Oh, shoot! Birds! (#31days)

Owls, falcons, and hawks!

We had a great time at the Royal Gauntlet today. I even managed to get a couple of awesome slow motion videos on my iPhone 6 Plus. Be sure to scroll through to see a few of the highlights. Much, much more coming.

For the videos, YouTube is showing them at a lower resolution by default. Crank it up to 720p. It’s pretty incredible.

 

 

 

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Oh, shoot! Wildlife! (#31days)

When I first started pursuing photography as a serious hobby, wildlife was my favorite subject. Birds, tigers, bugs, elephants, dogs, and other animals may be more challenging to find, but they rarely get that bizarre and awkward look on their faces like people do.

 

Now I’ve expanded my hobby to include travel photography, candid shots, and people in foreign lands. I love all of that. But sometimes it’s fun to reflect on and return to my roots.

 

 

 

 

 

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Any other name

Spring is springing. This is Oklahoma, so it hasn’t fully “sprung” yet, but it’s springing. This is a great time of year because birds are returning but the leaves haven’t. I’ve already been delightfully and repeatedly serenaded by one of my favorites. The mockingbird.Curiousity

The poor mockingbird. It has a beautiful voice but no song of its own. Even its name evokes feelings of shame. Nobody like a mocker. The fact that they are pretty common makes them even less special.

But have you ever seen the beautiful white flash of a mockingbird’s wings in flight? Have you ever had one hop a little closer to you in order to size you up? Although not colorful, they are beautiful. Although not endangered, they are special. Their curiosity is charming. It’s also handy for someone new to bird photography.

What if the mockingbird does has a voice of its own, though? Instead of bragging about himself, he’s telling us about all the incredible things he has seen. He’s saying:

Hey! You! You beautiful but wingless creation! Listen up!

I saw an awesome bird yesterday. It was a brilliant red color. Let me tell you how it sounds!

Oh, did you see that Chickadee? Aren’t those cute little birds?

Hey, have you heard the frogs croaking? They’re pretty awesome.

Mocking? No, not at all. Proclaiming. Proclaiming the beauty that can be found in the world when you pause a moment and look around.

Shooting Birds of Prey

I was recently fortunate enough to attend a photo shoot with a few gorgeous birds and the Royal Gauntlet Birds of Prey. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. I have about 70 pictures that I consider worthy of sharing, but here are a few of my favorites.

These birds include a Tundra Peregrine Falcon (my favorite), a couple of Harris Hawks, a Red Tailed Hawk (just the talons pictured here), and a Eurasion Eagle Owl. All pictures are with my trusty and versatile Canon SX50 HS.

Red, Canadian, and Blue

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It’s been a cold, cold winter. Maybe its just because I’m getting older, but I wasn’t as enthusiastic about going for long hikes in the cold this year. But this weekend was beautiful. The wind kept a lot of the birds hunkered down, but we had highs in the 60’s again. Once the wind lets up a bit, it will be incredible weather to go find some birds.

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I did manage to get outside a little bit. Here are some geese, a red shouldered hawk, and an eastern bluebird that all were enjoying the weather with me.

This bluebird was pretty close to us. I was walking with my son and spotted this bluebird fluttering around, enjoying the sunlight. It showed off its gorgeous rust-colored breast and then turned around to show us its beautiful blue back. He hopped a little closer, but then flew off before I could get another shot.

Red Shouldered Hawk

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Right before we spotted the eastern bluebird, we saw three hawks making lazy circles in the sky. Yeah, this is Oklahoma. I’m always amazed at how quickly they can disappear, even without flapping a single time. They were there and then gone. Luckily, one of them returned. It hung in the sky just above us, like it was posing for me. I was a bit over-zoomed at times and had trouble tracking it, but still managed to get a few good shots.

Canadian Geese

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And then there were the geese. There are always geese, so they aren’t very exciting to shoot. Don’t tell Pete, but I really like geese. They have such funny personalities. They’re also predictable. When you hear them start to make a ruckus, it usually means they are coming in for a landing. Those are always opportunities to get some fun shots.

Geese aren’t really graceful, so there is always a lot of flapping and splashing happening on impact. A lot of time they land in groups. The ones we saw on our walk came in together in a very large flock. Although they landed in very predictable ways, I was a little too far away to get the shots I would’ve liked. It was an impressive display of formation flying, with small groups breaking away from the larger group to come in for a landing while the others continued to circle overhead. Yeah, they are goofy and abundant birds, but there’s still something cool about watching them in action.

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God, the meaning of life, and an osprey

On the hunt

A few weeks ago I went for a walk in the Arkansas River. The water was low and the sun was bright. I was hoping to catch some new or unique birds hunting for a snack. Maybe a Bald Eagle soaring overhead. At the very least a Heron or Egret.

But there was nothing. I spent a couple of hours walking down the middle of the river with nothing to show but a bit of sand in my shoes. It was a lovely but fruitless walk.

All too often, that’s how God seems. We set out looking for Him, trudging through shifting sand and squinting into the sun. Looking for a path. Looking for a sign. Unlike my feathered friends, we know that God wants to be found. He wants us to be with Him. So why can He be so elusive? Why do we return to the safety of our shelter with nothing but a few bits of sand and a slight sunburn?

On Sunday mornings we’ve been learning about the potential, purpose, and plan that God has put into each of our lives. A lot of us are really wrestling with the idea. Realizing that God has set aside a specific work for you to do, that He has orchestrated a plan for you to accomplish it, and He actually created you with the abilities to do it can be overwhelming. Many of us feel a sense of pressure…a weight. What if we fail? What if we miss it?

My trusty Canon SX50-HS and I spend a lot of time wandering around outside, hoping to run into something unique and cool. Preferably something that won’t eat us. Birds are pretty safe. So are sunsets. I’ve only been doing this for about a year but I’ve already captured thousands of different birds. Some of the pictures are even pretty good.

Soaring

I recently wandered down to the lake to see what was fishing. With no idea what would be there, I was hoping for a unique duck or maybe a Great Blue Heron. It was a nice walk with my lovely wife, my oldest son, and my dog. Right as we were about to head back, a new visitor arrived. An Osprey flew over, making multiple passes while soaring beautifully. After putting on quite a show, it dove into the water, emerging with a yummy snack. It isn’t the most graceful fisher I’ve ever seen, but it shook off the excess water and then flew away to enjoy the treat.

It would seem that I was in the right place at the right time. I also had the right equipment to capture the moment. Is that they key to unlocking that elusive potential, purpose and plan? Is that the key to hearing from God? I can’t control God any more than I can control that silly Osprey. God will show up when He wants to.

In our spiritual lives, what can we do to be in the right place at the right time with the right equipment so that when God shows up, we’re ready? I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent walking by that lake without seeing anything spectacular. But I kept coming back. And I stayed prepared. I keep exploring that camera…learning how to better use the equipment that I’ve been given.

My potential is like that camera. God gave it to me, but I’ve got to exercise it. I’ve got to learn to use it and develop it in order to be ready for what God has planned.

Got it

My purpose is like these shots. I use my potential to make a difference. Maybe the metaphor gets less clear here. But I’m simply using what I’ve been given to perform an action. The results can be amazing. Just like when we use what God has given us.

The plan is from God. That’s the providential experience that brings it all together to make something truly special. The Osprey flying straight at me in the perfect light. Me instinctively twisting the settings button over a couple of clicks to catch the majestic bird in flight. That’s how God shows up. Suddenly, spectacularly, and majestically. It’s not something you miss, but it’s something you’ve got to be prepared for.

Understanding that we have potential, purpose, and plan in our lives that are from God shouldn’t increase our burden. It should ease it. That’s what God promised us. It isn’t up to us to make it happen. It’s up to us to trust Him. It’s up to us to lean into Him. If we continue to position ourselves in the right place, He will make everything clear at the right time.