Shooting birds requires infinite patience and lightning reflexes.
This picture is from March. I was out in the back yard, getting a feel for my new camera, and had about a half second to snap this shot. I’m not much of a bird watcher (by which I mean not at all) but I think it’s a Starling. It landed on the fence across the neighbor’s yard and glanced back at me as if to say “Now or never,” and then flitted away. I spent the rest of the morning chasing birds trying to catch them in a moment of stillness to get a good shot.
I learned that birds are creatures of incredible energy, and yet that matching their energy will not allow one to capture their moments. Instead one must be as patient and still as cat stalking them would be; and then able for strike (metaphorically of course) with a predator’s speed. I spent hours trying to quell my shivering in the cool spring air, waiting with my lens trained on a particular spot the birds seem to like, ready to focus and snap in as little time as possible. And after all that I only got a few good pictures: a few of what I believe are some Finches, and one of another starling.
The Finches in particular were both a frustration and a joy. They loved the brambly tree that grew at the junction of the four yards, hiding among the branches like it was their only sanctuary from the world. And maybe it was, wiry branches provided an intricate net within which to shelter, and the deep sanguine shade of the berries made me doubt their edibility. They darted about inside the tangle of branches, pausing briefly now and again to chirp at each other or scramble deeper into the bramble when a larger bird wandered too close. I had previously had a basic understanding of the term “flighty” but the time I spent watching the finches, my eye glued to the view finder for fear of missing my moment, really illuminated the meaning to me. The dichotomy between their motion and my stillness was profound, and somehow enlightening.
This last Starling made it both very easy and very hard to get a good shot. It sat at the very top of this old half-dead tree, and didn’t move anything except its head for about ten minutes. And of course that was the problem. Every time I took a shot its head would move, so that I either got a blur, or the back of his feathery crown. But at long last it decided to look at something long enough for me to snap a shot of its face.