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A bird in the lens is worth two in the hand

I am not an ornithologist or even a “birder”, but I am fascinated by birds, both by their beauty and their flight. I enjoy photography but capturing our avian neighbors’ beauty in any of a thousand settings and especially, in flight, can be a challenge. A picture of a bird at rest can be magnificent but its true essence can only be captured in flight. It still shocks me to think that the paintings that Audubon made of our feathered friends were only after he shot and mounted them. The french term for still life, “nature morte” is more direct. The English term “still” avoids clashing with our sensibilities distancing beauty and death.

It is impossible to gaze up at almost any bird in flight and not think for even a second how great it would be to be able to fly. I don’t mean getting on board a 747 or even a jet fighter(that would actually be amazing), but to simply be able to spread one’s arms and fly at a moment’s notice. I distinctly remember channeling a large group of gulls in Nevada (yes, they do migrate through here in the winter - far from the coasts) and watched with delight their pure joy at riding the air currents. It was fun to watch a group of likely adolescent gulls dive bomb the rest of the flock resting on the ground and setting them all off into the sky again. Surrounded by all these gulls, I felt like one of the flock myself, and no, I did not have bird poop on my head from the experience.

Clearly, some species are better filmed in trees or on the ground or water. A serene swan shows the majesty that some have tried to capture in ballets. Ducklings following their mother are an awe moment as are baby birds being fed by their parents in nests. The weather can also provide a nice contrast to some scenes. Birds in the snow can be fun.

With all the cell phones out there, everyone now can be an amateur photographer, so capturing wildlife images is now more of a global interest. Maybe that will help us focus on the importance of preserving our national parks and protecting our environment. Here are a few of my favorite bird pictures.

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