Patience is the Key When Bird Watching

Anne Bonfert

Preparing for the cold months ahead

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  • Credit: Anne Bonfert

I love getting inspired by nature. Nature inspires my mind. I start writing endless stories when spending time outdoors. There is just so much happening out there. So much to talk about.

I had a lazy Sunday when my family decided to go visit friends in their garden plot. And yes, I decided to come with. To breathe in some fresh air. And to see what’s out there.

Mainly birds are to be seen especially now since all the leaves dropped and you get a clear view onto the trees. Now and then you’ll see a squirrel running around or a hare on the field.

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  • Credit: Anne Bonfert

The bird feeder

Sitting at the terrace in the garden I look straight onto the bird feeder hanging on a giant bush. From the first moment on I see birds flying around. This particular bush seems to be pretty popular.

Maybe because of the bird feeders. Probably because of the bird feeder. But the bush is pretty thick and I don’t get to see any birds sitting on the outside of it. Yet I decided to bring my camera out of my backpack.

While sitting on the table listening to the conversations I watch carefully the movements behind the table. I do realize quickly that this will be a difficult game. The birds are busy. They don’t standstill. Or sit.

They spend a split second on the bird feeder. Before I can even try to focus on them they are gone. Is it because of us sitting here and chatting? Maybe. Or maybe they just never sit still.

The first attempts at capturing a bird on the bird feeder were pretty disappointing. In-flight shots were all I got.

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The nuthatch

I put down my camera and studied the movements happening in the bush. A few species of titmice were occupying this area. They would fly onto a branch close to the bird feeder. Look around and fly for the seeds. They would barely sit down and fly away again.

The first one I managed to capture was a nuthatch. In contrast to the blue and great tits, this bird would sit for a few seconds at the bird feeder before it would fly off again.

It would fly in. Sit down on the edge. Look around. Pick a seed. Check if there is a better one. Take a different seed instead. Lift the head again before it would fly off eventually.

Which gave me more than enough time to take a few shots of it.

Shifting the focus

While trying to take the picture in that exact split-second the blue tit grabs a seed I get a few empty imagines. Like this one.

My camera zooms in and out. Shifts the focus from the bird feeder to the branches and back to the seeds. I just have to breathe in and make already enough movement for the camera to refocus.

Looking at the empty bird feeder you can see it has been used. A lot. By birds.

I must admit I’ve never really been fascinated by birds. I mean yes, they are nice to see. Any sign of wildlife is lovely. But it’s not that I would sit somewhere patiently waiting for a specific bird to show up.

That’s what my mom is for. And she is the reason why I am sitting here now. Patiently waiting for a bird to show up. With the camera in focus on the bird feeder. The finger ready to take the shot.

Because I want to get a few photographs for her.

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The bush

I let go of the bird feeder and follow the birds in the bush. I seek them between branches and the last leaves. They don’t sit here for long either. But it seems more likely to catch one on a branch than on the bird feeder.

I catch one on the branch from the lime tree above our heads. But the light is bad. You can barely recognize the bird. It’s more like a black and white photograph than anything else.

A great tit sits down on one of the middle branches. Eye height for me. Perfect place for my camera. Click. Got you. Now you can fly away. Because you will stay with me anyway. On my memory card.

Patience is the key

Eventually, I keep the focus on the bird feeder and don’t move for minutes. If I just wait until they fly into my frame I will have to get them. I think.

And that’s what happened.

I still get a few blurry shots and never more than one photograph of a bird at a time. But I also get some good ones. Of the titmice.

Memories

They used to be my favorite birds in my childhood days. In particular the blue tit. I don’t know why. I think I remember watching them out of the kitchen window when having breakfast before going to school.

Their blue head would shine bright in the morning light. Their petite body would bring up empathy. I simply loved observing them. Jumping gently across our backyard.

And while I change the focus again from the bird feeder to the branch in the background another one of them sits down. Right there. In my focus. As if he wants me to take that shot.

Maybe he is posing for me. Tilting the head to the side. Looking at me. Like a model on the catwalk.

These photographs were all captured within the time span of an hour. Only this last one, the picture of a robin, was taken a day before. While preparing food on the fire I spotted the bright red breast from a distance.

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Final words

Despite not being a bird watcher I still enjoyed capturing these birds. It forced me to slow down and be patient. Because of my focus, improvement, and progress in nature writing, I learned to appreciate my surroundings more.

I learned to find happiness in the small things in life. Like a bird flying in and out of a bird feeder. Like a flower reaching for the last rays of sunshine. Or a rainy day that turns into a winter wonderland.

All you have to do is keep your eyes open as Darryl Brooks would say. Then even places that you’ve seen a million times turn into a landscape of wonders. This is what photography and writing taught me during the last months.

To see the beauty in nature.

“A writer, I think, is someone who pays attention to the world.” — Susan Sontag

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I am a traveler. Photographer. Writer. Teacher. Skydiving instructor. Adventure enthusiast. Nature lover. And fell in love with the African continent. My stories go around travel, nature and all kinds of adventurous activities.

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