It took more than a year of African safaris for D to finally admit that he had become enamored not just with the continent’s exotic birdlife but also with the hobby of birding itself. To S’s occasional dismay, he took his newly discovered enthusiasm for bird photography on our home leave travels, which meant that sometimes S would find herself hiking alone while D left the trail to follow some winged creature into the woods.
It bears noting, however, that though she sometimes grumbled — as, for instance, when D left her sitting at a picnic table while he photographed the same hummingbird for half an hour — S also helped fuel this obsession. While D watched a hockey game in June Lake, for example, she made friends with another birding enthusiast and not only photographed a dozen different birds on his bird feeders, but also bought a nice ceramic bird feeder for us to hang in Chisinau.
Unfortunately, birding back on our home soil proved a lot more difficult than it had in Africa. For one, we tried to travel light, which meant that we left a lot of our camera gear behind when packing for this trip. We brought just one lens, which at 18-200mm focal length is versatile, but not nearly as good for birding as the telephoto lens we did not pack. We also forgot to bring our teleconverter, which would have greatly ameliorated the challenge of approaching close enough to get good shots.
Instead, D found that getting just within photo range was usually enough to spook his targets. Also, following the birds on foot through the forest proved a lot more difficult than cruising around in a safari vehicle while a local guide kept a lookout for interesting species. At first, we barely had any success, but by the time we had completed our 3-week trek through California, we had amassed hundreds of (mostly unusable) bird photographs.
Finding the time to actually sift through all these photos was also not easy, which is why this blog post was half a year in the making. Even so, it was a labor of love.
waterfowl and shorebirds
jays and towhees, plus a robin and an oriole
blackbirds and flycatchers
sparrows and finches
miscellaneous small birds
*Note: We used Peterson’s Field Guide to aid in identification, but this method is of course not foolproof, especially when it comes to sparrows, finches, and other small birds that greatly resemble one other. If you find any errors in identification, please leave us a comment.