In this blog I have often remarked how taking photos has had a profound effect on certain personal proclivities. Since childhood I have had great difficulty with being patient. I am sure you will agree that waiting for the Good Humor Man to come by on a summer afternoon, or waiting on line at an amusement park ride, or waiting to get into the Wollman Ice Skating Rink in Prospect Park Brooklyn seemed interminable. As an adult these were replaced by waiting on line for concerts, restaurants, movies and going through security at airports (the latter thankfully gone through Global Entry). In addition, waiting for latecomers for any of the above activities or at work when conferences were delayed due to someone else’s tardiness added irritation (my favorite client would lock the conference doors at the time appointed, locking out even the head of the agency as a sign of pique).
On the other hand I have always been fascinated with nature in all its forms and have worked hard to capture magical moments with flora and fauna alike which forced me to slow down, but birds have been too “flighty” (sorry) – their jumpy quick movements discouraged my photographic interest. I did take pictures from time to time – of SLOWLY swimming or sitting fowl.
But then something wondrous occurred. During my journey through Peru I met a delightful woman who opened my eyes to birdwatching. Ginny is a serious birder with countless sightings, meticulously documented in her personal journals. We became a team with Ginny often being the first one to sight a hummingbird or an ibis or a black-faced gull followed by me trying to catch a photo. Waiting for the moment to catch a hovering hummingbird required stillness and tons of patience:
I was hooked.
I have had some satisfying success with photographing birds – some of which I have shared with you. Today I want to show you the lengths of my newest obsession – securing a close-up photograph of a local cardinal.
Easily recognizable by the male’s brilliant red feathers, the cardinal is actually so popular that it is the official state bird of 7 states. It’s habitat ranges from the Southeastern States of the USA up to Southeastern Canada where it stays all year round. It can also be found in some Southwestern states. The males are fiercely territorial, singing to announce its presence and ward off competitors.
It was this distinctive call of the cardinal that got me started on my quest:
Cardinals are foragers, looking for seeds, berries, insects and spiders. My first encounter was a sighting in a low bush:
I guess these aren’t terrible for a first shot – but I wanted more focussed results. So my hunt began in earnest. Day after day, weather permitting, I used the cardinal’s singing as a tracker. However, their eyesight is exponentially more acute that humans so often they sighted me before I saw them and all I could capture was a flash of red feathers:
I soon discovered another frustrating development. I almost NEVER noticed a cardinal near or on the ground – except when I wasn’t carrying a camera. It was as if these cardinals were playing a diabolical game of now you see me now you don’t. You can imagine my exasperation upon finally seeing a cardinal foraging on the ground. Unfortunately I was in my car with out a camera. Dauntless, I pulled over, took out my iPhone and took these shots:
I have been tracking cardinals for over a year now. They cover a wide range in my neighborhood, so I often take a 2 mile or so walk in different directions. While there are many individuals, they continue to test my patience. Let me give you an example. One afternoon I heard the continual call and located the tree which this particular cardinal resided:
Even with my zoom lens his perch was just too high:
I keep on plugging and lately I have reaped some rewards – though still far away:
A few days ago, I set out again and lo and behold a quite friendly cardinal FOLLOWED me. Perhaps his friends had let him know that I was stalking them. But instead of dive bombing me, this little guy gave me a number of photo ops:
And then the money shots:
I am content.
Every evening I hear my cardinal singing his last song before nightfall – and I finally spied him at the very top of a tree about a half block away. Knowing the distance, I found it a bit unsettling when I looked at the photos I took. See if you have the same reaction – I do believe the cardinal was looking DIRECTLY AT ME!