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Out of the Corner of my Eye

Non-breading male Redstart before his breading plumage has developed

This young Redstart watched me have lunch outside during the 30 minutes that it didn’t rain today. Then I took my camera for an adventure. I spent 2 hours exploring a Birch forest that was filled with Warblers and Flycatchers and I remembered how good it feels when I’m in my rain coat and warm dry boots and my camera is wrapped in plastic bags and I think ‘Oh! I really do love birding in the rain!’ One of the things that makes it fun is that rain drops disturb leaves just the way skulking birds do. So my eye is constantly chasing invisible Goblins. I bird with peripheral vision because all the magic happens in the corners of our eyes. Like that scene in Labyrinth when Sarah is checking on her baby brother’s crib and keeps almost seeing the Goblins out of the corner of her eye but they disappear before she can get a good look at them.

I followed a creek to a bridge and watched a Male Redstart forage the banks. He climbed into crevices and caves and ducked under tree roots. He disappeared into a subterranean tunnel and I imagined him resting a moment out of the rain, looking out at the wet forest before he popped back out the other side, but I knew he wouldn’t really stand still, he was too busy collecting insect snacks and his feathers make him waterproof. I took lots of photos. It was a beautiful place just behind the garage where a mechanic was fixing my van. I managed to drag myself back just before the garage closed for the weekend with my keys inside but when I got there he was only just getting to my van. He apologized, but I was happy for the excuse to go back into the forest. The guys in the garage all laughed that I was having so much fun out in the pouring rain but they believed me that there were good birds out there because while I had been out walking an Oriole had flown into the garage and perched on their hoist.

My second dip into the forest was just as birdy as the first. This time I thought I’d try sitting on a fallen tree and waiting for the Warblers to come to me. While I waited I went through my photos and did a little editing and was pleased to find what I thought was my masterpiece. A shot of the male Redstart. He was jumping out of a cave in a gymnastic twist with all feathers fanned showing his shocking orange on black markings. There was a sparkle in his eye and the rain drops around him were frozen still. I thought ‘This is exactly why I shoot in ultra high speed!’ It was perfectly framed and in focus and was worth drawing later. I hadn’t even noticed taking it because I was looking through the viewfinder through a plastic bag. I do have good luck shooting through plastic bags but it felt as if it had been left there as a gift from someone else. I looked forward to looking at it properly at home, out of the rain and the plastic bag.

I photographed lots of nice birds on the way home including some mystery birds I’d use the photos to identify later, but I didn’t bother try to shoot another Redstart because I had that one perfected.

When I got home 200 photos were mysteriously missing from the camera. Presumably taken by forest Goblins. I wish I hadn’t sat on that log and looked at what I was about to loose because now that pirouetting Redstart is the-one-that-got-away. That legendary big fish or lost love. I know its just a game and I don’t really keep the photos I take in any special way anyway, but I’m surprisingly upset about it. Perhaps from now I should treasure my photos more and find a way to appease the Goblins. Tomorrow I’ll go back and shoot more Redstarts. I hope it rains.

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