Sunday, June 24, 2012

There's No Place Like Home

Before we get to the main part of my first post here on "Birding is Fun!", I wanted to take a minute to thank Robert Mortensen for honoring me with an invitation to become a regular contributor. I have been a reader of this blog and the individual blogs of several of the BiF contributors for some time. I really look forward to getting to know our readers over the coming months and years so please don’t be strangers!

A common misconception shared by many amateur avian watchers and photographers is the need to venture deep into isolation in order to photograph interesting species. I am often asked, “How far into the wilderness did you have to go to make that photograph”. This mindset often stops would be beginners from taking the plunge and becoming part of the birding revolution. The truth of the matter is you can enjoy bird watching from many places easily accessible to everyone.  In fact, most successful photographers search out such locations. If you think about this, it makes perfect sense.  The logistics and physical effort of carrying heavy gear on long hikes is not practical even for the rugged wildlife photographer! My own experience with hiking to remote photographic locations usually results in landscape photography, which requires a significantly smaller and lighter kit than wildlife photography.
White Breasted Nuthatch Surveying the Landscape
I’ll share a secret with you. One of the best locations I photograph birds is my own backyard. Yes, you heard me right, my own backyard. It takes a little planning to ensure you are able to control the elements like background, light and perch size but the results are usually worth the effort.  In fact, you need to control these elements regardless of whether you are in the wilderness or at the end of a fishing pier. Some of my favorite places to photograph are all public areas. Beaches as well as state and national parks are fantastic places to start looking for easily accessible wildlife.
Tufted Titmouse with Seed
The two images above and the Northern Flicker below were taken in my backyard. I know what some of you are saying, that I must live on a farm. The truth of the matter is I live in a suburb of New York City, in Fairfield County, Connecticut. While I might have a little more land than most, I don’t live on a bird sanctuary. But I do work hard to create an environment on my property that encourages bird visits. I always have full bird feeders and I provide water sources for the birds to drink. While some will say that’s a great idea, it really is not any different from how bird reserves operate in the southwest. They tend to set up bird blinds around food and water sources and in some instances provides branches as perches away from where any trees are located.  Even if photographing in your yard is not practical, I promise you with a little effort and imagination you can find locations within your town and state where wildlife thrives not far from your local coffee shop.

The Internet is a great place to start your research.  Local bird and wildlife organizations are a great resource when looking for places to photograph.  Your local Audubon Society can usually make several suggestions if you call them and ask for help.
Mature Osprey Returning to the Nest
Lastly, local and national parks and wildlife refuges are scattered across many areas. Most people are shocked to find out just how many wildlife viewing locations there are in their community! Another fantastic resource is the Birding is Fun website and the websites of the many regular contributors. Many of us bird regularly and are not shy about giving away locations where you can safely and successfully view birds.
Laughing Gull
Once you select your locations, I promise you will be amazed at how many different species of wildlife you will encounter in your community. You will ask yourself how it is that you missed seeing the wildlife around you for so many years! Connecticut alone is filled with a healthy wildlife community. Many people associate Connecticut with the mansions of Greenwich but the opportunity to learn from and about its wildlife is enormous. Connecticut is home to hundreds of bird species. Over 400 bird species have been identified in Connecticut.
Northern Flicker
So if you are reading this post and you have been thinking about becoming a birder or avian photographer but have been afraid to start because you think you need to travel to exotic locations, I am here to tell you that viewing wildlife doesn’t need to occur only in the wild.  Don’t be afraid, start in your yard!

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  1. Great post and awesome shots of the birds. I love the osprey photo.

  2. Gorgeous photos Vincent! I enjoyed your post!

  3. Great topic Vincent! Some of my favorite bird photos that I have taken myself are from my own backyard. You have some beautiful creations in those images. Well done!

    Welcome to the Birding is Fun! team!

  4. Terrific photos, Vincent, I'm looking forward to future posts!

  5. Thank you all very much for the kind words.

  6. Cheers Vincent! I definitely agree--the best locations for photos seem to be parks, backyards, maintained nature preserves.

    There are a few elusive species that one must pursue into the ruff, but all in all there's great birding to be done at the more accessible, even urban locations.

  7. Welcome to the BiF team Vincent! This is a great first post, I've always felt new photographers should spend plenty of time getting to know thier gear close to home before making long trips to other locations. The practice close to home really helps.

  8. ...welcome, Vincent! Your photos are beautiful. I spend a lot of time skulking around my yard with a camera too! :-)

  9. I enjoyed your first post Vincent - welcome! And I fully agree that many (perhaps most) of our best opportunities for bird photography are closer and more easily available than many folks believe.

  10. Welcome to the team. Great photos!

  11. Welcome to the wonderful BIF team! Fabulous post, Vincent! Your enthusiasm is evident. What you say is so very true. I live in Chicago, a city not usually associated with birding. But there are many glorious parks, preserves and beaches in The Windy City and surrounding areas to see stunning birds. One does not have to travel very far. Outstanding photographs in this post!

  12. Well done Vincent and what beautiful photographs! It's funny, I just post photos of the birds in my backyard last night. I so agree with you! I find most of the birds for my blog right in my own town! This is a well written post that I thoroughly enjoyed! Welcome to the team! BTW, I did not realize that you are from CT! I grew up there and visit often!

  13. Beautiful photos and I really like the Osprey. That's one we do not see very often.

    Home is our favorite birding "hot spot". Just today, we can claim Cliff Swallows as a yard bird. We do live out in the country, so get quite a fascinating mix. We have yet to get a Titmouse or a Chickadee to our feeders, the closest they've been is about a half mile from here. We suspect we do not have enough tree cover, but the variety we get more than makes up for it. What a joy to go out in the morning and hear Bobolinks and both Meadowlarks.

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