirds.
Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)

Good Birding



  1. Hi John Gordon, I was wondering, about where did you see the long-eared owl at Boundary Bay? I was there today but I couldn't find any owls, just a northern harrier and bald eagles. I would respect their distance and not get too close, I'm not a professional photographer, just a birder. I would love to see a long-eared owl or short-eared owl, I think they are such cool birds. I totally understand if you can't tell me the location because other people could harass the birds, but I would love to see them, as I already said. Thanks.

  2. There are short-eared owls at the end of 72nd Ave mostly in the mornings and late afternoons. They can be seen and sometimes fly quite close. The other spot for them and there were five reported today is Brunswick Point which is on the way to Reifel except you don't go over the wooded bridge to Reifel but carry on until the road ends. Then walk along the dyke.There are also a flock of Western Meadowlark. Dress warmly as it can be cold and windy. The Long-eared Owls perch in bushes along the dyke and are hard to see even for experienced birders. Ask other birders to show you them. Good Luck.

  3. Thank you! I'll hopefully try Brunswick Point as the meadowlarks would be lifers for me as well. Beautiful pictures by the way!