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Bird Walk

Updated on April 10, 2019
Melody Dunithan profile image

Melody has been involved with photography as a hobby for over 50 years. From film to digital, from developing to preserving.

I am a Bird Walk novice!

I have loved photographing birds and animals for many years, but I decided this year that I really wanted to learn more about getting great shots. And the first thing I needed was a place to get "great shots".

Waiting for our guide to lead off.
Waiting for our guide to lead off.

The Plan

I started jotting down local Bird Walks that I had been seeing pop up on my Facebook feed.

Last weekend, I attended my first Bird Walk of the season.

We expected to see the woodcock and witness its "Sky Dance". This was completely intriguing and I enlisted both my daughters to go on a Saturday night Bird Walk.

Long story short - we didn't see a woodcock, BUT... I learned a LOT about Bird Walks.

School's in Session!

We were told about needing to wear long sleeves and long pants and that we needed to bring bug spray. We were going to be in a wooded area. This all made sense.


1. Dress for it!

We went prepared with what we knew. I opted to bring Citronella essential oil as my insect repellent, which worked wonderfully. We wore tennis shoes for walking.

BUT... next trip we will substitute boots for our shoes. I'm not sure if it was because it was April or whether it was simply the area, but the grassy areas and paths were significantly waterlogged. Some areas felt like we were walking through a marshland. So... lesson learned... BOOTS!

And... thinking ahead to the next time, I would also take along a bag of some sort and maybe some water to rinse off the boots to store away in the car rather than drag in all that nature on my floors.

2. Research the expected birds

We knew nothing about the woodcock so we were unprepared for the evening.

The woodcock is a small, brown bird about the size of a kid's football. It likes grassy areas. Unfortunately, the grassy areas (brown, marshy grass) looks a LOT like the woodcock. Great camouflage for the woodcock. Not so great for the photographer.

Our guide told us that she had only ever seen one once before. WOW! It would be a miracle if we caught sight of one!

The next bit of information would have helped, too - the "Sky Dance" we were hoping to see. The woodcock will launch itself 250-300 feet into the air and will spin in a spiral going down. That far up in the air - AWESOME! Should be able to get some great shots!

Not so!

The woodcock does not perform his "Sky Dance" until sunset. So, by the time they might have started, it was nearly dark and becoming pitch black rapidly.

Consequently, we did not see a single woodcock. Some in the group pointed one out at one point, but I never caught sight of it. And no one in the group gave any indication that they had witnessed a "Sky Dance".

We did, however, hear them. There were several and they were in good voice, but shy.

We were disappointed, but we had still enjoyed the evening. I got a cool photo of what I believe was a milkweed plant and I enjoyed some quality time with my daughters.

Milkweed Pod
Milkweed Pod

3. Know the area

This would also have helped with being prepared with boots rather than shoes. But, in addition to that, know what type of facilities are available and when they are open.

We did get a park map when we arrived which helped us locate the right area.

We also discovered a lack of outside lighting. Back in the areas where we found the birds that wasn't surprising. But the paved roads and paths had no lighting either. Next trip... flashlights. (On a side note, our phones helped, but a flashlight would have been great.)

Future Walks

The items on our preparation list has expanded. Our next Bird Walk in the woods will be a bit different and, hopefully, more successful.

  • Boots. Good walking boots that will repel water. A hiking boot might be okay if you know you're not going to be in a marshy area. Along with a spray bottle of water and a bag to put them in afterwards, if necessary. This pair is along the lines of what I'm looking for.
  • Flashlight. Here is one very similar to the one I'll be bringing. I had just received a flashlight at Christmas time and the beam is strong and clear.
  • Camera Strap. I'll be moving to a chest harness strap rather than the traditional camera strap. The weight of a DSLR on my neck causes a lot of problems. The chest harness distributes the weight across the shoulders making it easier to carry for long periods of time. This chest harness is the one my daughter just ordered. We'll be trying it out and will post a review of how well it works.
  • My Citronella blend insect repellent. I used the Citronella essential oil straight out of the bottle on this trip and I was very happy with it. On the drive home, though, I was thinking about a better solution. A spray would be much easier to use. So I'm putting Citronella essential oil (15-20 drops) in a bottle of LavaDerm Misting Spray. Lavender is also a good essential oil to ward off insects. I'm expecting the combination to work even better and the spray bottle will make it easier to use.
  • Carabiner. I LOVE these clips. They make it easy to attach things for hands-free carrying. One of my DSLR's has a neoprene cover that came with a carabiner. I can clip it to a belt loop and carry the cover without having it on my camera. I also used it this weekend to carry my monopod. Handy!
  • Monopod vs. Tripod. My monopod was handy. I took it to help with a DSLR camera that had a great zoom but wasn't great in dim light. The monopod helped with the milkweed pod shot, but wasn't good enough to help with bird shots. Still too much motion from steadying it myself. I think next time I'll try a tripod.

Anticipation

I can't wait for the next Bird Walk. I plan to be more prepared whether it's with a guided walk or out by myself.

Leave a comment on tips you've learned when photographing outdoors.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Melody Dunithan

Comments

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    • Melody Dunithan profile imageAUTHOR

      Melody Dunithan 

      11 months ago from Indiana

      That's fantastic. They are so relaxing, too, being out in nature not just outdoors. We have most of those birds also, but the ospreys would be very cool to see.

    • profile image

      Scott DeNicola 

      11 months ago

      We have some very interesting birds here on Long Island in NY. My yard is consistently covered in Cardinals, Blue Jays, Orioles and more. Many of our beaches and shorelines are inhabited by Ospreys which they have created large nests for high up on the top of long poles. They are very interesting to watch as are all the hawks we have around. After reading this article I'm interested in visiting some of the local areas by us that sponsor bird walks and going out on a few of them.

    • Melody Dunithan profile imageAUTHOR

      Melody Dunithan 

      11 months ago from Indiana

      Very cool! I hope she can find something in her area.

    • Melody Dunithan profile imageAUTHOR

      Melody Dunithan 

      11 months ago from Indiana

      That would be phenomenal!

    • Melody Dunithan profile imageAUTHOR

      Melody Dunithan 

      11 months ago from Indiana

      It is fun, for sure, and when you can go alone, it is so calming and relaxing. A great way to unwind.

    • Melody Dunithan profile imageAUTHOR

      Melody Dunithan 

      11 months ago from Indiana

      That would be an amazing place, Joanna! We have parks here, but not nature reserves. Bucket List!!! :)

    • Melody Dunithan profile imageAUTHOR

      Melody Dunithan 

      11 months ago from Indiana

      Whatever is needed so you enjoy it is what's important. :) No pressure.

    • profile image

      Jennifer 

      11 months ago

      I've never heard of a bird walk before but my sister would absolutely love this.

    • profile image

      Blairvillanueva 

      11 months ago

      If you love this bird walk activity, i bet you will also enjoy bird walking in Singapore and Malaysia! You should try it :)

    • profile image

      Erica (The Prepping Wife) 

      11 months ago

      I didn’t know a bird walk was even a thing, let alone what it actually meant! Now I’m curious about it and I’m going to do some research to see if there’s such a thing in my area. It sounds like a lot of fun, and certainly a learning experience.

    • profile image

      Joanna K. 

      11 months ago

      That sounds like a good plan for bird watching. An ideal place to watch birds in Greece is the Forest of Dadia, located in the Evros regional unit. A well-known nature reserve where you can watch endangered species of birds.

    • Melody Dunithan profile imageAUTHOR

      Melody Dunithan 

      11 months ago from Indiana

      That's the way I grew up, too. Living in town now has it's limitations and I am on the lookout for ways to photograph nature all the time.

    • Melody Dunithan profile imageAUTHOR

      Melody Dunithan 

      11 months ago from Indiana

      Thank you. That perfect shot is out there somewhere. I'm on a mission to find it. :)

    • Melody Dunithan profile imageAUTHOR

      Melody Dunithan 

      11 months ago from Indiana

      It was fun and educational in ways I hadn't anticipated. Something I will definitely be doing again.

    • profile image

      Subhashish Roy 

      11 months ago

      I too love birdwatching and go on solo trips many a times to do that. Good to go through your suggestions to do it more professionally perhaps.Thanks.

    • profile image

      Tracy C 

      11 months ago

      I've never been on a bird walk, but am fortunate to live in an area with an abundance of birds. We recently had two young bald eagles way up high in one of our trees. There are two nests that I know of, one about a half mile west and the other about a mile northeast. Because our house is in a wooded area, we see so many birds!

    • profile image

      Thuy 

      11 months ago

      I love that there are supportive groups of nature appreciators and photographers that go on birds walks together. I love being outdoors

    • profile image

      Elease Colcord 

      11 months ago

      How exciting to have a new hobby and learning all the etiquette, in and outs along the way. I'm sure it will be fun to see your photography progress as you get closer and closer to the perfect shot!

    • profile image

      Live Learn Better 

      11 months ago

      This is the first time I'm hearing about birdwalk but your illustration is so appealing and inviting.

      Thank you for sharing.

    • profile image

      Snehal 

      11 months ago

      Why have i never done bird walk before! Sounds so much fun. Will be hunting for a place near me now. :D

    • Melody Dunithan profile imageAUTHOR

      Melody Dunithan 

      11 months ago from Indiana

      I'm hopeful that we might yet get a chance to go back and check them out.

    • Melody Dunithan profile imageAUTHOR

      Melody Dunithan 

      11 months ago from Indiana

      Check with your local parks and see if they can direct you to something close by.

    • Melody Dunithan profile imageAUTHOR

      Melody Dunithan 

      11 months ago from Indiana

      We did enjoy the time and will be more prepared the next time. Nice thing is, the woodcock stays around for more than a month so we might get back there yet this spring for another go around. :)

    • Melody Dunithan profile imageAUTHOR

      Melody Dunithan 

      11 months ago from Indiana

      Yes, indeed. I truly learned a lot.

    • Melody Dunithan profile imageAUTHOR

      Melody Dunithan 

      11 months ago from Indiana

      Carrying your camera whenever you're out is a great idea. You can't recreate those photo opportunities.

    • Melody Dunithan profile imageAUTHOR

      Melody Dunithan 

      11 months ago from Indiana

      That's fantastic! I'm so glad it's been helpful and motivating. Birds have always fascinated me. I think i got that from my grandparents. I hope you enjoy a jaunt soon.

    • profile image

      Carol 

      11 months ago

      I love being outside, especially with the kids. It sounds like you had a great time. I hope you get to see the woodcock and get some good pictures that you can share with us!

    • profile image

      Kelly 

      11 months ago

      I've actually never heard of a bird walk. I wonder if they have them near me. Sorry you didn't get to see the Sky dance. That sounds like something really cool to see.

    • profile image

      Gracie Esedeke- Today Was Fab 

      11 months ago

      I've never heard of or been to a bird walk before. But it sounds like something I would love to attend as I do enjoy taking photos of birds. I should read more on this.

    • profile image

      Ashley 

      11 months ago

      I've never been on a bird walk before, but I think it would be a great chance to experiment with trying to photograph them while they fly around! The woodcock also sounds like a very fascinating bird.

    • profile image

      Trish Veltman 

      11 months ago

      What a shame you didn't get to see a woodcock. The sky dance sounds amazing. good you still had a great time anyway - and you know to go at sunset next time!

    • profile image

      Nicole L Anderson 

      11 months ago

      Love the advice here for those of us who are 'enthusiastic' photographers (I include myself in this grouping - keen but not that great). Most of what you list here I also find useful while hiking and I always have my camera with me, just in case...

    • profile image

      The Sunny Side Lifestyle Co. 

      11 months ago

      Thanks for our insight into birding. I live near a National Wildlife Refuge, so our area attracts a lot of birders but I know little about the sport. I appreciate your tip about learning about the birds you will be searching for prior to an expedition. You have inspired me to find out more about birding.

    • Melody Dunithan profile imageAUTHOR

      Melody Dunithan 

      12 months ago from Indiana

      Awesome! I hope he loves it! It totally will take the weight off the neck which is my goal.

    • Deb Vesco Roberts profile image

      Debra Roberts 

      12 months ago from Ohio

      I've never done a bird walk, looks interesting! Great product suggestions too! Now...I started checking on your suggestions and had no idea there was a chest strap for carrying a big camera! My husband complains when we travel about lugging his camera (he has a professional one) and so I just ordered this for him! Love it!

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