When I was 13 years old, I built my first bird blind. It was in my parents’ backyard in northwest Tucson. My purpose in building the blind was to try wild bird photography. By this time in my life, I had already been interested in birds for several years, but I had not yet attempted bird photography.
The blind was approximately eight feet by eight feet, and, I have to admit, the construction was pretty crude. After all, I was only 13! The basic design was a wooden frame covered with chicken wire. Attached to the chicken wire were palm fronds that I had collected from neighbors’ yards.
I loved my blind. It kind of served a dual purpose – bird blind and fort! I would sit in the blind for hours as I watched the different varieties of birds that came to my bird-feeding area.
The bird-feeding area consisted of a homemade cement birdbath, a platform feeder, a hummingbird feeder and suet. I provided the kind of suet that you would get from the bone barrel in the meat department at the grocery store.
Our yard was rather simple, with a mixture of native and non-native plants. Some of the non-natives were eucalyptus trees, palm trees, pyracantha, Texas Ranger and oleander bushes. Some of the natives included mesquite and palo verde trees and a variety of cacti.
The habitat on our one-acre lot attracted a variety of the common Sonoran Desert birds: curve-billed thrashers, cactus wrens, gila woodpeckers, Gambel’s quail and northern cardinals, to name a few. I also had a good population of Rufous-winged sparrows year-round, and in winter I would get lark buntings in the yard.
My photography ef-forts were okay, considering my age and lack of experience. I didn’t have my own equipment, so I used the family camera, which was a single-lens reflex 35mm Minolta. I didn’t have any special lenses and I used Kodachrome slide film.
Any movement or sounds that I made inside the blind would usually startle the birds I was trying to photograph. Many times when the birds would hear the clicking sound of the shutter, they would start to fly away, resulting in a lot of pictures of birds with their wings raised!
To this day, I have racks of slides from my early attempts at bird photography. Interestingly, my interest in bird photography didn’t stick with me, and I have never gotten into bird photography as an adult. Other than taking pictures when I went to Africa in 2009 and Brazil in 2011, I have not done any wild bird photography for more than 35 years.
In this day and age of digital photography, not a day goes by that I don’t have customers sending me emails with file attachments, or customers walking into the store with their digital cameras in hand to show me pictures of birds that they want help identifying. The technology used to do wild bird photography these days is truly amazing.
The quality of my photography was not very good – I certainly never entered any contests! However, if you have an interest in wild bird photography, I would like to invite you to participate in our fifth annual Wild Bird Photo Contest. The deadline to submit pictures is Monday, Sept. 30.
Participation is open to everyone, and is free. We would love to showcase your best bird pictures for the whole community to enjoy. For more information, check out the Jay’s Bird Barn website at www.jaysbirdbarn.com.