A little more than a year ago I started photographing birds in the areas surrounding our house here in the Riviera Maya. Orioles, Yucatan Jays, Pigmy Owls, Egrets, Tropical Mockingbirds, Hummingbirds, Woodpeckers, Doves, elusive Toucans and high-performance Frigates and Pelicans, they have all been relatively easy to spot and photograph without straying too far from home.
Now I often walk the jungle near the shoreline, or farther inland, trying to learn how to move quietly and how to best use my eyes and ears not only to spot the birds, but to actually see them.
Usually the birds decide when and how to reveal themselves. I choose a spot that feels right and wait there motionless for them to appear. Something always happens, often not what I expected.
A while back I went out hoping to find one of the four or five Toucans that had been spotted by neighbors. I chose my place and waited for almost two hours, standing on the edge of a small water pond surrounded by high trees, my camera equipped with the 300mm/f4 lens, set on the monopod and pointed up towards the branches across the pond. I managed to get several good images of Orioles, Flycatchers and White Winged Doves, but no Toucans.
I finally decided to try my fortune in a different spot and started to move, only to be frozen in place by the sound of flapping wings. For a second that now seems much longer I looked up and there it was, a Keel-billed Toucan (Ramphastos sulphuratus) flying from treetop to treetop, away and into the jungle. It had been camouflaged in the branches right above me all along, but I wasn’t ready to photograph it after triggering its flight instinct.
I remember the colorful bill, too big it seems until you see the bird gliding, sun shining through its wings, a translucent display of feathery design in motion. I didn’t get the photo, but I’m still thankful for the vision. I must keep trying.
My initial efforts photographing birds have been rewarded with an incipient collection of good images and now I would like to photograph all species in the Yucatan Peninsula, close to five hundred counting residents and migrants. Experienced birders advise, however, not to become too obsessed with bird-lists. It’s advice I feel inclined to follow, for it’s not the destination that matters, it’s the journey.
I hope to turn this blog into a long collection of short journeys. It will serve as my trail of crumbs to help me remember where I’ve been, and also plan where I’ll be going. The idea is to ride my motorcycle to potential bird photography spots. After each outing I will post a trip report with an image gallery from that particular trip. In order to get started I will first post several galleries with some of the images I’ve already made. No trip reports for those images, the idea being to push this blog toward its first steps.
I will also share any useful experiences and thoughts I may gather along the way. Having no formal training whatsoever in biology or birds, I will continue to read as much as I can and surf the web for information about birds, posting links to useful and inspiring sources of information I find.
Comments, criticism and ideas will always be welcome.
Enough said. For any of all this birding to take place one must first abandon all other concerns and enter not only a geographical location, but also a serene mental landscape.
Let’s ride into birdland.
IGH – Riviera Maya, August 2011.