Satisfied with a long, slowly paced period of watching these guys, along with fun glimpses of a mink playing in the snow across the river, I began to follow the Belted Kingfisher whose rattles enticed me, the leafless forest allowing much better looks through the glass than in summer.
He'd flown downriver a bit, on the other side of the bridge, and I walked toward the riverbank, hoping for a closer approach. I watched his patterns, his preferred perches. I waited. I crouched in the snow. I waited some more. I could hear his laugh-like call just around the bend. I nearly fell over when a deer, probably drinking below the bank, came up and then startled, and ran along the bank away from me, toward the location of the kingfisher's call.
Along with the chill and cold, the very advantage of winter birding, the open habitat, became my disadvantage as well. Not easy to hide. As I took my various shots, the cold combined with my gloves created new equipment challenges. The autofocus was shaky in the cold, and my gloved hands kept moving the exposure dial. Manual focus was tough, as I fought the fogging in my viewfinder.
So, maybe my photos are substandard. Not maybe, they are substandard. Very much so. They still get a place in the blog, as reminder of both the joys and the frustrations ahead in this magical season we call "winter."
Postscript: In the interest of avoiding the appearance of endorsement or exclusion of other retailers, I wanted to point out that Binoculars.com and Eagle Optics are excellent online sources for those wishing to shop online. Both companies have birding experts on board to advise and recommend; Binoculars.com has Laura Erickson's expertise, while Eagle Optics can count on Mike McDowell and Sharon Stiteler, better known as "Birdchick," to help befuddled birders in making the choice that's best for them. Both companies provide excellent educational resources to help the customer research and make the best choice. Both companies lend their support at birding festivals, as well as partnering in conservation efforts. I learned that Wild Birds Unlimited gets their in-store stock from Eagle Optics. I do think that all three birding optics experts would agree that trying out different binoculars is the best way to make one's choice. Given my need for instant gratification, that left me shopping the Wild Birds store. I can be patient only so long, and I guess I save that patience for my family, my students and my birding!