There comes a time when one faces their own biases or prejudices. I am not talking about prejudice such as anti-Semitism or racial discrimination. Those are abhorrent and not at all what I am getting at. I am talking about my prejudice against birding, the activity of watching, identifying, and checking off birds of inconsequence. There it is – my prejudice shining through.

Everything changed this past weekend during our visit to Elephant Pond where I came face to face with my prejudice. And I conquered its ugliness. Elephant Pond is well-known place for birding, south of Tucson, AZ. When at this location, one can position movable blinds around a small pond to gain close access to many species of birds.

As I have opined in the past, I am not interested in photographing birds other than ones that are big and colorful like a macaw or an eagle. This weekend all that changed. Kathryn and I made this trip as part of our camera club’s monthly field trip. Instead of just the two of us, we had six photographers in blinds around the pond. What happens when you add other photographers to the mix? You get competition, serious competition. It all starts when we get to the pond. “I want that blind!” “I want mine over here!” “I don’t want to be in a blind!” Grrrr. After some jockeying, we all settle in, four of us cozying into a four-person blind.

Once the birds start arriving, the real competition sets in. Who gets the better shot? What kind of behavior did we catch? Is it better than the rest? One of us would see something, perhaps a bird of consequence moving into our joint field of view. “here comes a Pyrrhuloxia from the right, heading toward the cactus spindle.” All four of us then point our cameras there and focus. We wait for the bird to alit and do something interesting. Eating is not considered interesting. Did you ever watch a bird eat? It’s messy business. No, it must something interesting, such as, coupling with a mate or turning upside down or performing a perfect pose with a beautiful background.  For a photographer, these are interesting and downright exciting.

So, our bird in question flies in from the right and alites on the cactus. Rat-a-tat-tat go four cameras at once at 6 pictures per second. The second passes and we all look at the images on our viewscreen. “I got one with catchlights in the eye!” The other three of us pay a reserved homage to the photo because it was better than ours. This behavior among photographers goes on for hours until the good light passes. I am sure the birds being photographed know exactly what is going on. And they laugh scornfully at us. It doesn’t matter because I want the best shot!

Throughout the morning all of us were able to claim the best shot for some sort of behavior. The competition was great fun. It helped me quash my prejudice, a noble thing. Best of all, I am confident I won best photo overall!

Here are some of the birds I photographed with the winner last.

Not your everyday dove, these are called “white-winged doves”. Catching two together while they are not stuffing their faces was difficult.

“Gambrel’s quail” are fun to watch. But two together (boy and girl) was more than twice the fun!

These Gambrel’s quails seem to be on a family outing. Capturing all four with their heads up and eyes open was difficult.

A Pyrrhuloxia (desert cardinal) is rare enough. But, I captured this one with its wings extended. This image won the cardinal round.

The phainopepla is also known as a silky flycatcher. They are skittish and do not usually pose – until this guy. Check out the creamy background.

This has to be best of show, so to speak. The cactus wren is the the AZ state bird and quite common. But catching the cactus wren with breakfast in its beak was fantastic. It was the worm curve that won it for me.