One of the pleasures of photography this past year has been in taking photographs of animals and then trying to get very specific on the species and breed of the animal in question. Birds have been a big part of that fun and there are no shortages on how many bird types I can photograph. From the daily ibis flock, the hovering vultures, the elegant egrets and the squawky parrots that fly by, there is a beautiful range of birds to enjoy.
After photographing a bird I’ve never seen before comes the hunt for exactly which bird it is. I remember one of the first birds I wanted to discover was a strange bird that had a long neck that looked like a snake once it was swimming around under the water surface as it hunted for food. The Anhinga or snakebird or darter as its called is a peculiar water bird that sometimes stands with its wings spread out basking in the sun. I couldn’t tell what it was doing at first, but ultimately it became a favorite to spot and photograph.
Another bird I was fond of finding after first running into one was called a Limpkin. It surprised me how quickly I was able to look it up and learn about it. Another water fowl, the Limpkins love to graze the shoreline of lakes and bodies of water. They often travel in small flocks apparently and keep to themselves in both manner and voice.
Green Herons are lovely too. Frequently found near egrets, it was one of the first species of water birds I noticed with my camera a year ago though I didn’t know what kind of bird it was, with its recessed neck and features. But the more I noticed them, the more I photographed them.
Then came the Cormorants and their funny beaks. They keep in good size flocks and I often found them settling in trees in the evening. Their distinctive beaks make them easy to identify.
Each of theses birds was a treat to discover and in some cases very easy to identify. But some birds were going to take a bit more patience to learn their features to help identify them and I purchased a book on identifying birds to help out. You’re never too old to start learning something new. One bird that inspired me to do this was the Yellow Rumped Warbler. The key identifying feature that helped me was that little patch of yellow below its wing.
I’m a big fan of cranes and egrets but didn’t know the varieties I could find until I took the time to dig in and learn. Even if I knew the difference between them, I didn’t know how wide their species differed or how to identify them quickly. But in time and enjoying the process, it became easier and easier to do so. When mating season arrives, they go into full bloom and it is a show to behold.
Few birds were as exciting to spot than the first time I noticed an osprey. It was hiding so far up a tree I almost didn’t notice it and being in a bright sun, I figured it was a vulture up above me until I put the lens on it and snapped. The beautiful bird doesn’t disappoint the eyes. Pictured in Lover’s Key in Western Florida, this one was relaxing as the area was dominated by pelicans and gulls. Though I’ve seen a few fly past since then, this was the only opportunity I had to take a pic of this great sea hawk.
Speaking of hawks, pictured at the top was a great predator bird, the red tailed hawk. It is such a gorgeous animal that it was fun to follow one around a small lake one day as it hunted for small targets and posed in between. It eventually stopped worrying about my presence and focused on its food needs. Thanks for the posing!
A particularly playful bird I enjoyed watching was a small sandpiper that was jumping and bouncing around rocks along the river one day as I was looking for iguanas to film. I’d never seen one before but with its round little body this bird was almost like a cartoon in its demeanor and fun to film even as it flittered around the water.
Last for now, was the joy of playing with a Northern Mockingbird. Again I wasn’t concerned with the breed of the bird when I first saw it, just tuning into it so I can take a good photo. This one was taking in the afternoon sun and minding its own business. Like the others, thankfully I have my telephoto and can get the shot without disrupting its daily routine.
Remember, the point of photography can and should be to have fun, to slow down, breathe, and take in the details around us. It shouldn’t be a frustration. Whether it is a bird or other species, taking the time to explore and photograph these awesome animals is bound to be a learning process worth undertaking. Keep a small journal and write down what you learn including the species information and variations. Enjoy!