Thursday, March 1, 2012

Birds All March on the Battlefield

OK, the title may be a bit corny, but it was the best thing I could think of at the moment.

I don’t know if I have to point out the obvious here, but it may not be so obvious…Birds All…Birdsall…get it? But it also represents all of the birds on the Battlefield. According to an Internet search, there are approximately 1,000 different types of birds that call the Gettysburg National Military Park Battlefield (GNMP) home. March is referring not so much to the act of walking in some organized militant fashion, as much as it refers to the current month. However, I (Birdsall) will be walking (marching) throughout the GNMP, in attempts to get photos of the many birds on the Battlefield.

I’ve always enjoyed going out and taking photos on the GNMP. There are many opportunities to capture a tremendous amount of different images. Many of the monuments are interesting and have some intricate details to them. They offer some information that helps to get a grasp on what may have actually happened in the location of the monument, on one, if not all three, of the days of the battle.
Going out on the Battlefield at different times of day, or seasons of the year, can also put a totally different light on the landscape of the GNMP. Taking a walk through the town also exposes you to other aspects of the battle and interesting photographic opportunities.

What I’ve decided to do is to make an attempt to photograph as many different types of birds on the GNMP. Clearly, it will take quite a bit of time to accumulate any significant number of birds; however, what I thought was that I could try and get a few nice shots throughout the month of March, kind of like a small Photo Project.
The yellow wing lining can be seen toward
the bottom of the bird, just above the
moss on the fence post. 
If I get stuck with trying to get some good photos this month, I may resort to sharing some that I have shot in the past, but that will be a last resort. I’m not guaranteeing how many posts there will be this month, but I don’t see why I couldn’t have at least (GULP) eight. Just don’t expect a whole lot of witty commentary. I will try to give some insight as to how, when, where I got the shots.
The first entry this month is the Northern Yellow-shafted Flicker. This bird is a Woodpecker and grows to approximately 12” in height. According to my Field Guide to Birds (National Audubon Society), the Northern Flicker that resides in the Eastern states is the Yellow-shafted Flicker, whereas the ones that reside in the Western states is the Red-shafted Flicker. The color refers to the wing lining, which can be seen in this photo.

The red nape patch helps distinguish
between the Eastern and Western birds.
The other difference is that the Eastern birds have the red patch on their nape, whereas the Western birds do not have a nape patch.
I caught sight of this bird on my way to work. I did purposefully go through the GNMP to look for birds and/or other interesting images; there was some low lying fog, which makes the battlefield look really cool. As I was driving, I noticed what I thought was a Kestrel (a small Falcon) standing on this fence post. I turned the car around, got my camera set up to shoot; widest aperture (f/4); ISO 400 (it was overcast, so I knew I couldn’t go any lower or the shutter speed would be too slow for a moving creature); I was on Aperture Priority, which then gave me a shutter speed of 1/160; I was set to Spot Metering, to make sure that I was exposing for the bird and not so much for the background.

I rolled my window down and began creeping forward slowly. Surprisingly, it was not a Kestrel, but a bird I had not had the opportunity to photograph yet. The other surprising thing was that this bird did not take to flight right away; I have found that the smaller birds are usually pretty skittish, which makes it very difficult to get a quality photo without a tremendous zoom lens. I was anywhere between 15 and 20 feet away from where the bird was perched. Again, I was shooting this from the driver’s seat of my car.

Because of the dull light, the original images were a little blah, so I did have to make a number of adjustments in Lightroom.


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