Where did the year go? As we age each year accounts for a progressively smaller portion of our lifetime. For me it was 1.5% this year. Maybe that explains the racing clock. As my life list approaches 1000 I have less and less time to photograph those other 9000 birds. It’ll never happen. Life lesson: just treasure each year and photo as its own gift.
Most of my birding this year was domestic, with frequent visits to favorite local haunts. Panama, this November, was the exception and supplied me with countless photo-ops of new and colorful birds. I vowed, however, to not let those avian superstars dominant this post.
In the course of the year I take 20 to 30,000 bird photos, quickly deleting over 95% of them. That still leaves 1000 “keepers” that are cataloged by family and stored for eternity or until my hard drive crashes. An initial run through those yielded about 50 or 60 finalists. The hard part is trimming that list down to 25 for this year-end post. I hope you enjoy the result.
Each photo has a back story. That “cover shot” of the flycatcher from Panama is not really an exotic bird, but just struck my fancy with the ruffled feathers-look and interesting composition.
Each winter I try to visit the Ocean City, Maryland jetties to see what the wind and surf are blowing shoreward. It is usually a brisk but rewarding outing. Generally my shots from there show the seabirds swimming away, probably spooked by the telephoto lens and large lumbering birder. The resultant rump shots are not great, but this year I hunkered low among the rocks and got some shots with them coming in for a closer look at the crazy birder.
September, on Prince Edward Island, Canada, yielded great landscape shots but was a little wanting for avian photos. I was struggling at dawn with some eiders in the surf, but they were hopelessly backlit by the rising sun. Two crows were mocking my efforts from behind. Finally, turning around to shoo them away, I noticed that the light was just perfect for a crow shot. Not great birds, but a pleasing, well-exposed photo resulted; and they seemed to enjoy their 15 seconds of fame.
It’s extravagant to include two shots of any birds, but the colorful Eastern Meadowlark is a favorite of mine, often striking a photogenic pose. My best shots of them are from the Dinner Ranch, a beautiful wide-open space in south central Florida, far from the maddening crowd.
Let me add some ordinary yard birds to the posting. The mockingbirds are the yard’s apparatchiks par excellence, one patrolling the south half and his comrade working the north side. They’ll chase away anything larger and threatening, but seem to temporarily meet their match when the kingbirds arrive each spring. The wren gets the prize for best yard vocalist, while the cardinals add local color.
What bird portfolio is complete without some flying shots? The swans and eagle were active during my recent trip to Blackwater NWR in Maryland, and the gawky stork, of course, graced the airways of Florida.
The birds of prey on the Floridian fenceposts strike two quite opposite poses. The caracara is confident of his appearance and proud of his status in the avian hierarchy, whereas the vulture hangs his head in shame. Actually both humbly survive on roadkill.
Feeding shots always add some interest. The gull and unlucky crab were seen on Nantucket, while the Anhinga and unfortunate sunfish were residents of a south Florida marsh.
I know a bird photographer worth his salt is not suppose to post posed shots, but I offer these anyway, for better or worse. Isn’t it fascinating how a bird is so often found in a setting similar to its own coloring? The pleasing background blur or bokeh is sought by photographers for these portrait shots and results from using a wide open aperture giving a narrow depth-of-field in focus.
I’ve included a few shots because they remind me of key events of 2018, like the fledgling of the nuthatches from Mary & Gene’s feeder, or finally finding and photographing the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker with Andy at Babcock-Webb Preserve in Florida. There was the fallout of migrating warblers this spring at Naples Park, and, after years of trying, I finally got a decent photo of a Brown Creeper from the Blackwater NWR.
And lastly, let me add a few more colorful birds from Panama. That trip with these new tropical life birds, as well as the heat and humidity of Central America are still vivid in my mind. I’m reminded of it daily as I scratch the persistent chiggers, so loathe to finally leave me alone. Onward to 2019.