For the Birds Radio Program: Photography, Part II
Playing with photos On my last For the Birds program, I talked about how my birding has evolved from watching to photographing birds. That’s been a big change for me, and up until recently I didn’t do much organizing of them, except to file each day’s photos by date. If I had a vague recollection of when I took a shot, I could find it, but it took a lot of searching. But a couple of months ago, I bought some software called Adobe Lightroom, and I’ve been adding keywords to my photos so I can call up every photo I’ve taken of any species, as long as that photo’s been cataloged. It’s been a long slog going through old photos, but ever so fun, too. I even take pleasure in some of the worst old ones, which bring back cool memories of all kinds of avian encounters. One Cape May Warbler figured out how to get sugar water from a hummingbird feeder by hovering at it—I’ve got several photos of that from May 2003. I’ve got photos of gulls and crows sitting right on the plastic owl decoys that are supposed to chase them away, and photos of adult birds feeding their young, including one I took this summer of an adult loon trying to feed its still tiny chick a fish much too wide for the little guy to even think of swallowing. Russ took a slide photo of the tiny Elf Owl that was perched near our cabin in Arizona. Although I don’t have a clue how to convert slides digitally, I can take photos of the slides projected on the wall—if I set it up carefully, I end up with some pretty good copies of dear old slides. When Russ and I were at the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge in South Carolina, we came upon two male Wood Ducks swimming peacefully in a lovely marsh. Suddenly a big Purple Gallinule charged them. One of the many photos I took shows one of the Wood Duck with a genuine look of terror on his face. The birds were moving about so if I’d been watching them with my spotting scope instead of my camera, it would have been hard to keep them in view. Through binoculars the interplay would have been thrilling, but I wouldn’t have been able to see that quick look of desperation on the duck’s face. With photos, I not only recall the entire thing, but also have a whole series of photos that bring it vividly back to life. I came across photos of old Stumpytail—a dear squirrel who lost her tail. She was a wild adult, so even when she got very sick from the infected wound, wouldn’t come too close, but we started looking out for her and buying peanuts and expensive nut mixes just for her, and when she recovered, she became rather tame, but only with me. Four or five years after her accident, she disappeared for several months. I thought she must have died, but one day when I was driving down Peabody Street, I saw her in a yard a couple of blocks from my house. I opened the window and called out, “Hey, Stumpy! Why don’t you stop by again one of these days?” She must have thought that was an excellent idea. Through the rear view mirror I watched her hopping along the sidewalk straight to my house—by the time I parked the car in the garage, she was sitting on my front porch waiting for a treat. Chickadees that fed out of my hand, the soaking wet Chestnut-sided Warbler that turned up at my bird feeder one cold, rainy day during migration, Jeepers the neighborhood Pileated Woodpecker who spent an amazing amount of time on a small suet cake stuck on my window with tiny suction cups—going through my photos I’m finding pictures of all this and more. Photographs really are the gifts that keep on giving.