The Funky Bird Club



Today I had some time to finally get down to visit School House Pond in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.

(Hold your hat, Jerry of Quiet Solo Pursuits this is my best work yet. )

There were reports of some birds that I’ve only seen once or twice, with really lousy views and I was hoping to be able to enjoy them up close and personal. Arriving I saw the long boardwalk that ran along the edge of the pond. The side where I started was in the shade and ice covered for quite a distance.

Seeing that there were some ducks I wanted to capture, I took the dare and very slowly creeped on the icy plank, partly so I wouldn’t crash and fall with my large tripod and big lens. Secondly so I wouldn’t scare off the birds.

Creep, Creep, Creep I went. One baby step at a time. Finally reaching a section that was in the sun, the ice cleared up. The temptation to walk my normal pace had to be held back as the last thing I wanted to do was flush out the timid birds. From a distance I could see a nice sized flock of Northern Shovelers. This is the first time I could try to get some really nice shots of them, so creeping was the way to go.


I was getting near the position I wanted to be at, but still stopped and waited. Before I knew it, a pair of mallard ducks that were hiding beneath the boardwalk flushed off and flew off quacking their heads off. Taking the bulk of the Shoveler flock with them. Dang, and Double Dang !!

I stood there wondering what I should do. I did see that a few of them held back, so perhaps once they settle down I can get closer. Looking left though, something moving caught my eye. Could it be a Wilson’s Snipe? Woo Hoo ! Just what I was hoping to find.

Wilson's Snipe

Wilson’s Snipe

But I wasn’t the only thing that was stalking the pond.


After a few captures, the snipe flushed off to the right to be with his friends. So slowly stalking once again, I managed to get closer to the remaining Northern Shovelers. Thanks to my 500mm Lens with 1.4xx extender and a little cropping I got some amazing captures.

Northern Shoveler

Northern Shoveler

Northern Shoveler

Northern Shoveler

Northern Shoveler

Northern Shoveler

Now time to vent. Mind you, I had spent about a half an hour slowly creeping up to these birds so that I could capture them. I could see the flock of eight Wilson’s Snipe just behind the ducks, but I was working the ducks and was then going to move up slowly to the snipes to photograph them.

Another birder showed up rather quickly behind me. “Hello”…”Hello” Says I..”There are Wilson’s Snipes here – Smile”. Says he..”Yeah..they’re always there” and he proceeds to pass me, walking rather quickly.

I asked him kindly. “Would you mind walking slowly so that you don’t flush the birds?” “Ok…and continues to walk fast.”Β Of course the result being the birds flushed and flew off to much further parts. What a totally jerk.

There is a code of honor among considerate bird photographers. If someone is positioned with a bird and ‘working the scene,’ you leave them alone. You walk away – the other way. Or you can wait until they are done with the birds. Which can take a while, or you can join in the fun.

Nope, no consideration here. He clearly was a local and seeing these birds weren’t special enough to him. They were to me. Can I say double jerk?

I was fortunate that the Coot was the last one standing in the open water surrounded by ice and I was able to capture a few images of him.



All in all, I took about 500 images in a short period of time. Usually I have lots of photos that are out of focus and it’s easy to delete rejects. For some reason these were all spectacular images. Each good in their own right. A few rejects, maybe the head wasn’t facing quite right. But wow, what an exciting day for me as a bird photographer.

Imagine, all of that hard work, dedication and time spent in the field continually practicing and trying new things are starting to pay off.

20 replies »

  1. I’m so glad you finally got a chance to scope out Schoolhouse Pond and got a great shot of the Wilson’s Snipe before they spooked. Hopefully, you’ll get many chances to return as migration season arrives. It’s a great spot to catch a variety of birds… even when triple jerks are around.

  2. Excellent shots! You’re learning, soon you’ll be getting head shots without cropping! The best tip I can give you is to act as if you’re just another critter out there, and not a human being (like the triple jerk), oh, and also to watch out for mallards, they have messed up more of my stalks than I care to remember.

  3. Spectacular shots of the snipe and the northern shoveler (and even the coot). It’s hard to control the behavior of others, who may not be conscious of what you are trying to accomplish. Even some birders don’t understand photographers, I have noticed, and don’t realize how close we need to get to take our photos. Some of them only need to “see” a bird and they can do that from greater distances.

    • You’re absolutely right. But with this in mind, there are so many bird photographers that aren’t respectful of the wildlife and will blare into their personal space to “get the shot.” Many culprits have been quite guilty here in the northeast with the Snowy Owl irruption this winter. Actually criminal.

  4. These are spectacular shots! I was cracking up at the snipe… Not at your photo, but as a child at summer camp, we would send unsuspecting newbies out into the night to hunt the elusive snipe.. Yes, kind of a jerk thang, but I was 7. πŸ₯🐦

  5. Well done, great post and story even if it did involve a triple jerk! Some people have no respect, but I sure can bet that he didn’t wind up with a great blog!

    My favorite is the Coot though the Snipe is certainly impressive and I congratulate you on your finds and captures today. I really like the reflections you caught of them in the water as well. It’s amazing to me how similar the Shovelers are to Mallards, especially the female. The detail and sharpness of these photos is admirable and envious. Again, the Coot, I LOVE the detail and colors you captured of their feet, wow, sci-fi creature! And the iridescence of their feathers is beautiful; I think iridescent colors are among the best. But their feet are still pretty out of this world! And the pair of shovelers would make any couple jealous, it’s like you arranged them.

    Your experience and techniques are certainly paying off, I only add to the great flock already vouching for you. I’m happy for you that you even got the pics you did because birds can be so skitterish (and for good reason), they had to have been rather content to let you creep up on this like that. That jerk broke their threshold. I’m jealous of your east coast waterfowl and determined to set up a plan for Midwestern migrations!


    • I think the Coot is super cool too. He has the oddest feet, and I’m thrilled that I was able to get him on the ice so that you could see them. Now truly, I bet you get to see some wonderful birds that I never get to see.

      With your comment about learning how to be with the birds, it’s taken a lot of practice and a lot of flushed birds to start getting better about it. I’m going to be hanging around with a hunter this weekend, and I bet he’ll really show me how to stalk. πŸ™‚

      • I do see how this takes much practice and patience. A relative of mine has been hunting and birding with his folks for years. I’m hoping to get a chance this year to join some of their non-lethal trips.

        Hope things went well with your weekend and the hunter. I’ll be checking your new posts here in a bit. Looking forward to what I find there.


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