I Play A Hunch And It Pays Off

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I’ve learned from experience that a lot of birds are territorial.  They don’t just fly around looking for food and romance.  Rather, they have favorite perches that they return to over and over again.  It’s particularly evident with hawks and other raptors.  In the winter migratory raptors will stake out favorite trees and utility poles and one can observe the same bird at the same location day after day.  This morning, I recalled that, back in the spring, I’d made a few photographs of a male Vermilion Flycatcher that had staked out a particular tree in a local park as his home base, and I wondered if, perhaps, he was still there.  I had a hunch that he might still be hanging out on that tree even though four months had gone by since I last photographed him.

So, very early this morning I drove over to the park.  I saw nothing when I first approached the tree and after standing and watching for about 10 minutes I was on the verge of concluding I was wrong.  But, suddenly, I saw a flash of red, and there he was, almost exactly where I’d last seen him.

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Vermilion Flycatchers are not only extraordinarily beautiful little birds but they are quite approachable when compared with other species of small songbirds.  This little guy knew I was standing about 15 feet away from him snapping picture after picture.  Occasionally, he’d look right at me.  But, he was so self-confident that he did not surrender his perch despite my presence.

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He sat there, obviously enjoying the warm early morning sunlight and without showing the slightest concern for me.

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For my part, I was having an immensely good time taking this bird’s picture.  Birds normally aren’t this cooperative, the view isn’t this unobstructed, the lighting isn’t this perfect, and although all birds are beautiful in my eyes, this one is extraordinary.

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It’s not often that I photograph a subject and decide that I’ve taken enough pictures.  Usually, whatever I’m photographing makes an exit long before I’m satisfied with what I have.  Today, however, and after dozens of images, I decided that I’d done enough.  When I walked away the little flycatcher was still on his perch, unperturbed.


Photos taken with a Canon 5Diii, 400 DO, ISO 320, M setting, f7.1 @ 1/640.


4 responses to “I Play A Hunch And It Pays Off”

  1. Alan Kearney says :

    Steven, this Vermilion Flycatcher is just gorgeous! What a beautiful shade of reds, peaches …. It’s no wonder that you like these little critters so much! Great “hunch” you followed up on!

    This is a technical question if you don’t mind. I see you’re shooting with a 400mm and not being a Canon shooter myself (Nikon) I’m wondering if you’re hand-holding and if the lens has VR?

    Thank you, Alan Kearney

    • stevenkessel says :

      Alan, I’m assuming that “VR” is Nikonese for what Canon calls “IS” or image stabilization. Yes, my lens has IS. I hand hold for nearly all of my wildlife photos because I find a tripod — and even a monopod — limits my mobility too much. As a consequence, I try to shoot at shutter speeds that are fast enough to eliminate motion induced blurring and I rely on IS for the rest. Generally, I try to shoot wildlife at 1/500 or faster and I’ll increase the ISO in order to be able to get that fast a shutter speed. For closeups it’s a different story. I’ll happily use a tripod or monopod if I can get an insect or a spider to sit still long enough!

  2. Liesl Kii says :

    What a beautiful bird and good photographic subject!

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