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Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Gift of Birding Photography

Red-lored Parrots

Life is filled with decisions that change you in ways you never dreamed.

Several years ago, I wrote a book about nature cinematographer John Bax. During the interview and writing process, he took me out on photography sessions with him. At the time, his interest centered on the parrots of the Rio Grande Valley and that led us to days and evenings in Brownsville, Texas.

John Bax biography
He taught me photography techniques and created an interest in birding. Most of all, he taught me patience and silence. In his eighties, he would stand behind his camera for hours to get the right shot in the right light at the right moment. I watched and marveled at his talent, passion and perseverance.

I listened to his stories of birding throughout Canada, the US, Mexico, Central America and South America. His work, and that of his photographer friends, amazed me. Even though I focused on the writing of the book, little by little, I fell in love with the birds he filmed. I already loved the Rio Grande Valley, but he awakened in me a passion for its natural wonders.

Orioles fighting for an orange
John passed away before I completed the book, but his memory is very much alive. Whenever I pick up my camera, he is there with me. I wish I had known him longer and learned more, but I will always be grateful for the time I spent with him.

Northern Perula
This spring as in every year since I met John, I've spent a lot of time on South Padre Island searching for the birds that stop by during spring migration. I learn a little bit more every time I'm out there. Nature photographers are an amazing group of generous-hearted souls who willingly share their knowledge and their passion.

I have an average camera - a Canon Rebel with kit lenses - and I'm lousy at recognizing bird songs. I'm still a wanna-be birder, but I've made friends and met birders who make each visit memorable. And I have memories of John.

From him I learned patience and with the birds, that's pure gold.

Thanks, John! You enriched my life!

Chestnut-sided Warbler

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