Thursday 20 February 2014

Photographing Common Birds

Feb19/14 George C Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary. Wind and Sun

I find all birds interesting, even the so called "Dirt Birds" What may be a common bird to one may be a mega rarity to another. In Vancouver we have had a number of rarities or vagrants over the past few years.
The most recent being the Red-flanked Bluetail in New Westminster. It attracted birders from all over the continent. There are countless others, the Citrine Wagtail in Courtenay, Hooded Oriole in Port McNeil, the list is quite extensive.
However those occurrences are so infrequent, much of our birding time is spent with the more common species, many of them splendid in their own way.
Here is a typical days birding in the Vancouver area at two of our most popular locations. It began with a morning at Reifel Bird Sanctuary finishing with a chilly late afternoon session at 72 ave at Boundary Bay.
I have tried to take some time to create some close-ups of common species as well as try some compositions that show the habitat as well as the bird.
Here is' a really common  garden gird, The Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis). I was drawn to the repeating shapes of the picket fence leading the eye left to right and back to the bird. If it caught your attention for more than a few seconds then composition works.
How about these for common birds. Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) Many birders/photographers/park keepers scorn them but there is something in those eyes that drew my attention in the first place. I like this image and in the end that's all that matters.  It was a good day to practice my bird photography skills so I know how to react when that mega rarity unexpectedly arrives.
Northern Pintail (Anas acuta)
A very common duck in the Vancouver area. Thousands of these elegant dabbling ducks can be seen feeding in winter fields or bobbing about in Boundary Bay. I like the open mouth that gives the bird a little extra character.

Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)
I really had never photographed Bufflehead so I took the opportunity to find a quiet spot where the birds felt safe enough to approach me.
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
As I was leaving Reifel this pair of Bald Eagles drew quite a few admirers. There are hundreds of Bald Eagles in the Vancouver and Lower Mainland at this time of year.
Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)
If you want to see flight and close-up pictures of Short-eared Owls there are plenty in my previous blogs. The inspiration for this image came from a recent presentation by noted ornithologist John Neville, some of you may have his recordings. John is blind so he birds by ear. His presentation was illustrated by the work of Robert Bateman. What struck me about Bateman's work was how he often brakes all the rules of composition but most off all how he leaves plenty of space in his paintings for his subjects and the habitat. Often I have been guilty of cropping too tightly. I hope this image shows an owl in a natural setting.

So there you go. I saw many other species during the day including a pair of Rough-legged Hawks riding thermals, one moment they were in front of my car, the next distant specks in the sky.
Other highlights were a lone Western Meadowlark, a flock of several thousand Snow Geese, a light phase Red-tailed Hawk as well a numerous other "common" birds, too many to list here. 
No, I didn't see a rarity but I had a brilliant day out.

Good Birding
John Gordon

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