Bird fever has hit. It comes upon me every fall and makes me a woman obsessed. From the time I could hold a camera I wanted to photograph birds. Just looking at the bright images in National Wildlife or Missouri Conservationist made me yearn to capture this elusive prey with my camera. Little did I know, the birds have a plan for people like me and as surely as they lure me into the woods on a bright autumn day, they set in motion their initiation ritual – the one I must survive if I am to be found worthy to take the images of my dreams.
Birds watch bird photographers as avidly as we watch them and I am convinced that over the decades they have developed a sanity test for anyone who wants their picture. They are professionals in testing human sanity: Quick, efficient, more frustrating than you can imagine.
First, there is The Tease: Rather than hiding the moment a photographer appears, birds coyly flutter into sight, landing on perfect, bare branches, singing their lovely songs, begging to be photographed. Of course birds also have excellent timing and they use this skill to pinpoint the moment they are in focus, so they can flit merrily away or ruffle their feathers into an incomprehensible blur just as the shutter closes.
Next, there is the Light Show: Birds understand the importance of light in a photograph and do their best to position themselves in the worst lighting possible. Woodpeckers always go to the shady side of the tree trunk and colorful birds, like robins and bluebirds, will leave a bare branch that’s in full sun to glower in the crook of a limb as soon as I get my camera out of the car.
Then there is Playing-Hard-to-Get: Birds measure distance extremely well and are able to estimate the focal length of any lens on sight. This gives them the ability to flutter into the air time after time, always landing just a few feet too far away. This move is usually followed by the “tail-flip,” which is, in the truest sense, giving me “The Bird.”
You may be thinking that these are perfectly normal behaviors, all designed to ensure survival in case I am a predator, but how do you explain The Taunt? This occurs when a bird flies into sight and calls loudly, announcing its presence for all the world to see, then flies into a perfect position and adding a dash of The Tease, disappears into the woods where it continues to call loudly- just to make sure the photographer knows what is being withheld.
If, on occasion, the bird community deems a photographer worthy, then good photographs may be taken. The designation of “worthy to photograph” has a very short duration and can be revoked at any time, after which, the photographer is back at square one and must run the gauntlet again before further pictures may be taken. No deposit, no return. Do not fold, bend, spindle, or mutilate. Store credit only on returns. Results may vary