Wednesday 27 March 2013

Close Encounters of the Bird Kind

I've been processing a few more Golden Plover shots, and as I was doing so it occured to me how magical it had been. Yes, it was cold. Yes, it was muddy. Yes, I was lying in the cold mud, but wasn't it special? Me and three birds, part-way through a long journey and resting up on Wanstead Flats of all places. I was probably less than ten metres away, they could see me clearly and yet were not concerned. Nevermind that I've never had the opportunity to photograph this species properly before, nevermind that they're one of the commonest waders. They and I were sharing the same moment, they wondering what I was doing, me struggling with exposure settings and hoping they didn't fly off.

Patch Gold
The best wildlife moments, the ones that are relived, the ones that still bring back a smile as the memory of the magic returns, are those where birds are close. I'm not going to go all anthropomorphic or whatever, but being so close to something that normally would go out of its way to avoid you, those are the brilliant moments. I can probably count these occasions on the fingers of both hands and not run out, but this is another reason why they're so special. Hornemann's Redpolls hopping around my feet on Shetland, the Magallenic Woodpecker in Argentina coming around the trunk I was standing behind, the Robin in my car in Norfolk, hand-feeding a Jackdaw in Suffolk, the Steppe Grey Shrike on my scope in Lincolnshire, and the Jack Snipe walking over my hand in Shetland. Here are the last three:

These moments were all because the birds were crazily tolerant of people, but what I'm beginning to find is that in addition to the odd bird exhibiting bizarre behaviour, I can make those moments happen, as with the Goldies. I can get myself into situations where I can enjoy birds at really close quarters, and that comes not from my birding, but from my photography - though if there were any doubt after this weekend that I had forsaken the former for the latter, hopefully that question has been answered. And will I diminish the power of these encounters by having more of them, such that they're expected and not a treat. I doubt it, where birds are concerned you can never have too much of a good thing.

1 comment:

  1. These moments, as much as you can attempt to engineer them, are still moments that happen 'out of the blue'. If you want to have a great day's birding you cannot order them - one will turn up if you wait long enough. Most of my golden moments (or days) have happened without prior warning and do not happen by order. When they occur they are all the more magical for that. Nice post Jonathan.