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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.


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


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