Welcome Back, King!

I’ve been waiting to see the first Kingbird of the season. I love, love, love these birds. On Saturday, I saw my first. It was in our front yard perched on the top of our mini-van luggage rack, of all places! I didn’t get a photo, not that it matters because who wants a photo of a bird on a car?

Yesterday, it was supposed to rain all day. I didn’t plan to go out looking around. But, by mid-afternoon, I began to see moments of sunshine and not long after that the sunshine began beckoning me outdoors. I made a plan to sit in a newly carved out hideaway that Robert created for me along the north end of the west side of the pond. The view of the pond isn’t spectacular, and it wasn’t meant to be. That is a place where I have seen lots of little birds flitting around, but they are too deep in the brush for me to even consider identifying, let alone filming them. The newly mowed area is surrounded by mature trees, and there are a few very young, volunteer trees in the center, that Robert left. I hoped they would provide a quick stopping spot for birds traveling from one brushing area to the next, and where the sun would illuminate them in the sparsely leafed out, little trees.

As I moved into the little clearing, the first thing I heard was an American Robin shouting a crisis. Clearly, it had a nest nearby, and I quickly spotted it based on the bird’s movements. It was about waist high in the crook of a tree that was about fifteen feet away. I was fairly certain that, as long as i held my position, the Robin and his mate would relax. They did.

Next I began to hear Catbirds. This is another species I was hoping to see for the first time this season. I had heard them for a few days, but I was excited to see a pair of them fly from the mature trees right into those smaller trees in the center of the space. Wow. it was as if I was receiving exactly what I had hoped for. Unfortunately, it was during a period of complete cloud cover and the dark gray birds were a challenge for me to focus upon before they flew to the brush at the other side of the clearing. The pictures are not worth sharing here, but I am happy to know that I have a place to perhaps locate them again.

Then, I spotted a Kingbird across the pond. It was perched on a curved branch, which was obscured by some tall grass on my side of the pond. That tends to show up as a blurry patch in a photo, and that’s what’s happened. But, I’m sharing this photo as a matter of perspective.

I knew that I was too far away to get a great image, but I was excited to have seen a Kingbird in his natural world. These birds hunt insects. That quality makes them fairly easy to film, as they perched for a bit while trying to spot their nest meal. They often return to the same perch after they catch the bug, which provides even more time to focus and capture the image.

I watched the Kingbird hunting on the other side of the pond, and figured that there was no reason to restrict himself to the East side. I hoped he would fly over to my side and land right in a patch of sun. Then, I was interrupted by an Osprey, flying over the south end of the pond. I was amazed when I saw it pull its wings tight to its body, and dive head first into the water. I only saw the tuck and drop until the trees obscured my vision. But, I heard the splash. Moments later, I saw the large bird rise up over the pond, again and fly north with a large fish in his talons! I decided to follow him in the event he stopped in the mature trees at the north end of the property to eat his meal. Unfortunately, he kept flying north until I could no longer spot him. But, hey, that was a very incredible experience to have had!

With Kingbird still in my plans to capture on film, and with the small hope that the Osprey might return for a second course, I moved over to the pond to settle and wait for great opportunities. On my way, I saw a bird in the top of a tree and nearly just passed it by. It looked like it might be a female Red-winged blackbird, but something told me it was worth the effort to shoot, even though it was into the sun. I was quite surprised to download the images and realize I had no clue what species it was. Yellow head? Maybe a Yellow-headed Blackbird. That would be incredible, as we are just barely on the edge of their migration zone. But, before I could scroll down to the letter “Y” on the list of Blackbirds in the guide, I reached Bobolink. This is a Bobolink! It’s a bird in decline. We sit on the edge between migration and breeding zones, so it would be great if this bird and his mate stuck around for the summer!

I settled in a spot on the west side of the pond, with the intermittent sun at my back. My experience is that it can take twenty or thirty minutes, sometimes longer, for the birds to come back into a zone when I first arrive. I drive a golf cart, which ultimately provides a good “blind” as I think birds are less concerned about vehicles, than an erect animal walking through their turf. But, there is still the initial exit when I drive into a location.

While waiting for the birds to return to my area, I observed some very interesting activity. First, there was the pair of what I am pretty sure were male, Blue Grosbeaks. They flew one-in-front-of the other back and forth across the small inlet many times. If one bird had been the cinnamon color of a female Blue Grosbeak I would have been certain. I had recorded audio and filmed that species in that same general area last year. But, they were both blue, deep blue not the slightly lighter blue of Indigo Buntings. I don’t know if one bird was chasing the other, but I got that sense. Perhaps, they were determining who was going to get what location to set up breeding territory. They were speeding by so quickly, I had no chance of catching them on film.

I was surrounded by Red-winged Blackbirds – both their calls and their activity. They are not easy to film because of their rich black color. But, this image is good enough to share, although not what I hope for when filming a bird that is not all that far away from me. Check out the thorns on that tree!

While I sat waiting for the birds to settle back into my zone, I breathed in deeply. I looked at all the beauty around me. The rain seemed to have brightened the already brilliant Spring green colors of the newly budded trees and fast growing grasses. The sky was blue, behind the quickly move-off rain clouds. The air was fresh. It all made me feel very much one with nature. I sense the spirituality of my life and my connectedness to “All.” In that moment I thought, “now, if only a Kingbird flew right here in front of me…” And, it did.

Based on the timestamps on the images I took, between 4:37 and 5:05 PM an Eastern Kingbird dedicated his efforts to modeling for me. He started out a bit farther away than I had hoped, and with more complexity in the environment than makes for a super easy shot. And, over the next near-half hour, I felt as if this bird was communicating with me. The conversation went a bit like this:

Bird: “How was that?”

Tammie” “Not close enough.”

Bird: “Close enough?”

Tammie: “Yeah, but the sun was behind a dark cloud.”
Bird: “Is this better?”

Tammie: “Not really, there’s a leaf in front of your face.”

And so on and so on the time went by as I wondered, “how can this be happening?” and “is this a form of divine intervention?” Is it true that I just need to ask for something to receive it?

Remember, I don’t consider myself an experience photographer, and I don’t use fancy, post-photo enhancement software. I’m sure the true photographers wouldn’t find my images suitable for their moniker, but it was the experience more than the final product that truly inspired me.

The handsome bird first landed in a nearby tree. He stuck around for just sufficient time for me to take a few decent pictures when the sun was shining and I could capture the glint in his eye. At that moment, I felt very satisfied, but concerned as to whether I got anything in focus! Branches, grass, leaves anything that sits in front of the bird can wreck havoc with the auto-focusing and I’m not good enough to manually focus on something that is small and moving.

He flew off to nab an insect, but returned to a twisted branch on the water’s edge. The sun was tucked away under a cloud, but I was able to get a straight-on look in my eyes, which I found endearing.

After just a minute, he returned to land on a another small shrub near the edge of the pond, again under clouds. But, this photo shows that there is quite a bit of definition to his flight feathers. I had always thought this bird was a solid black color on the back – but, of course with the characteristic white tail tip. I call them “spats” since this bird looks to be wearing a tuxedo.

I heard the head-talk in my brain, “If only he would get a little close…if only the sun would stay out when he landed.”

Then, it happened. The Kingbird landed in a tree that was just about fifteen feet from me. But, it was on my left side. To get this shot, I had to lift the camera (and the attached tri-pod) over my lap and the steering wheel without spooking the bird. When I reviewed them, there was a large leaf covering his head in most of the photos. Here is one that, while still missing the sunlight, was worth sharing.

“Just as close, but without the leaves,” I thought. “Oh, and with full sun. That would be perfect.” Then, my request was answered…in the sequence I had asked.

I was thrilled to have captured one of my favorite birds in such close proximity with the late afternoon light illuminating all his beauty.

And then, he flew off and although I stayed in the area for another thirty minutes, I never spotted him again!

The End.

One Comment on “Welcome Back, King!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: