Life & Leisure

Bird watching on a cloudy afternoon

If I had Edgar Allan Poe’s talent, these bird photos would probably be accompanied by verses like these:

“For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door –
Bird or beast above the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as ‘Nevermore.'” Bird on the garden fence

But a poet, I am not. So, let me just say that I saw, through our bedroom door that overlooks the garden, the bird perched on the rear fence much like I had chanced upon other birds perched on the same spot on many afternoons before. The only difference is that, a couple of hours ago when I saw the bird perched there as though surveying the neighborhood, I had my camera on the bed beside me and the camera bag with the telephoto lens was right beside it. Silently but swiftly, and without making any sudden movements that might have scared the bird away, I changed camera lenses then started shooting right there from the bed. But the bird was too far away. I stood up, walked to the door, happy that the bird was still there. Bird watching

Much better shot, don’t you agree? Bird photography

But a bird is not the most cooperative subject for photography. Every little movement can create blur. And when taken from a distance, the blurring can be a serious problem especially during overcast days when lighting conditions aren’t the best. The camera with the telephoto lens was heavy too and camera shake was causing the bird photos to blur even more. I started moving to get the tripod when, perhaps, the bird finally got wind of my activity and flew away. Malas ko.

I’ve taken a lot of bird photos over the years — macaws, cuckatoos, parakeets, storks, the beautiful Victoria Crown pigeon with its amazing crown, pheasants, flamingos and peacocks — but I still get excited enough to get my camera when even the most common and plain-looking birds just fly in from nowhere.

But what I love even more is photographing birds in flight. Like these egrets preying on bangus in a pond in Panay. Amazingly graceful. So awesome but so difficult to photograph. And how often does one see birds in flight and have a camera ready? Funny but I’ve never been a bird lover as a child. I didn’t get interested in birds until we saw this movie called “Fly Away Home” starring Jeff Daniels and a very young Anna Paquin.

In a nutshell:

The film was loosely based on the real-life experiences of Bill Lishman, a Canadian inventor, artist, and ultralight aircraft hobbyist. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Lishman openly wondered if geese and similar birds could be taught new migration patterns by following ultralight aircraft onto which they had been imprinted. In 1993, after several years of logistical and bureaucratic setbacks, Lishman successfully led a flock of Canada Geese on a winter migration from Ontario, Canada to Northern Virginia, U.S.A. Of the 16 birds that participated in the migration, 13 of them returned the following year entirely on their own.

Sam loved that movie. She was about five years old when she first saw it and she would watch it everyday; sometimes, more than twice in one day. And I often watched with her. A beautiful film, really — sometimes sad, sometimes funny and very inspiring.

So, my interest in migratory birds began. I hope I get a chance to visit the Candaba Swamps sanctuary. They say the best time is December to January when migratory birds fly in to escape the harsh winter months. That’ll be a blast.

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