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Stalking Birds

The classical wisdom is to approach birds slowly and quietly while avoiding direct eye contact. Talking quietly to the birds or making a soothing sound toward establishing a relationship is also recommended. And some recommend drab clothing to avoid being seen or being so obvious, which is at odds with establishing a relationship.

That said, here are some of my thoughts on getting closer to birds to take their picture or at least have fun trying.

Alligator swallowing Great Blue HeronFirst, let me say what I think birds think, or should think. They should view people as a potential threat for obvious historical reasons. And they should view people as a dangerous distraction. Dangerous because, with their small, bird brain, they have to keep on hunting for food while evaluating how much risk I pose AND staying alert for other predators that may be stalking them. I can imagine how, when all this mental processing is taking place, the birds choice becomes to just fly away. Picture of Alligator swallowing Great Blue Heron.

So, I dress in high contrast, easy to see clothing as my goal is to give the bird an easy ability to see me and keep track of me. This differs from the sneak up on them, wear drab clothing school. Here you have to make a choice, to be perceived as non threatening or to not be seen at all.

Then, when approaching the bird, I move slowly and not directly toward the bird. And I stop periodically and just look some place other than the bird as if I have an agenda and the bird is not it.

And finally, I avoid direct eye contact. But here I have learned to be careful because what I have found is that if I look at a bird, as I must while taking it's picture, it often stays put until I look away. Then when I look back, it's gone. My thinking here is that they see my not-looking as a safe opportunity to leave. So now, when I lower my camera, perhaps to change settings,  I stay alert to the possibility of an in flight action shot when I look up.

Great Egret flying toward meAs for shots of flying birds, I never deliberately spook a bird to get it to fly. First because I'm not that kind of guy and second, because if I did, the bird would probably fly away from me and all I would get is a butt shot. So what I do is step back, when other people are in the area, and wait until they spook the bird. When this happens my chances of getting a good shot are much better and I'm not the bad guy. Picture of Great Egret flying toward me.

  

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