There are many descriptive words used to portray birds as we see them, however simplistic or fanciful we perceive them to be. Few words are as over-used as “cute”, though. And for good reason, as birds are covered in well, something terribly soft and delicate that they can make even fluffier than usual at will. Chilly weather encourages this behaviour, as the extra air within the feathers acts as an insulator.
This Black-faced Grassquit was feeling mighty chilled on an unusually biting morning at Cuffie River, halfway up to Main Ridge Forest Reserve. After having clear weather for a few days, this spell blew in overnight and made me regret not packing my hoodie!
Although I absolutely love photographing birds in the rain, finding them takes on a new meaning when it’s pouring. See when it’s dry, any sudden movement on a branch or leaf usually means a bird just landed, hopped on or off the branch or its immediate neighbours. When water is dripping off every leaf, that movement is everywhere. Fortunately, some birds refuse to stay still and if you follow enough movement sooner or later your eyes will land on the desired source. Red-eyed Vireos are constant movers and I enjoyed observing this particular bird meticulously check under every leaf for any insect that may be hiding from the (relatively) gigantic droplets.
Another bird that never stays in the same place for longer than a second is the Golden-crowned Warbler. It’s one of the very few species of Warbler that are resident on Trinidad (as most are migratory), and photographing them requires luck, the ability to track a tiny bird that’s hopping everywhere, luck and more luck. From this session alone I had more than a few dozen images of a few sticks and a bird-looking smudge.
Funny how I described the bird above, as a very similar process must go into photographing many other species that share the same habits. At times however, luck falls in a favourable position, for example when a notoriously difficult Long-billed Gnatwren decided to pause for about ten seconds on a low-lying branch about twenty feet away. I had only comfortably photographed this species once before.
As a bird photographer I must admit that no matter how rewarding it feels to come away with a decent image of a skittish species, nothing beats a bird that stays put. Yellow-breasted Flycatchers will sit and scan for possible prey items, and they usually are quite vocal creatures, thus aiding in the location process.