2023 in birds

White-crowned sparrow at Asilomar State Beach, California. (jby)

It’s been more than a year since I decided to return to photography beyond what I can do with the (deceptively good) camera built into a smartphone. In 2023, I took quite a lot of photos with my entry-level mirrorless Olympus digital, almost all with a 150mm lens that achieves good enough optical zoom to go beyond anything I’ve done with any camera I’ve owned. So this was my first full year carrying a camera that can in principle capture images of wildlife — though not yet the strongest skill set using it. Or, indeed, as much lens as I really ought to have for images of anything that can run or fly away from an aspiring paparazzo. Nevertheless, I’m pretty happy with some of the images I got, including enough birds to merit a personal retrospective, in this post. Many more are on Flickr, tagged appropriately.

Up top: one of the white-crowned sparrows I saw on the dunes at Asilomar, in between sessions at the first in-person meeting of the American Society of Naturalists I’ve attended since 2020.

I got a lot of good images on a late-spring visit to Santa Cruz Island with C, my first-ever time at Channel Islands National Park. Below, two standouts: A spotted towhee, and a horned lark. We heard both species singing in the bushes along almost every trail we hiked, but I didn’t get a good look at a lark until the return leg of our last hike of the trip.

Spotted towhee on Santa Cruz Island, California. (jby)
Horned lark on Santa Cruz Island, California. (jby)

The woods of Washington were more challenging for any kind of wildlife photography, especially in summer, when we were out in those woods most. But I had some lucky breaks, like the female sooty grouse who glared at us from behind cover because (as we saw once we moved on down the trail) we’d gotten between her and her chicks — and I got a bit cleverer about catching small, quick-moving subjects like chickadees, below.

Sooty grouse in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Washington. (jby)
Black-capped chickadee near Westport, Washington. (jby)

And then finally there were plenty of birds who more or less didn’t mind my presence within the range of the 150mm lens. The latest example is the great egret that hangs out around the campus pond, which I photographed on a quick walk before administering the last final exam of the year.

Great egret at the Orange Grove pond, California State University Northridge. (jby)

But then also there were plenty of birds that got away. Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Refuge lies along my route to campus, and I made multiple stops there this spring to try to catch a good view of the showier species that like the lakeshore — but the best I managed was a bright orange oriole in motion, below. That’ll give me something to aim for in 2024, I suppose.

A Bullock’s oriole on the wing at Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Refuge. (jby)

4 thoughts on “2023 in birds

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