Stinkers and Stonkers

Western Quail-thrush

Stinkers

Let me guess. You travel to that 'special' birding place and set out to take lots of amazing photos of cool and exciting new species... except, when you get there it's deathly quiet and the only bird you can see is the raven eyeing off your banana from a post in the carpark. Undeterred, you head off into the scrub, still optimistic - after-all, this is the place to find yellow-tufted bobfoots (not a real bird) and they are supposed to be everywhere.

Two hours later your water is running low, the raven is now eyeing you off as potential dinner and the closest you've got to a bobfoot is when a bobtail lizard threatened to bite off your big toe. You think: Why is it sooooooo hard? How the heck did everyone get those incredible photos and I haven't even seen a feathered butt let alone a whole bird? What's wrong with me?!!!!

You, my friend, are experiencing a stinker.  One of those birding days when you either can't find any birds at all, or you see and hear them, but they won't let you get within cooeee.

Stonkers

Stonkers happen to everyone else. You get home and open up your favourite Facebook page only to see Candice and Derek (not real bird nerds) with their latest images from exactly the same place you went to. Not only did they seeyellow-tufted bobfoot, they actually have photos of yellow-tufted bobfoots eating worms, wings entwined whilst simultaneously line dancing to Achy Breaky Heart. To top it off, they nonchalantly add that a rare raptor landed right beside them at the picnic table, a scarce parrot hovered for minutes above their heads and look, it's not a great photo, but it looks like they have the first digital image of a thought-to-be-extinct flightless wren.

Sound familiar? Ok, maybe not the bit about the line dancing bobfoots... I mean who listens to Achy Breaky Heart these days anyway, right (google it)?

The Good News

You are NOT ALONE! Everyone has stinkers! Yep. Even Candice and Derek have stinkers, even if they don't admit it; and you will never know because they are not going to put up a post on social media and say 'We just had the worst birding day of our lives.' No way, Jose. They want to sound like they got it all, just like Kim and Kanye.

Unless you are using set up perches with bait, stuffing dead ones and/or using call playback to lure the birds in (which I never do), more often than not, nature is not going to co-operate with your best laid plans. 

Don't worry if you don't always get the shot (or even see the bird). Trust me, I have had more than my fair share of stinkers. For instance, last year we went  camping to an area around 600kms north east of Perth (near Mount Magnet), which is renowned not only for a whole swag of 'cool' birds, but also for its amazing wildflower displays (and beautiful rocky outcrops - see below).

Rocky Outcrop at sunset

We were out there for 9 nights and on at least 5 of those days I struggled to see one of these 'cool' birds, let alone get an actual photo of one (so much so I ended up photographing the domestic birds - see my Indian Peafowl and Guineafowl below).  And no, not even a single wild flower. It was demoralising, for sure.

BUT...

The Other Good News

Apart from the fact that Stinkers happen to everyone, the other good news is that so do Stonkers.  If you keep at it, sooner or later, you will be the one who goes out and sees the bird everyone else wanted to see, or takes the photo everyone else wanted to take. 

Luck comes and goes and the more you get out there the more chance it will find you in the right spot at the right time (with the right equipment).

So to go back to my camping trip, I went from several bad days to having two really good days where I got the photos you see below (under Stonkers) - yep, I kid you not, in addition to a Western Quail-thrush, Redthroat, Black-eared Cuckoo and Spotted Nightjar (YAY! x 1000), I got a Whistling Kite on a broomstick!!! 

Now that is what you call a Stonker!

Photos I got on the Stinkers

It's about making the most of what is available and if that is someone's chicken, then so be it... 

 

Gunieafowl

 Guineafowl (Mt Magnet, Western Australia): Canon EOS-1D X, Canon F/4 600mm IS USM Lens II, F5.6, 1/3200, ISO800. 

 Indian Peafowl

Indian Peafowl (Mt Magnet, Western Australia): Canon EOS-1D X, Canon F/4 600mm IS USM Lens II, F4.5, 1/2500, ISO400. 
  

Crested Pigeon

Crested Pigeon (Mt Magnet, Western Australia): Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, Canon F/4 600mm IS USM Lens II + 1.4x teleconverter, F5.6, 1/2000, ISO800. 


Photos I got on the Stonkers

Western Quail-thrush

Western Quail-thrush (Mt Magnet, Western Australia): Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, Canon F/4 600mm IS USM Lens II + 1.4x teleconverter, F5.6, 1/640, ISO640. 


Whistling Kites having a barney

Whistling Kites (Mt Magnet, Western Australia): Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, Canon F/4 600mm IS USM Lens II + 1.4x teleconverter, F7.1, 1/3200, ISO1000. 

 

Red-tailed Black-cockatoos

Red-tailed Black-cockatoos (Mt Magnet, Western Australia): Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, Canon F/4 600mm IS USM Lens II + 1.4x teleconverter, F5.6, 1/1600, ISO3200. 

 
Redthroat

Redthroat (Mt Magnet, Western Australia): Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, Canon F/4 600mm IS USM Lens II + 1.4x teleconverter, F5.6, 1/1600, ISO800. 


Spotted Nightjar

Spotted Nightjar (Mt Magnet, Western Australia): Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, Canon F/4 600mm IS USM Lens II + 1.4x teleconverter, F5.6, 1/800, ISO1600. 


Grey Shrike-thrush

Grey Shrike-thrush (Mt Magnet, Western Australia): Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, Canon F/4 600mm IS USM Lens II + 1.4x teleconverter, F7.1, 1/500, ISO1000. 


Common Bronzewing

Common Bronzewing (Mt Magnet, Western Australia): Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, Canon F/4 600mm IS USM Lens II + 1.4x teleconverter, F5.6, 1/400, ISO1000. 


Whistling Kite on a broomstick

Whistling Kite (Mt Magnet, Western Australia): Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, Canon F/4 600mm IS USM Lens II, F5.6, 1/2500, ISO800. 


Red-capped Robin

Red-capped Robin (Mt Magnet, Western Australia): Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, Canon F/4 600mm IS USM Lens II + 1.4x teleconverter, F5.6, 1/6400, ISO800. 


Crested Bellbird

Crested Bellbird (Mt Magnet, Western Australia): Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, Canon F/4 600mm IS USM Lens II + 1.4x teleconverter, F5.6, 1/640, ISO800. 


Black-eared Cuckoo

Black-eared Cuckoo (Mt Magnet, Western Australia): Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, Canon F/4 600mm IS USM Lens II + 1.4x teleconverter, F5.6, 1/3200, ISO800. 


Yellow-rumped Thornbill

Yellow-rumped Thornbill (Mt Magnet, Western Australia): Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, Canon F/4 600mm IS USM Lens II + 1.4x teleconverter, F5.6, 1/2000, ISO800. 


Whistling Kite

Whislting Kite (Mt Magnet, Western Australia): Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, Canon F/4 600mm IS USM Lens II + 1.4x teleconverter, F5.6, 1/4000, ISO1000. 

 

 

If you are having a Stinker, remember: 

You are not alone. Never give up.

 

Did you find this article helpful? Is there anything else you'd like to know about bird photography? If so, please be sure to leave a comment.
I would really love to hear from you!
 

 


12 comments

  • Great article and so true to the word . Some days are diamonds and some days are different , but us Bird Photographers always go back for round 2,3,4…….. it is the passion that drives it .

    Peter Russell
  • ‘Give yourself a chance’ would have to be the number one tip in bird photography. I photograph the bird life on our farm on a regular basis , so much so that I am certain some of the birds see me coming and put on a show.
    Your work is beautiful, inspirational and extremely valuable . Play on.
    Craig from W.A. April 2019

    craig
  • What a great sense of humour you have! Loved your article and seeing the wonderful variety of birds you capture so well. I didn’t see those birds when I was at Mt Magnet a few years ago….must have been having a stinker!! Keep on sharing, you are a wonderful inspiration!

    Jenny
  • I’m new to birding and photography but love the birds. Loved your inspiring story. Your photographs are beautiful. Thanks for sharing

    Marian
  • Thankyou for your wonderful article. I have really enjoyed reading your blog and love your writing style and sense of humour…. yellow tufted bobfoot… have to keep an eye out for that one.
    Your photos are beautiful and very inspirational I’m looking forward to many more gorgeous bird shots from you.

    Jacky

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