Studded in stars, flecked in gold and an ode to winter. A poem says it so well.
Noisy starlings are a thing of beauty in flight en masse. They soar as one, like bees in swarm. As individuals they are fat and clumsy looking, like a few bees. Yet as a flock, they are graceful performance masters. Purposeful flying that leaves you wondering how they know when to turn and dip.
They are not very tolerant of each other where a suet feeder hangs. They seem quite greedy and not willing to share. Want to see angry birds?
A poem by Mary Oliver made me think about this bird in a more gracious light dressed in winter finery. The link takes you to The Writer’s Almanac that has permission to print the poem.
The poem does not describe the combative nature of the bird, but through metaphor, imagery, and careful choice of word, the poem gives the bird some dignity and charm, showing skillful grace as they dip and dive across the sky. It also makes parallels to living life.
Or you can hear it read by Garrison Keillior here. Go to 2:29 in the podcast.
The poem has a feel of hope and optimism springing from one’s despair. The poem reveals a shift from chunkiness to grace, from grief to an intense optimistic feeling, and from improbable to assured. Is that not what we want for this New Year?
Up next in the series, Blue Jays in Winter. The family born here last summer sees its first snowfall.
Learn the Tips for Yourself
The image above and below, each on the branch, is from a series of posts I am doing on creating a backyard birding/photography studio. You can see the bird is isolated from a background without distraction. This is one of the tricks used by nature photographers.
After I feature a few of the more interesting birds that visit the garden, the series will start with what to plant and why it is important to the wildlife. Getting them there and making them feel safe is a key component to any backyard birding habitat. It is a key to photographs too.
Just placing a feeder is not enough if you literally want hundreds and hundreds of birds. Also it helps with variety and species of birds. But we do need feeding stations if we want to attract them initially, whether commercial seed or seed from live plants.
The next step is setting up feeding stations, but in a very deliberate way. What to feed or plant is listed by the bird that you desire to attract. Where to place it is critical to the photograph. For instance, the starlings pictured are fond of animal protein, hence the suet. Being omnivores, they will also eat fruit, grains, and seed.
Then we start shaping our plants and creating places where we choose for the birds to land, like in the images in this post. Shaping the scene makes the images a bit better and also much easier to capture the subject.
This series is based on winter feeding, but I will do a similar series on attracting birds in summer by the plants within the garden. The photo studio has some changes for the season.
I will be going away shortly, but will have many of these posts uploaded before then. If you are interested in photographing your birds in portraiture, in action, or just taking a break, just stop back for some helpful tips I learned from one of the most well-known and published nature photographers on the planet.
You will be amazed at how simple it is to capture these shots. I will tell you what lens I used and how far it is to my subjects. Also, I will include camera settings, but realize they change on the quality of light in the environment.
Photographing birds is all about fun and pleasure. I never understood the hobby of bird watching. It just seemed too passive, but photographing them leads to a lot of learning. Not that bird watching is without learning your subject, but I think photographing them leads to a more intimate association. And to find them requires learning about them. Many bird watchers also photograph, but many of them it is more for documentation. I do it for the art, whether painting or photographing. I cannot bird count here because of the vast number of birds I get, but I do note the varieties.
Learning and observing bird habits really enhances your chance of good photos. Creating the proper habitat makes for a sure thing.
Another thing that photos do is catch expressions and actions too fast to see. That is why I enjoy the hobby. If you want to learn all you want to know about starlings see Living With Wildlife or Cornell’s All About Birds. In an upcoming post on knowing your subject, I will show the books I reference.
Most of you don’t want starlings at your feeders, but I don’t mind. My yard services hundreds of birds so I have no problem sharing. The more, the merrier.
I hope you engage in this interesting hobby and stop back to see how to make the hobby a bit more fun and easy. My New Years wish next!