Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Pinning down a junco

Juncos never stop moving. Ever. And they move fast, and in unpredictable directions. Nor will they tolerate flash cameras and open doors, no matter how you've worked at habituating them.

I've taken hundreds of junco photos. Most are fuzzy; many are photos of a place where a junco was an instant ago. More are photos of the flash of white tail feathers signalling, "I'm outta here!"

Hooray for digital cameras! I dump several dozen photos and head out to take more, with not a qualm; they don't cost me anything but time. And time I am willing to spend, because I am determined to get a decent junco photo.

I'm learning a few tricks; I stand immobile by the closed door or window, mostly hidden by the frame, camera held in place, aimed at the feeder or baited area; I will not move it, except to press the shutter button, for the entire session. All the lights at my back are turned off; so is the flash. The optical zoom at is its maximum. I turn off the shutter sound; with it on, even behind that closed door, the juncos hear it and leave town.

Then I wait. And take one photo after another, anytime the target is within range. I don't stop until he's gone. And afterwards, I delete almost all of those photos cheerfully; I'll try again tomorrow.

So, I've finally got a few more or less worth saving. Here they are: The Junco Slowpoke collection.

"Is that a camera I see? Hmmmm..."

"Scoping out the territory. Door closed? Check. Nobody in sight? Check. It may be safe, then."

"Looks ok. Although I have my doubts about that round thing in the window."

"Right in the food bucket, I'm probably safe enough. But I'll keep bobbing up to check, anyhow."

Three "bobs", and he was gone, flitting off to the safety of the evergreens.

Juncos are ground birds; they have a reason to be cautious. They're prime prey for cats and other predators, easily got at and pounced on. So they stick, mainly, to the shelter of the shrubbery, and never stay in one place long enough for a cat to creep up on them. My feeder, at human eye level, and sheltered only by a nearby wall and a bit of the roof overhang, needs a long, slow, wary approach, from the shrubbery to the maple tree to the epimedium basket, and then the last quick jump into the bucket, where they seem to feel safe enough to stay for a few seconds.

I have tried luring them nearer the door, sprinkling food on the ground, but unless there is actually deep snow on the rest of the patio, they avoid the area, doing a quick run-through, snatch-and-grab, rarely pausing long enough for my camera finger to squeeze all the way down. I did manage to get one, though; I had the button pressed half-way already, focusing on the ground, before the junco arrived.

"I saw that! And I'm leaving. Now."

(Related post: In an inch of water; such pleasure! Junco in the bird bath. Blurry, of course.)

1 comment:

  1. They are hard, aren't they? I have lots of blurry ones, or from so far away they could be anything... I finally got some (in trees), not as good as yours, though.


If your comment is on a post older than a week, it will be held for moderation. Sorry about that, but spammers seem to love old posts!

Also, I have word verification on, because I found out that not only do I get spam without it, but it gets passed on to anyone commenting in that thread. Not cool!