Some birds are almost impossible to photograph because of their behavior. Some are nervous as soon as they see a human’s profile and fly to cover. Others never – OK, rarely – come out to play with the lens. You hear them and can see movement in the brush but you don’t see the bird clearly enough for a photo. Yet others like this Ruby-crowned Kinglet are frenetic. You can see them in the open fairly frequently but they rarely sit still long enough to compose-focus-shoot. I’ve junked hundreds of frames of these birds due to motion blur and just poor performance on my part.
The Ruby-crowned kinglet quickly became one of my “target birds”. These are birds that sit near the top of my list of unphotographed birds. They are at the top because I’ve seen them repeatedly and failed to bring home the goods. Maybe I should think about the top ten birds on that list as my “frustration file”.
But occasionally luck prevails and I find a bird in the open that sits still long enough to actually get a photo. Luck plays heavily in a lot of my photography. I’m just fine with that and can quickly make up a great story of learning about the bird’s behavior and preferences along with long periods of time spent studying them in the wild. But the fact is that most of the time I just get lucky and have my camera dialed in (mostly) and the bird jumps in front of it. Click.
This kinglet was busy foraging for bugs in the duff below a fir tree on the north side of Commonwealth Lake Park in Beaverton, Oregon. When nervous, it would hop up onto a branch and prepare to dive for cover. I approached the area slowly and on a “wander around” path. I’ve heard that birds relax if they think you are not looking at them or have something else on your mind. I think that’s mostly bunk but I’ll do whatever I can to get a shot of a bird on my list. This bird was pretty involved with its foraging and seemed to tolerate me as I moved in. I watched a few minutes as it hopped around and pre-focused on an area that it was frequently using. When it hopped onto the stage I’d take a few frames. Even with that amount of cooperation and preparation my failure rate was over 90%. Whatever. I got a decent shot of the elusive Ruby-crowned Kinglet.
Males of the species have a bright red patch on the top of their heads that they show only when trying to impress a female or to defend a territory against another male. Someday I hope to get a photo of one of these that actually shows this feature. Yes, the bird is still near the top of my list.