December: Eye on the Sparrow

Ironic. The thing that requires patiently standing still scanning the trees and shrubs for the slightest movement must be done in winter when many trees are bare of leaves, no matter the damp and cold and chill wind.

In 2018, I participated for the very first time in the Christmas Bird Count, a national event started in 1900 by the National Audubon Society. It is one of the longest running citizen science events in the world. I’m hooked.

White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) feeding on poison ivy berries.

This photograph is part of how I got hooked. It might be the most perfect photo I have ever made. No matter how hard I look, I can’t find a thing to improve. The focus is perfect. The depth of field is perfect. The framing is perfect. (Well, it took a smidgen of cropping…)

And to make it even more special, birds are the hardest thing I have ever sought to photograph. Hands down. They move. Constantly. If they are truly wild birds, you must wait patiently for them to show themselves and come within range.

You need a quality telephoto lens. Indeed, they rarely come within decent range of my 300mm, and… every mistake the photographer makes is magnified to the power of the telephoto lens!

Here’s the kicker: I shot well over 200 frames that day, and came home with three usable photos. By “usable” I mean printable and perhaps marketable. This one, for example, has already been accepted into a small works show in Ruston, La. The other two “usable” are not quite this good. The most I can do with them is print them small on note cards.

But of course, challenge plus the thrill of having gotten it right just once…! Welcome to my new obsession.

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