Monday, April 16, 2018

Going B&W?

"One day you stepped in snow, the next in mud, water soaked in your boots and froze them at night, it was the next worst thing to pure blizzardry, it was weather that wouldn't let you settle."

― E.L. Doctorow

What wild north winds wrought upon Wisconsin ...

We got fairly lucky in the southern part of the state. My friends and family to the north reported over 20 inches of snow, and some places got 30! That's just crazy. Having said that, it really isn't that uncommon to have a mid-April blast of arctic weather. Back in 2014, a wintery revival provided an opportunity to obtain some of my best-ever Hermit Thrush photographs.

A man named Hiam, whom I had just met, asked if he could tag along with me during my Sunday hike along the creek corridor. I was more than happy to oblige. As a new birder, it was a great learning opportunity for him. He was having difficulty distinguishing differences between Hermit Thrushes, Fox Sparrows, Song Sparrows, and a few other "little brown jobs," so I provided him with various identification strategies. Though I didn't point out everything I heard, the outing rendered 47 species. Hiam picked up a few life birds, too, though I don't recall which ones.

Sometimes I feel a temptation to go completely black and white with my photography, or somehow reinvent what I do in order to differentiate my work from clone blogs. Am I bored? There are valid reasons, like when shooting for black and white I tend to look at things differently―a particular mindset for setting out and seeing the world and light in a particular way. It certainly redirects the emphasis more so on composition, shapes, patterns, textures, and not necessarily subject portraiture. But there are so many exuberant colors in Nature, and that's a big part of the "wow" effect when people look at someone's photography. What would it be like to photograph tiger beetles only in black and white? Perhaps it's best just to mix it up a bit. Still, my creative sense wants to explore and cross new boundaries with photography.

No early April Louisiana Waterthrush this time!

The snowy weather did provide me with something new: I don't think I've ever observed so many Hermit Thrushes at the conservancy. Normally camouflaged with earth tones, they were far easier to detect as they flew and foraged against the white wintery backdrop. It does make one ponder just how many birds don't get counted during an outing because they're silent and unseen.

Pheasant Branch, Dane, Wisconsin, US
Apr 15, 2018 2:15 PM - 4:00 PM
47 species

Canada Goose
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Ring-necked Duck
Lesser Scaup
Pied-billed Grebe
Great Blue Heron
American Coot
Wilson's Snipe
Ring-billed Gull
Mourning Dove
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
American Kestrel
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Winter Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
European Starling
Yellow-rumped Warbler
American Tree Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Rusty Blackbird
Common Grackle
House Finch
Purple Finch
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch

© 2018 Mike McDowell

1 comment:

  1. Nice photos as always! I wanted to tell you about some major excitement last week at my house. The 3 toms who have been hanging around for the last couple years were roosted next door in my neighbors' oak tree as usual when around 10pm 3 Barred Owls went completely nuts and started harassing them. One owl perched in some cedars near the oak and the other 2 owls kept circling the turkeys and would zoom near a turkey at the same time. The owls flew very close together. All 3 owls made constant bloodcurdling calls similar to their usual calls but much louder and sounded more like shrieks than calls. Of course the turkeys were gobbling like crazy, too. This went on for 15 min and then the owls all flew off together. There are a lot of owls in my neighborhood but I have never seen behavior like that. It was quite exciting and I was glad there was no actual attack.