Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Post #104 - Let's give the most common birds some love!

Sorry for the long time between posts! Our LA > SF move complicated things a bit! Here we go!

Those of you who read this blog regularly know that I am an unabashed ABA lister (or at least as unabashed as my budget and often conflicting photography interest permit!). Those playing similar listing games at the patch, county, or state levels certainly understand the premium that is placed on finding unusual species within your area of interest as that's what the listing game is all about. Rarities will always and understandably engender an excitement that more ubiquitous species like Mallards and Rock Doves will never - and that's OK.

Anyway, while it is difficult to get excited about super common birds from a purely birding perspective, I totally appreciate them from a photography standpoint. I think of it as a good challenge to present common birds in ways that people might not have have before seen. Take this shot for example. When was the last time you saw a Rock Dove in anything resembling a truly natural setting? This is a bit deceiving as it was taken at an urban park in Los Angeles, and I did have to maneuver my perspective around a bit so as to keep the branch but to avoid the cement edge to the man made pond. But, if you didn't know anything about the usually urban circumstances of this bird, you could totally imagine that this shot was taken on the edge of some real lake in some natural location.

Rock Dove - Columba livia
Los Angeles County, California, March 2017
Canon 400mm f/4 IS DO II + 2x III on EOS 1D Mark IV
1/2000 at f/8, ISO 800

Sometimes all it takes is a bit of personality to see a common bird in a new light. Such was the case with this particular Herring Gull. I actually headed Revere Beach in Boston to shoot Piping Plover chicks on that day. This bird appeared as soon as I set foot onto the sand. He walked directly towards me and just started cackling in my face, apparently in search of a handout. I thought he'd make a fun subject, so I cracked off this frame of him squawking at me. I think this result shows his assertive personality perfectly! Super detailed headshots are always a fantastic way to show common birds in new and interesting ways.

Herring Gull - Larus argentatus
Revere Beach, Boston, Massachusetts, July 2011
Canon 400mm f/5.6 on EOS 7D
1/4000 at f/5.6, ISO 400

Here's another common bird that I tried to present in a different light - literally. I took my dog to the dog park in Long Beach one evening when I saw this guy floating peacefully on the adjacent pond. My rig was in the car from a photo outing earlier in the day, so I grabbed it and went to work. I deliberately kept the view wide and underexposed the frame so as to generate a wide swath of dark water. Here it's the photographic technique more than anything else that renders the photograph of this common bird effectively dramatic!

Pied-billed Grebe - Podilymbus podiceps
Long Beach, California, April 2017
Canon 100-00mm f/4.5-5.6 IS II on EOS 7D2
1/1600 at f/8, ISO 640

Next up is this female Mallard that I photographed in Van Cortland Park in the Bronx in New York City a few years back. It too was in an urban pond. I would have ideally had a bit less lens (which would have let me capture even more of the water), but I was super stoked with the result nonetheless. I actually love how her golden-brown tones blend with the yellow water as reflected from the surrounding fall foliage. So, yeah, this a bird we often overlook, but, given the right attention and presentation, she can really shine!

Mallard (female) - Anus platyrhynchos
Bronx, New York City, October 2011
Canon 500mm f/4 IS + 1.4x III on EOS 7D
1/2000 at f/5.6, ISO 640


Anyway, and without going into too much detail, I'm currently nursing another calf injury, albeit on the other leg this time. This not only complicated our move from LA to SF, but has kept me generally at home for the past two weeks. I did finally make it out to Half Moon Bay on Sunday for my first Bay Area birding/photography outing. My mobility is still a bit limited, so I decided I'd photograph whatever I could find within about 200 yards of the parking area. Despite much foot traffic on the trail, I did manage to approach this Song Sparrow for a few seconds. I was very happy with the result, a result which actually precipitated the idea for this entry. 

Song Sparrow - Melospiza melodia
Half Moon Bay, California, May 2017
Canon 500mm f/4 IS on EOS 7D2
1/1250 at f/9, ISO 800
*I closed down lens since I was very close 
and wanted more depth of field on the bird

One last note about common species; They're common for a reason. Most of them are incredibly adaptable generalists that can thrive in a wide range of situations and habitats. Like it or not, those species most able to adapt to human wrought environmental changes are best positioned thrive into the future. So, for that reason, common birds are at least deserving of an evolutionary nod from us.

That's it for now. I am scheduled for my first pelagic this weekend, so hopefully I'll have something exciting to report on that front. I've never done a spring pelagic up here before (minus the cruise ship from last year), so it will be interesting to see how unfolds!

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