Many loved Joanne Howl’s touching European Starling story in “A Life Lesson.” One reader commented that it wasn’t just a story about starlings, it was a “lesson about prejudice.” I responded that she’d made a great point. Another reader commented that starlings were “hoodlums.” I responded, “WE might be the real hoodlums.” I don’t think I would have come up with that on my own. I was thinking, there, about another comment, which ended with this: “It is ironic that there is such a commotion about most of these invasive species, when humans are the most invasive and causing the most harm to most other species on this planet.”
Many also enjoyed reading The Scuffletown Creek Hunters. I enjoyed sharing the story and photos.
The Red-shouldered Hawk
As promised, here are a few more photos of the immature Red-shouldered I happened upon near Scuffletown Creek in Chesapeake, VA. I opted not to straighten any of them. This is my personal favorite. It was the first photo I took after I’d danced around the teacup to get the composition, the lighting, and the background I wanted. I’m reminded of Glenn Randall’s excellent piece, “Visualize, Plan, Shoot.” In a short time frame, I visualized, planned, and shot/released the shutter.
Here’s a similar, more tightly cropped photo. It’s a favorite, too.
As I noted in “Birds Are Markers,” I generally want subjects facing me. But if they’re not and they’re compelling, it doesn’t matter where they’re facing.
I took this photo of a young lady doing calisthentics at the base of the Jordan Bridge and only feet from where the hawk was perched. She wasn’t facing me either, but who would deny she doesn’t attract our interest? As I look at her, I think about my time in the black church. I also think about a fine line between exercise and worship.
Here’s another photo of the hawk. Look at those eyes and imagine the bird’s visual acuity. As I understand it, birds of prey have structures in their eyes that aren’t unlike telephoto lenses.
The Hunting Party
Also as promised, here are more photos of the hunting party. You’ll recall that I discovered it after I watched a Canada Goose fall from the sky in front of me.
Here’s a frame with the decoys they used. There’s a Canada Goose pair and a Mallard and Gadwall in correct plumage. All are tethered, and all are realistic and life-size. Careful and thoughtful planning there. Hunters understand the same thing that birders and bird photographers understand and take advantage of: birds are drawn to the presence of other birds. If birds are already around, either resting or feeding, it’s only a matter of time before other birds show up.
Here’s another shot. It’s not my favorite, but I wanted you to notice a few things. There are two boys in the boat. The younger one is hidden, and the older one is looking straight at me. This hunting party spotted me early on. The photo also shows how well everything is camouflaged. I’m reminded of the following message I sent to FM Forums (a photography forum where I share some of my work): “It’s migratory waterfowl hunting season here in Virginia. I captured this party this a.m. as I was out photographing birds. They were camouflaged, including their Lab. The only camouflage I had was the LensCoat around my telephoto and a small stand of saltbush.” I sent the message with an accompanying photo.
Here’s another, more pleasing photo of the group after they’d shoved off. They hadn’t started their outboard yet and were doing some touch-up. This also might be a better shot of camouflage covering everything. Notice how the colors blend in with the background.
Lastly, here’s a close-up—a group photo. It’s clear to me that dad is on the right and that those are his boys. We photographers learn a lot from studying our photos. That’s one of the many advantages of carrying a camera into the field.
Upon seeing this photo, an FM Forums member commented that it was nice to see a family doing something together and carrying on what is a family tradition for many. Another FMer chimed in: “Do you ever worry about getting shot out in the field?” I responded, “I do worry if we’re talking about big or small game and if I’m in the woods or something. But I was on the edge of a creek near a public park, and they were way on the other side, at least several hundred feet away. And they were clearly focused on things airborne, on birds.”
Since we’re talking about comments—one reader who read “The Scuffletown Creek Hunters” asked me why I was promoting hunting and told me he hated hunters. Strong words. Another reader’s comment was more nuanced. She wrote, “Hunting for survival is one thing, but much of it today seems to be just death sport. It is wrong.” I replied, “I’m not sure it’s wrong. It’s legal and sanctioned and appears to be just about the best method of controlling various populations. Hunters also feed their families and others with what they bring home. Another thing that I find interesting—hunters have traditionally been in the forefront of conservation efforts. Still, very hard seeing a Canada Goose fall from the sky at the hands of one.”
Jay, a hunter, followed up with this response: “You are correct, hunters are usually ethical and for conservation of all species and habitat. Like all facets of society, there will always be a few that degrade the rest, unfortunately. Also, many hunters, myself included, feel an unexplainable sadness, respect, awe, and gratitude when we harvest an animal. I enjoy participating in the circle of life even when it breaks my heart. Thank you for sharing.”