Thursday, February 18, 2010

White-throated Sparrow

My recent posts have been on big birds. I thought it would be a nice change to share a picture of a small bird. This is a White-throated Sparrow photographed at Long Pond, Pippy Park.

Shooting small birds is very different from photographing larger birds. Since the limit of my lens is 250mm, I have to get quite close. That requires being very still and inching my way toward the bird. It is best to squat down. The bird feels less threatened than if you stand.

The lighting is a challenge as well. Often, the bird is in the shelter and shade of a tree. In this case I used a flash to even out the light. The lightening speed of the birds poses another challenge. For this shot, I used a high ISO setting. That is the alternative to using a very fast shutter speed which will reduce available lighting.

In the Fall, a man known as Wolfman hung a bird feeder in a clearing west of the Fluvarium. Every time I walk the trail, I take a bag of seed. If there are no birds around the feeder, I top up the feeder and go for a walk. Most times, I return to find numerous small birds enjoying the treats. Then, it is a matter of stalking, patience and bird cooperation to get a good picture. For me, it takes several sessions to get a good picture of a special bird. I feel like I know this sparrow. In this shot, his feathers are puffed up to stay warm. He really isn't that big around when he is hopping about.

Long Pond is a great place for a new birder to learn about birds. There has been a great variety of birds there during the fall and winter. These have included Eurasian Wigeons, American Wigeons, Greater and Lesser Scaup, Tufted Ducks, Black-backed Woodpecker, Clay-coloured Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Blue jays, Northern Flickers, Robins, American Goldfinches, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Black-capped Chickadees, Boreal Chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatch and the usual complement of black ducks, mallards and seagulls.

Birdwatching is similar to a lot of hobbies like antiquing, comic book or coin collecting. First you have to know a little bit about what you are looking for. If you don't know, it is important to have an eye for what might be "special" or rare and bring it home anyway. Then comes studying the image captured and matching it to all of the pictures in the reference books. If all of the pieces come together, the item or bird is identified. When all else fails, ask an expert. Once you know what you have, you add it to the list of birds seen.

A photo, even a poor one, is good to document the sighting. Once home, it is important to add the new bird to the lists. There are several lists. The "Life List" is the most important one. This documents all of the birds you have seen in your whole life. I started mine recently but included birds that I had photographed earlier. It is a special event to add a new bird to the life list. There is also the annual list. I have 43 species accumulated since January 1, 2010. Then, there is the backyard list. It was a special event when a White-throated Sparrow appeared in my backyard for the first time last week. Every bird is an event and the event should be recorded.

Grab a sheet of paper or open Excel and start listing!

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