Finding Humor, Finding Birds

One of the things that keep us going is our ability to find humor and to laugh. It might not be a survival need (like writing), but sometimes it sure feels like it. How many times have you heard someone say, in response to something funny, “God, I needed that!” Speaking of things funny, here’s a Song Sparrow waiting for the 9:05. It was running a little late. I was tempted to add a briefcase or portfolio.

Song Sparrow
Song Sparrow

Finding Humor

It’s interesting, this notion of “finding humor.” It implies that humor is everywhere. Well, it is! Here’s an example from an email Bob sent to the Carolinabirds listserv/email group on 2/13. Most subscribers are birders from the Carolinas.

Driving in between US 78 and SC-27 to 61, I saw both Cliff Swallows and Purple Martins skimming a small pond on Friday. This past Wednesday I saw a Blackpoll Warbler in Irmo waiting for an oil change at Jim Hudson Toyota. Migration is starting. Be ready!

I read the email, paused, and broke up laughing. Darn those pesky modifiers! I then forwarded it to the VA-BIRD listserv. Most of the subscribers there are birders from Virginia. Barbara from Fairfax responded, “Thank you for the laugh, David. I was in need of cheerful news today!” There’s that word “need” again.

The Female Downy

In “Whispers of Spring,” I shared some photos of a female Downy as she created a nest hole in a snag in Chesapeake. Here’s another—a wide-angle shot. I’m not crazy about it, but it shows the wood chips being dispersed, and it gives you a sense of the little bird’s strength and power.

Downy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker

The Bluebird Pair

You’ll recall that I thought the nest hole would become the female’s nest site in the spring. Now, I’m not so sure. Not expecting to see too much, my wife and I visited the area on 2/16. We approached the tree, looked up, and watched as an Eastern Bluebird pair explored the hole and flew off. I was so caught off guard that I missed the opportunity to photograph them. I’d forgotten a wildlife photography basic: expect the unexpected. 

As I was ruing the missed opportunity, and as we waited in vain for the pair to return, I had a comforting thought. For the first time ever, I’d seen a primary cavity nester create a cavity, and I’d seen a secondary cavity nester explore it. How cool was that? Eastern Bluebirds and many other species rely on woodpeckers to create holes so they can use them as nest sites. Now, in the absence of natural holes, these birds will look for artificial ones that meet their needs. Here’s a male bluebird approaching its nest inside a casing vent marker. You can read “the rest of the story” in “More Bird Notes.”

Adult male Eastern Bluebird
Adult male Eastern Bluebird

The Chat and the Mocker

Some readers have commented on the Yellow-breasted Chat close-up in “Color Play.” Ruth wrote, “The chat is so close, it looks like he/she will turn and say something to you (chat)!” I liked that, and the bird was close. When I’m photographing birds during the nonbreeding season, I’ll occasionally use an audio lure (and only an audio lure—never food) to bring a bird closer. I’ll use a call or a song from my Audubon Bird Guide App. I did that this time, and the bird approached within feet. That’s how I was able to get the close-ups, albeit through dense brush. Here’s a “full-body” one. Notice how the brush softened part of the image. That softening can be effective, sometimes.

Yellow-breasted Chat
Yellow-breasted Chat

Here’s another close-up and another example of that softening effect. This is a Northern Mockingbird. You never have to use any kind of lure with this species. As I’ve said before, thank God for those abundant and approachable species—species every one of us can watch and enjoy.

Northern Mockingbird
Northern Mockingbird

And This Just In

If you enjoy bird humor—or humor, period—you’ll love “Laugh Loud.” It’s been viewed over 1,000 times.

Always exercise care when approaching and photographing birds. Truth be told, my wife and I may have gotten a little too close to the bluebirds—or approached them a little too quickly—as they investigated the new nest hole. We may have forgotten one rule and broken another. Use audio lures sparingly and smartly, especially during the breeding season. Around sensitive species, like owls, never use them at all.

Quip, Question, Quote

Here’s a paragraph and some great food for thought from Amy Gulick’s “The Coyote and the Tiger.” 

Early in my career, I probably spent 20 percent of my time looking for subjects and 80 percent of my time photographing them. Today, those numbers have flipped. Why? Spending more time looking allows me to get out of the neocortex and into the primitive brain. I slow down. I’m able to take in all of my surroundings and be discerning. I see…really see. Everything becomes a potential subject. I notice details, light, patterns, reflections and more.

Swamp Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow




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