Migratory Bird Photography Lots of Opportunity on the San Pedro River
Migratory bird photography is one of those simple pleasures that can be a thrill when you find out that you have the unexpected picture of a bird in flight. Or it can be one of those frustrating shots where the bird in out of focus because your automatic focus was on a branch and not the bird. Sometimes you get the shot just as the bird takes flight and if you are lucky an action shot has been caught or if not then you have the background and maybe the tail of the bird as a reminder of what you saw.
The San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area is renowned for the migratory bird photography that can be had with a little patience and some good luck. During the year up to 400 species of birds can be found in the area and I have been lucky enough to have been able to record around 100 in the ten years that I have been here at Down By The River B and B. Naturally I am not out every day taking photos or I would probably have more. Some birds are easier to photograph than others. The ones at the feeders are posing as you sit on the patio while others only appear when you don’t have your camera or dart in and out.
I have found that it is wise always to have your camera with you as you walk around the San Pedro River. There are times you need to just sit and wait in an area that you hear bird calls. After a while they come out. But there are
things that will mess up your day. Two such problems are simple things that you do to yourself. They are not having your battery fully charged or not having a spare. The other is not checking to make sure your card too full with shots that you have taken and not saved to your computer. I have made both mistakes when I was in a hurry and regretted it later. The bird flew away while I did the Homer Simpson “DOH!”
I have had some success with migratory bird photography because I did have my camera and a long range lens. In 10 years I have seen many Gray Hawks but only once was I able to get a photograph of one. I almost left my camera at home that morning but was persuaded to go back and get it before we left. The bird was on a pole 2 minutes into our drive and allowed me to shoot 4 shots before it decided to leave. Just a little preparation will help you more times than good luck.
There has been other times when I came into view of birds and they started flying off in all directions. I have had my camera at the ready and followed a bird in the viewfinder. I never know what I have and hoped that the shot would take. When I get it on the computer then I know if my shot was successful. With practice, if you follow the bird with the camera and take the shot, you get the bird perfectly frozen in flight while the background is blurry. This gives you the effect of motion. This is much better than not moving the camera and you see a clear background and a blurry bird. Try it out sometime and see what you get. You may surprise yourself with one of those shots that make you go Wahoo!
So prepare, be patient, be ready and improvise to see what works. Good luck. Oh and one last thing don’t watch the bird in your view finder for so long that you forget to take the picture while you have it. Been there and did that too many times to remember.