Wildlife photography might take a bit of patience, but at least you know the birds will return to their perches.
DURING MY PROJECT to document ospreys that led to this week’s story, I often was reminded of my first time trying to photograph birds.
I was with my friend Paul Bannick, one of the country’s leading experts on owls and bird photography. We were in the middle of acres of partially flooded farmland in the Samish Flats. In fall and winter, those fields are home to wee mammals such as voles and therefore also birds of prey, the most charismatic of which is the short-eared owl.
We were looking for the owls, but it was raining sideways, and we didn’t spot a single one.
Bannick and I did spy a northern harrier, a dish-faced hawk that often shares hunting grounds with short-eared owls. The harrier was perched on a snag not far from the parking lot, but it spooked and flew off as we approached.
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“It will come back,” Bannick assured me, explaining that raptors have their favorite hangouts.
I returned the next day. I set up as close to the snag as I felt comfortable, and I waited. When I later showed Bannick the results, he was incredulous.
“I can’t believe you got those shots,” he said.
“Well, you told me it would return to that perch,” I replied.
“I can’t believe you listened to me,” Bannick said.
I learned from him that photographing birds and other wildlife can be a patience-sucking endeavor. But that, I could handle. In my former life as a sports writer for The Seattle Times, I spent plenty of time sitting tight for high-profile athletes who loved trying to wait us out.
It took more than three months of comings and goings for the ospreys’ story to play out. But I always had faith that they’d return. That’s more than I can say for Gus Williams and Gary Payton, a couple of legendary postgame disappearing acts I covered during my 17 years of writing about the Sonics and the NBA.