Like most mornings, I was in my car driving to my first birding location before the sun rose over the horizon. Aside from the fact that birds are most active in the morning when they are busy finding breakfast, one can not stress to strongly if your goal is to capture some nice images, the Golden Hour is named such because the soft light of dawn dramatically enhances the type of photograph one may capture. Many birds have plumage which get “blown out” as the bright light of day progresses. Such is the case with each of this mornings subjects:
- Great Blue Heron
- Belted Kingfisher
- Common Merganser
Their feathers have lots of grays, whites, and light blues which do not tend to photograph well later in the day. In addition, the rest of the scene often has nice colors which helps the end result. One drawback is it is very, very difficult to get high quality “motion” photos in the early light. I actually watched all three of today’s subjects catch fish, but it was impossible to have a fast enough shutter speed to capture the “act of the catch”! The final advantage of the time right after sunrise is one may often get closer to individual birds. If you sneak up with the sun directly behind you, the birds have difficulty seeing you given the low angle of the sun to the horizon.
There could not be a better truism … doughnuts are a magical birding good, particularly if you are taking a five year old granddaughter on her first birding expedition. With more and more children growing up in huge urban areas, it is the responsibility of those of us who are fortunate enough to live with easily accessible wilderness to help the next generation learn an appreciation for the natural world.
Mya, one of my four grandchildren, just spent a week with us here on the edge of Duluth. Prior to taking her out birding I had scouted locations which were likely to result in a successful birding expedition both in terms of easily seeing birds, and providing enjoyment for a five year old. The mouth of the Lester River on Lake Superior was just the ticket for Mya and me. I knew birds would be present without much difficulty in terms of access, and we could also always spend time of the stone beach throwing rocks into the lake.
Mya (and me) had a great time. My friendly Merlins perched on dead tree branches where they were easily viewed. In addition, a bird which normally spooks easily, Belted Kingfishers, actually provided us easy views. Finally, on the way home we stopped off at the grocery store and purchased fresh doughnuts. After all … good birding always ends with doughnuts!
There has been a nice response to this post. I decided I should expand my approach on some of the ways I am teaching the next generation about birding. The first item is fairly obvious, easily viewable bird feeders. All my grandchildren love watching birds from inside our home. Viewing can be short and enjoyable … 30 Seconds!
In addition, for Christmas last year I was given “Birding Bingo”. This game has become a favorite, and only costs $12 via Amazon. Here is a screenshot. My grandkids don’t care much about winning, but warning … they like to fill the entire board! There are different versions of this game, but I like the one by Lucy Hammett Games … good “local” birds.