Birds in Motion
Limitations of Bird Photography Overcome
Birds tend to move around a great deal. They fly, hop, and do other things. They are so quick that for the most part, and because it takes time to prepare a shot, no matter how quick, a photographer can usually only catch them when they are sitting still. So most bird photos are of birds sitting still, not doing much of anything. In this Lens, I will present photos of birds actually doing something, in motion, being interesting, not just posing for the camera.
Needless to say, it is a bit of a challenge to get a clear photo of a bird in motion. It took me quite awhile to learn how to get sharp photos of ducks in flight.
Flying HummingbirdsClick thumbnail to view full-size
These birds come by the thousands every winter, to stay and raise their young. There can be up to 30,000 of them in southeastern Arizona. During the day, they fly out and look for seeds and other food in the fields, and they return at night to the roosting place. This flock was roosting at Apache Station Wildlife Reserve. They have the most interesting traffic control system I think I have ever heard. Cranes make a noise called "bugling". Two cranes would take turns bugling at different pitches, guiding in the flying birds, until they all landed. Notice, if you can see it, these birds have a red area on the top of their heads. Looked at from the top, it resembles a heart.
Sandhill Cranes in Flight - Grus canadensisClick thumbnail to view full-size
Flying Ospreys - Pandion haliaetusClick thumbnail to view full-size
Osprey Catching Fish
You can see for yourself what I saw on both occasions I photographed Ospreys. :)
Flock of Flying Ducks - Sweetwater Wetlands, Arizona
Flying Ducks - Sweetwater WetlandsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Flying RaptorsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Hooded Mergansers - Lophodytes cucullatusClick thumbnail to view full-size
Green Heron in Flight - Butorides virescens
Greater Roadrunner Running - Geococcyx californianus
One leg in motion is almost totally blurred. I didn't tell Wile E Coyote where to find him. Roadrunners can fly well enough, but they prefer to run.
Female Red-winged Blackbirds Congregating - Agelaius phoeniceus
The males will be along in a couple of weeks. I have seen up to 700 blackbirds strung out on the same electric wire, that close to each other. Notice all but two are facing in the same direction. I don't know why birds on wires or branches do this, but they all do, if they sit on wires in large numbers.
Small Murmurations - We don't have millions, but we do have hundredsClick thumbnail to view full-size
EgretsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Northern Rough-winged Swallow - Stelgidopteryx serripennis
Swallows are very difficult to photograph, especially if you have to hand focus like I do. They move very fast, and frequently change direction without warning. This fellow was WAY out there, and the image was a very small part of the total picture. I was amazed at how sharp it was, and I wasn't the only one.
Gila Woodpecker Stealing Sugar Water from Hummingbird Feeder - Melanerpes uropygialis
Gila Woodpeckers have a sweet tooth; I have seen them stealing from hummingbird feeders several times. I have also seen a Ladderback doing that. This is a male. It took him quite a bit of effort to reach the sweet stuff. I have a complete photo essay of his efforts in my lens on the birds of southern Arizona.
Having an Argument
These are probably female House Finches, but I am not positive. They had this big long wire to sit on, but they both wanted the exact same spot!
Dancing Crowned Cranes - Balearica regulorum
When I first saw this pair, my first thought is that they were dancing. I learned that African Crowned Cranes DO dance.
Double-crested Cormorant Drying Wings - Phalacrocorax auritus
Cormorants lack oil on their feathers, so when they dive, they have to dry out their feathers another way. They do it by holding them open and letting the sun dry them. His friends are Red-eared Sliders.Trachemys scripta elegans.
Lots of birds can get their necks into some pretty impossible shapes. This bird is one of them.
American Coot Feet - Fulica americana
This coot seems to be inspecting his feet. I think they look very interesting, so I am showing them to you.
These coots are arguing about something.
Brown Pelican Yawning - Pelecanus occidentalis
That's what it looks like, isn't it? The cormorant thought it was funny. See, he's laughing!
Birds Enjoying a BathClick thumbnail to view full-size
Black-crowned Night Herons - Nycticorax nycticoraxClick thumbnail to view full-size
Twitterpated - House Finches - Carpodacus mexicanus
They behaved like they were courting. He did all these fancy aerobatics while she sat on the wire and watched.
Doing a Bittern Impersonation - Great Blue Heron - Ardea herodias
Stretching His Legs, er, Wings
Some birds will put their leg up under one wing and stretch both outward and sideways. I have no idea why they do this, either. He's all fluffed up, too.
Missed the Bird and Got the Splash
Better luck next time...
Brown Pelican, Flying - Pelecanus occidentalis
This is a species that dives from the sky into the water to catch its food. He dove several times. Other times, he would just fly around for the apparent heckuvit.
California Gull - Larus californicus
A rarity. I caught this one coming and going, and sitting on the lake water.
He Noticed Me - Mallard
Nobody else did.
Hummingbird Feeding Her Young
Probably an Anna's. The females are nondescript enough I don't always get their identity, but this is the most likely, and other birders told me that was who she was.
Weaving a Nest - Taveta Golden Weaver
Ploceus castaneiceps. Kenya, Tanzania.
Notice he is weaving in a thick cream-colored piece of grass. The male weaves the nest, and the female decides if it is good enough. If it isn't, he starts over. When the nest is finished, it makes a nice apartment with just one opening on the side, otherwise completely enclosed.
Marabou Stork, Preening - Leptoptilos crumeniferus
From Africa. Those birds look so silly!
Ring-billed Gull, Landing - Larus delawarensis
Betcha didn't know we get gulls in the middle of the desert in Arizona, especially from Delaware. This is the most common one.
Great-tailed Grackle, Flying - Quiscalus mexicanus
I was just playing around with my macro lens, and caught this fellow. I was very pleased.
Yes, I've shown you Red-tailed Hawks before. But I am excited every time I get a new picture of one in flight. This one was flying over the recharge ponds at Columbus Park outside Tucson, Arizona. There was a total of three in the area. They each perched on a high tension tower for awhile. This one was on his way.
Louisiana Waterthrush is a rare bird in Arizona. I know of three different ones this year (November, 2013). I chased all three, actually, and got photos of one of them. Getting a decent photo wasn't trivial. This bird is in constant motion. And in my opinion, this is a shy bird. I had to do a fair amount of bushwhacking to reach the spot where I could finally take pictures.
The photo doesn't show the constant tail-bobbing of this bird, so I have included a video below, so you can see for yourself.
Louisiana Waterthrush in motion
See You Later! - Hawk over Mountains
An early photo, but still a favorite. I'll be back with more interesting bird behavior.
Bird Behavior Books on Amazon
Ignore the stuff about evolution in these otherwise excellent books. Evolution is just fairy tales and imagination.
The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior
by David Allen Sibley
Bird Sense: What It's Like to Be a Bird
by Tim Birkhead
Stokes Guide to Bird Behavior, Volume 3
by Donald W. Stokes, Lillian Q. Stokes
A Guide to Bird Behavior, Volume 2 (Stokes Nature Guides)
by Donald Stokes, Lillian Stokes
Why Birds Do That: 40 Distinctive Bird Behaviors Explained & Photographed
by Michael Furtman