Backyard birds

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If I was a birder, I’d probably be able to tell you what kind of bird this is but I don’t have a clue.

I admire photographers who can be intrigued by almost any scene they stumble upon or distracted by any little bird or bug that wanders by the neighbourhood. I enviously look over their shoulder and think that this whole photography thing must be relatively straight forward for them. Unfortunately I am not so easily distracted.

While I have a deep passion for wildlife photography, the creatures I love tend to fall in a much more, how do I say this delicately, selective band. If there’s a way to make my life more difficult, I seem to find it.

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I have to respect any creature who enjoys a good snack.

Was it possible to flex some mental muscle to change my opinion to genuinely like something? I didn’t know but I thot I’d give it a try. Rather than chasing hawks or coyotes, I decided to try to expand my horizons and give more ordinary creatures a chance – like smaller birds. Obviously the predators were playing hard to get that day and I was getting a little bored.

Just about the time I had mustered up the most enthusiasm for this new pursuit, all the wind got taken out of my sails. I was in a conversation with another photographer who disdainfully referred to these creatures as backyard birds. My energy for this pursuit just evapourated.

I have forgotten countless conversations but whenever I see a small, inconsequential bird fluttering around, all I can of think of is … you guessed, backyard birds.

To all of you chasing sparrows, wrens and other little birds, hats off to your enthusiasm – one I doubt that I will ever share. I wish you nothing but the best. While you’re busy photographing, I’m probably wandering around aimlessly not finding anything interesting. But at least I’m not distracted!

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I think this must be the bird version of king of the castle.

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Latest Comments

  1. melodylowes says:

    Hey, don’t knock the Backyard Birds. If you watch them for long enough, you will catch some of their personalities, and maybe even get a glimpse into the seamier side of their steamy little soap opera lives. 🙂 I was trying to catch some of my hummingbirds this week (between rainshowers!!) and it was sure fun. I think the subject has the importance that you attach to it!!

    Like

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Oh no! More ruffled feathers! No question there is the thrill of the chase involved in going after anything especially if it’s elusive and you get it. Perhaps you inadvertently gave me another reason I have trouble getting excited about the little birds – I don’t recall ever using the term soap opera as a positive description!

      Each subject does have the importance we attach to it but I’m intrigued by the step before that. Why did it rise in importance and what were the factors that brought it there? And why do people like soap operas? On second thot maybe scratch the last one:)

      Hummingbirds in the rain. I like the artistic potential!

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      • melodylowes says:

        You have me giggling about the soap operas. I’d much rather watch the birds myself – even if they ARE just the plain old yard variety. 🙂 Interesting thoughts. I had never considered the process before. That will make me think as I stalk my hapless birds. hehe

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  2. Phil Lanoue says:

    As I sit here on my little back screen porch typing this into an ipad I’m also watching… you guessed it, BYBs! Right now the red headed woodpeckers are at the feeders and have just yesterday started bringing around their new crop of fledglings to begin showing them the ropes and that’s always fun to witness. A variety of nuthatches, warblers, and wrens are around along with your standard issue cardinals and blue jays. But… there is not a camera in sight. I seem to be a viewer of these backyard visitors but not tremendously inclined to photograph any of them despite their attractiveness and energy.
    I can understand and appreciate the view of your ‘mystery photographer’ though. I strongly suspect that this individual likely has access to larger and somewhat more exotic birds and other wildlife, which is a good thing.
    I also agree with other commenters here whose feeling is you shoot what you have. I can relate to that because if I still lived where I used to live my wildlife subjects would largely consist of pigeons.

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    • Lyle Krahn says:

      The variety of birds in your backyard is truly impressive and far surpasses what I see in ours. It really sounds like there is a lot of energy there – the food in the feeders must be exceptional!

      No question we seem to gravitate to the most exciting thing we can access easily or is worth the sacrifice to find (in my case travelling to find bears). I imagine gators might make your top 20! Given all your wonderful shots, I’m having trouble imaging you chasing pigeons. You definitely moved to a good place.

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  3. Leslie says:

    Beautiful shots of a Kingbird. I’m usually out in the prairie or woods looking for birds to photograph but backyard birds can be interesting too, especially this time of year when they are feeding and tending to the youngsters. I can also be easily distracted by a bug, a plant or even a mushroom. Sometimes I come home with no bird photos but lots of other stuff.

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    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Thanks. You have described a good way to live life and enjoy photography. The youngsters of any species are usually seem to be more interesting and fun to photograph. There are some days I wish I could be more easily distracted!

      Like

  4. westerner54 says:

    My goal is always to be open to and interested in whatever comes my way…but it doesn’t always work. A magpie or a house sparrow is going to have to be doing something pretty out of the ordinary to get me attention, I’m afraid. Sometimes they do, though! Yesterday I saw a swallow run into a magpie in mid-air. Didn’t end well for the poor swallow. Would have been quite the photograph if I’d been ready! I like that you called your bird the king of the castle without knowing he was an eastern kingbird, by the way. 🙂

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    • Lyle Krahn says:

      That would have been quite the photograph! I agree that any creature can do something intriguing to make a good photo. I’m also looking for that magic light that can turn even a common deer into a great photo. It’s all part of the pursuit.

      I have to say I’m a lot more impressed with this bird now that I know it’s a real king.

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  5. Steve Gingold says:

    I don’t know if it is being easily distracted or just have a fascination with anything new and different, but I do like to photograph most everything within my capabilities. I am not a particularly accomplished wildlife photographer such as you but given the opportunity I will definitely give it a shot…or two…. or three. 🙂 The tough part of that is while chasing a subject of secondary or tertiary interest we might miss something that is our first interest. Or, as you say, we might just wander around aimlessly making no images.
    So you may not be all that intrigued with backyard birds, but you do seem to rise to the occasion as these work very well, Lyle.

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    • Lyle Krahn says:

      It’s funny you should mention missing our first interest. There have been so many times that I’m waiting for wildlife and nothing shows so I start playing around with landscape shots and that’s when I’m caught with an animal and all the wrong camera settings! Such is life. I know it will happen again.

      I suspected you were also one of those photographers who is fascinated with a lot of things – it makes most days a lot more fun I presume. That is not my natural default setting. In fact in earlier years I got frustrated when trying to do many kinds of photography and consciously decided to focus on fewer areas to build up some ability in those areas. Everyone is different and takes their own path.

      Actually these are reasonable looking birds and I got a lot more impressed when I found out they were Eastern Kingbirds!

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  6. Vicki says:

    With poor eyesight and living in the inner city as I do, I must say, I’m more than happy to get an image of ANY bird in reasonably good focus. So for the most part, ‘backyard birds’ it is for me. To be honest, I think a really good shot of a backyard bird takes just as much skill as an eagle in the wild, especially if they’re well camouflaged in dense leafy matter. As I don’t have a car (or drive these days), I can’t even drive up into the mountains to have a go at photographing wild birds.

    Stephen G.H. (in his comment above) says it all.

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    • Lyle Krahn says:

      You absolutely should be happy with any bird you enjoy! Each person has their preferences and opportunities and should make the most of whatever they have. Stephen certainly said it well.

      I should have been more clear in my post. I think those people who truly enjoy photographing little birds have it easier since they can do it in their back yard or close by. The creatures that I like tend to be further away and sometimes much further. I completely agree that taking photos of skittish birds takes a lot of skill and patience – I’ve done enough to know how difficult that can be. I still find it more more fun to be trying to photograph and missing the shot than driving around and not seeing anything.

      I hope you get a lot of great shots!

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  7. Gunta says:

    I’ll admit to just a touch of envy at the magnificent critters you catch with your lens, but it takes a whole lot less to please me with a marvelous beach and mother earth putting on some light shows, not to mention my backyard bald eagles…. it’s a great wide and varied world. Ain’t it wonderful we all get to enjoy it in our own way. You DID have to show off with those great shots of the humble backyard variety…. 😛

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    • Lyle Krahn says:

      OK if we are confessing jealousies here – I would love to have your backyard bald eagles. I think I would sleep there. And I’m jealous of people who are more easily pleased! There I feel better now.

      It truly is a wide and wonderful world with many different creatures and people personalities to enjoy things their own way. Thank goodness for the rich variety to avoid the dreaded boredom.

      Your last line did make me laugh (that line may come back to haunt you by the way – eagles anyone). I was too busy trying to come up with some sort of words to go with the photos which is how I ended up potentially alienating most of the people who visit this blog and like all birds. Anything to try to work in some humour you know!

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  8. donna213 says:

    So familiarity breeds boredom? I have a post on this subject in the very making and while I agree a house sparrow is pretty darn common for us, they are disappearing in other places, causing birders to find them a prize when spotting them in those countries. Colorful warblers pass through our area twice a year. They rival colors of many parrots which we will never see and I doubt they consider themselves common and unworthy of a look. They are anything but backyard birds. While I envy getting a good image of an eagle perched in a tree, it may be even more difficult to capture a tiny warbler the size of a ping pong ball in the same tree top. I love your bears and would one day love the opportunity myself to photograph them. I can see the beauty and interest in a macro shot of the tiniest insectavore predators, every bit as ferocious to their prey as a bear is to us. All is relative. All is each our preference too. I hope I did not sound too strong in my comment. I mean no disrespect since your work is leaps and bounds ahead on many that I follow. But small birds (even those bigger like herons) might be all that our area has to see on any regular basis. We wait for migration for something rarely seen during the year, and sometimes it is only a day or two of opportunity. So yes, we are on the hunt too.

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    • Lyle Krahn says:

      I can be easily bored so familiarity leads to even more boredom – you are absolutely right about that being a big contributing factor to my preferences. At the same time I fully appreciate and marvel at the importance of each species of bug and birds in the natural order of things. I envy those of you who can be lost in the photography of all these little creatures. It makes your lives so much easier. And by easier I mean that you can go to your backyard or somewhere close rather than travelling much longer distances like I have to do to find bears. I have done enough chasing little birds to know that they can be extremely tricky to capture and bugs were exasperating enough that I sold my macro lens. I have no doubt that you are on the hunt, trying to make the best shots you can with what is available (which is what I am doing too) and little bugs can be amazingly ferocious up close and personal. I certainly didn’t mean to infer anything else. Ironically bears can look like cute play things rather than ferocious beasts as well!

      We all come at this photography obsession with different assumptions and experiences that lead to different preferences. We need to find what works for us. It is all relative as you say.

      You absolutely did not come on too strong and I took no disrespect. I welcome honest disagreement – it’s usually how I learn the most. Besides if everyone agrees, somebody’s not thinking! I knew this post would be somewhat controversial but it’s no fun if can’t stir things up a little now then (see easily bored) and try to add a little humour. Besides it sometimes nets thotful comments like yours that make me think before responding. Nicely done.

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      • donna213 says:

        Thank you Lyle for your response. You may not know me from my little red gravatar because I started a new blog for my nature photos. I decided to start following you with my new blog, actually both blogs for now. I am Donna from Garden Walk Garden Talk. Since you have read some of my posts, you know I tackle subjects that create discussion too, many times having disagreement among those commenting. You probably know I myself get very bored and branch out often as well by straying from the gardening aspect of the blog into nature and wildlife. So it was time to separate my interests. It may be what keeps my blogging fresh though. I like that you venture into areas that create the controversy. It makes interesting reading. That black bear I told you is in our area? Well he has friends I hear. Maybe one day I will run into him and his buddies. You can be sure I will have my camera too.

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  9. whichwaynow101 says:

    That poor little bird will never get over you calling him “inconsequential.”

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  10. My Heartsong says:

    Well, ruffle my feathers! If I was going down a trail chasing birds and a bear came along, would I take a photo of the bird, or the bear? When I am birding, I am focused and in the moment, although if there are a few singing, yes I am distracted. If this one says, “FEE Bee!” then it is likely a Phoebe but I was also thinking of the Eastern Kingbird. That is why I have four field guides! Alas, whether it is bigger game you are chasing, or birds, it takes patience and quickness, can become an addiction and you develop a love for your subjects. I hope all of us respect our subjects and refrain from harassing them while we hone our skills with the cameras and equipment that we have . Wishing you a fast shutter, steady hand and good light. 🙂 Great captures, by the way.

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    • Lyle Krahn says:

      I suspected there would be more than a few birders reading the blog so I was trying not to ruffle too many feathers. I think the true joy of wildlife photography is being focused in the moment, as you said, on whatever catches your eye. It is a wonderfully addictive feeling that keeps pulling me back.

      No question those little birds can be quick and tricky requiring much patience. The upside is there is always something to photograph if you like chasing them. I hope you enjoy the ride. I also wish you fast shutter, steady hand and good light.:) – a great photographer’s wish. Glad you enjoyed the captures.

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  11. Patrizia M. says:

    Non sono facili da fotografare gli uccellini, ma tu ci sei riuscito benissimo. Le foto sono bellissime, complimenti!!!
    Ciao, buon fine settimana. Patrizia

    Like

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Thanks. Birds do present many challenges for photography including their habit of flying away just as I am about to trip the shutter. Glad you enjoyed these. You have a good weekend as well.

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  12. Lavinia Ross says:

    Beautiful photos, Lyle, of what I believe is an Eastern Kingbird.
    http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Eastern_Kingbird/id

    I bet the birds don’t consider themselves ordinary, or care much care about what the human animals think. 🙂 We are all just fellow travelers on this beautiful, bright blue gem of a planet. Photos of Earth taken from space always remind me of how important all species are, and how fragile life, as we currently know it, is.

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    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Eastern Kingbird it is! That’s a fine sounding name.

      That’s one thing about wildlife, they are generally far too fussed about eating and surviving to care what humans think unless they impact either one of those.

      An area that really fascinates me is the interplay between the species (from the tiniest bug to the largest predator) and how it all works together to make the world a better place. We truly are small and fragile in the grand scheme of things. Pictures from space are a good reminder.

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  13. Sue says:

    Eastern Kingbird, I think, but I didn’t know they ate fruit. These are beautiful shots of an interesting bird with a unique personality. I enjoy photographing backyard birds and bugs because I love learning more about why and how they do what they do. Getting a good photo often means standing around watching for a while, and learning more than I knew already in the process.

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    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Having a king in the name makes it seem all that more impressive. They were certainly buzzing around that day and showing personality. There seems like an unlimited amount of potential to learn things when you get into the bird world and bugs is even more. Liking that world makes it easy to find things you enjoy. Glad you the shots.

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  14. D. Robert Franz says:

    I to have been working on photographing the songbirds of my region, though I’m primarily a wildlife photographer. Have fun. This looks like an eastern kingbird to me!

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    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Thanks for the ID. I will certainly have fun since photography inevitably leads me there no matter how twisted the trail becomes. You seem to enjoy it a lot as well.

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  15. sagescenery says:

    Your photography is gorgeous! Crystal-clear colors, action!! You have truly elevated the backyard! Well done!!

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  16. Stéphane Cassin Photographie says:

    Beautiful capture 🙂

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  17. Mike Powell says:

    I am proudly a member of the “easily distracted” group of photographers, though I like to put a more positive spin on it and prefer to call myself an “opportunistic shooter.” Almost any creature has potential “stopping power” for me, including small insects and ordinary birds.

    Folks are motivated by different things and I respect those differences. Some feel a need for speed or for an adrenaline rush and will spend an amazing amount of money on fancy sports cars with powerful engines–I’m satisfied with my modest KIA Soul. Perhaps someday I will feel the desire to chase after bears and elks and hawks, but for now at least I am happy (and even enthusiastic) to know that there is an amazing world to explore at my doorstep).

    Celebrate the differences and say the words “backyard birds” with a smile, not with the disdain of your unidentified fellow photographer.

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    • Lyle Krahn says:

      There are many days when I look at people like you and I’m quite envious of the obvious pleasure you get from exploring whatever world you happen to be in at the time. I cannot fathom what that must be like!

      You are so right about the different brain wiring and motivation of people. Perhaps ironically, I enjoy noting those differences and trying to analyze them (typically unsuccessfully). And given my love of attempted humour, I also enjoy having a little fun with it.

      Wouldn’t it be fascinating to take a pill and get someone’s personality for a week? What an experience that would be!!

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  18. anotherday2paradise says:

    Great pics of this sweet bird. 🙂

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  19. Stephen G. Hipperson says:

    I think you should appreciate that it’s not necessarily lack of ambition on our part but lack of opportunity (in part brought about by other life choices, I have no doubt). Our interest in ‘backyard’ birds gives us, in our minds, some sense of doing it too – doing something the ‘big boys’ do (aka, you!).
    This, coupled with the lack of resources in the way of gear, lack of public access to natural places and most of all lack of subject means the chances of us ‘getting onto something good’ are slim indeed.
    So we have to accept the mediocrity of our subject matter, (pleased we have any wildlife at all), photographing it with our less than optimum equipment, in the limited amount of time our other life choices provide us with.
    In the meantime, we will continue to admire and judge our output against the true masters of the art, like yourself.
    😉 🙂

    Like

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      You raised a good point that I hadn’t considered and made me think about it – that’s good. I certainly didn’t intent to slight anyone for lack of ambition since that hadn’t occurred to me. I just saw a lot of people genuinely interested in birds and quite frankly envied their ability to quickly access something exciting while it takes much more travel and planning (and some measure of luck) to get the creatures I really enjoy. I tried to post something part humorous, part provocative with some bird shots. The response has been quite interesting.

      As you said, each of our life situations is different and you gave me an excellent reminder to be thankful for the wonderful opportunities I’ve had. You made an impressive list of factors that lead to getting wildlife images and they are all true. I have made quite a few choices that put photography as a high priority to enable me to get the photos I have. Of course, I tend to think about the photographers who have been able to capture the wild creatures and shots I’ve dreamed about rather than those who have had less opportunity. Human nature seems to drive me that direction sooner. While that isn’t always good, it does push me to try harder. Wherever we are in that journey, we certainly share the thrill of capturing wildlife.

      I genuinely appreciate your high praise for my images though I would save the master title for others.

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