I spent much of my day off at Hammonassett State Park (Madison, CT) on Monday. It's usually much easier for me to find birds there than almost any other place I visit. This was one of those days when I didn't bother making notes or keeping a list. I really just watched birds and watched people photographing birds.
The first birds to catch my attention were White-crowned Sparrows. For some reason, there are lots of them in Connecticut right now. I saw six of them on Monday. I don't normally see that many in one place. There was a juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker drilling some neatly aligned holes in a tree. When I saw its big bill, I briefly mistook it for a Hairy Woodpecker. There were birds of prey flying at low altitude throughout the park including a Merlin, Northern Harrier , Red-tailed Hawk, and Sharp-shinned Hawk. This year I discovered that Sharp-shinned Hawks sometimes make a sound that falls in between a croak and a squawk. I observed Black-bellied Plovers feeding in the Nature Center parking lot. Only one out of about a dozen actually had a black belly. There were Great Egrets, Double Crested Cormorants, and Black Ducks in one pond. I was really shocked by the number of Yellow-rumped Warblers in the park. I counted hundreds, so there must have been thousands. At times, they nearly missed my head as they flew across the path. There were dozens of both Ruby-crowned and Golden-Crowned Kinglets. There were also some Brown Creepers which I haven't seen in a while. I thought it might be nice to have a picture of a Golden-crowned Kinglet but...........
Truth be told, my main interest is birding, not photography. I bought my (point and shoot) camera so that if I came across a rare bird, I could take a picture for photographic evidence. Now that I'm doing this blog, it comes in handy to give a post some visual interest. I get frustrated trying to get decent photos of birds. The only exceptions would be birds at my feeders or those that stay still (like Mourning Doves). I thought having a point and shoot camera would make it a cinch. It hasn't worked out that way. Bad lighting, shaky hands, and birds that are too far away or don't stay still are just a few of the problems I often run in to.
I spotted three cars parked close together at the end of a grassy parking lot near East Beach. I thought that someone may have found a rare bird, so I sauntered over to investigate. It turns out they were photographing birds. It's the way that they were photographing birds that had my interest. All three cars were pulled up along side of brush piles that had been purposely constructed to attract birds. Someone had even thrown bird seed into the pile. The lenses on their cameras reminded me of megaphones. They looked to be about two feet long! The photographers stayed in their cars and photographed sparrows with the lenses just a couple of feet away from the bird's faces. I decided I would try the same thing before the day was over.
I spent the next couple of hours trying to find a Saw-whet owl, or get a picture of a Golden-crowned Kinglet. I could hear those little buggers, but they hardly ever showed themselves. When I did see them, they were flitting about in the trees. I finally did get a couple of pictures, but they weren't very good.
On the way out, I drove up to the brush pile and took 6 pictures of a Savannah Sparrow within a couple of minutes. They all came out much better than the Kinglet picture. I still don't enjoy using a camera, but the pull-up-your-car-to-the brush-pile method is a great idea. It was also a heck of a lot easier than trying to chase down a Kinglet.
What frustrates you about photography?
Do you have any bird photography secrets you would like to share?