Thoughts About Photographing Sparrows
I’ve observed the behaviors and attributes of many types of sparrows while out in the field. I use to think that sparrows were nothing special, mostly familiar, common and plain. I thought one sparrow looked pretty much the same as every other sparrow. I was wrong.
Taking the time to watch and photograph birds in their natural environment has altered my perspective about what’s important. I’m more watchful and aware and perhaps more engaged in the natural world, its challenges and mysteries, at least as they relate to birding.
How to ID Sparrows
It’s easy to get confused when identifying sparrows because the differences between them are quite subtle. Since there are more than 3 dozen kinds of sparrows in North America, not to mention differences between males and females and immature birds, I use a web resource that helps me separate out the subtleties between the different species. It’s called, “What’s That Sparrow”, Part of the “Great Backyard Bird Count” project, at this website.
The Field Sparrow
The field sparrow is common, but lovely and melodic. It’s a small sparrow, with a cute little white eye ring, a pink/orange bill, forked tail, and lustrous feathers in shades of cream, brown and gray.
Unexpected Memory Disk Failure
You would think that all these feelings of inner peace, calm and tranquility brought on by the practice of photography would linger long past the nature experience and make me a better, more worth while human being.
My camera’s memory disk failed – after spending 3 hours in the field and loading it with sparrow images. I was not a happy photographer.
Memory Disk File Maintenance
Photographers should know that the camera’s compact flash memory cards will eventually fail… it’s just a matter of when.
Before I go out into the field, I make sure I have clean memory disks loaded in the camera. (NOTE: My camera has slots for 2 memory disks.) The previous day, after I downloaded my images to my computer, I erased and formatted the memory disk while it was still in the memory card reader attached to the computer.
This action apparently caused a problem later when I was in the field and the camera attempted to save the images. The files were corrupted. The memory card with all my bird photographs of the day was inaccessible.
Use the Camera to Erase Files and Format your Memory Card
Erasing the camera’s memory card with my computer’s operating system instead of using my camera erase/format utility is a bad idea because of operating system compatibility issues. It’s safer to utilize the camera’s operating system to do file maintenance rather than using the Windows OS or the Mac OS.
The corrupted data on my memory card was most probably caused by 2 or more image files trying to occupy the same space on the disk. However, it could also have been a virus, malware, power failure, a unexpected system shutdown, bad drive sector, faulty memory card, etc.
So, there are lots of issues that can lead to frustration and possible disaster. During a shoot, I often do a quick check of the display to make sure the camera can access the image files. If I discover a problem, I change out that memory card pronto.
Image Rescue Software
Luckily, most of the corrupted files on my memory disk were able to be recovered and restored with corrupted data recovery software. Image rescue software is usually included when you buy your memory card. If not, free software tools to retrieve corrupted jpeg and raw files are widely available on the web.
After the images were recovered, I threw away that unreliable memory card.
All is Not Calm and Peaceful for Wild Birds
Ever out in a field full of active, chirping sparrows and getting great shots, and then suddenly, dead silence?
It’s kind of eery when everyone but you disappears. At first, I thought that the birds left because of some movement I made manipulating the camera in my car. But then I see him.
A Cooper’s Hawk was after the same field sparrows that I was photographing.
A good reminder that all is not calm and peaceful for Field Sparrows.