A steamy tale of seduction, asphalt and feathers!…Well sorta.
Great Meadows is actually a frequent destination and from a photographic and environmental awareness perspective, this is very beneficial. True intimacy with an environment blossoms when we return often and make a conscious effort to learn more about its idiosyncrasies. Still, this particular day I was not as enthusiastic as I might have been due to a couple of recent visits in which I wasn’t able to pull out an “ooooh” shot.
Climbing out of the Jeep, I retrieved my Gitzo tripod from the back seat and extended the legs. As I began to carefully seat the Canon 40D with the mounted 500mm lens onto the waiting gimbal style head, I heard an elegant four note whistle Not so much like a truckers wolf whistle as a beckoning entreaty from a sophisticated Beau Brummell. The sound was well audible and my first reaction was “small birds make the loudest calls. Look for something small.” Scanning the trees at the edges of the parking lot revealed the fresh spring green firs, oaks, assorted bushes and blossoming spring trees. And then a flash of brilliant flaming orange color, high in a dogwood, attracts my eye. I step closer to the dogwood, in beautiful bloom, pristine white flowers bathed in sunlight and shadow. Within the blossoms I see another glimmer of movement. The color says it all; a male Baltimore Oriole is enjoying a salad of the white leaves and pink flower buds. He sings the three or four note song several times and like an echo, an answering song is heard two seconds later from a nearby location. Looking to the right I see flicker of a more muted yellow-orange and black; the female, his would be concubine and object of his affection. She may be enamored of him but she does not share his sociableness; perching very high in the tree, in the shadows and frequently 180o from prying eyes. Demure would describe her well.
This is heaven. The tree is in immaculate condition. The sky shows patches of blue and just enough white cloud peeping through for visual interest. The male Oriole, sufficiently habituated to humans goes about his feeding and singing, unperturbed by the movement of tripod legs and long lenses and the commotion of the photographer as I move around to get a better vantage point. His boldness is also fueled by a preoccupation with sex and lunch. The only concession to me and several other homo sapiens that have gathered is the bird’s tendency to perch higher in the tree than I’d prefer but there is no chance that he’ll perch lower. The boldest of small birds still survive out of an overabundance of caution and I, plus several onlookers I’ve attracted, are enough to keep him well visible but handily above arms reach.
Still, it doesn’t get much better. He is a busy bird and never stays put for more than a second or two in one space. You move, focus, fire off a few frames and the last one is probably a tail feather or an empty branch. Refocus on the new branch he’s moved to and try again. Sometimes the head is in the shadows. Sometimes the tail or body is intersected or completely obscured by leaves or branches. Sometime the head turns away from you. No good. Sometimes there isn’t enough light to define and illuminate the eye; make it lively. For thirty minutes he sticks around and you take shot after shot of this high energy bird. At home you review the work and there amongst many “pretty good” captures is the one that makes it a glorious day. The “oooooh” shot. I’m in love.