A Feathered Ember

I slow down. Groups of dog-walkers and just-plain-walkers ahead of me don’t break stride, but I can see a man stopped at the intersection of two trails, gazing intently at something I can’t yet see. I don’t want to scare whatever-it-is into moving by moving precipitously myself.

Reaching the corner, I finally see the object of the man’s gaze: I gasp involuntarily and immediately clap my hand over my mouth.

A feathered ember in a desert landscape,
the male Vermilion Flycatcher
is exactly what its name says:
a brilliant red bird
that hawks flying insects
from conspicuous perches on shrub tops and fences.
All About Birds

As other photographers and birders come and go–and as exercisers and conversers go by, oblivious to this avian event–Buddy flits from one exposed (aka conspicuous) perch to another, with only brief forays into hard-to-photograph shaded areas or behind brambles of branches.

Some bird sightings come after hours or days of preparation, researching populations, habitats, and migration patterns. After talking to locals about the best season to spot the target, even the best time of day. After packing binoculars or spotting scopes. After remembering back-up batteries and SD cards for the camera. After flying, driving, and/or walking great distances. After waiting great periods of time.

Some bird sightings come in a moment of grace, with no effort at all on my part beyond just showing up. It’s a welcome reminder that tiny unearned delights can be around any given corner.


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14 Responses to A Feathered Ember

  1. Ken from Kenora says:

    Excellent photos Isabel. A beautiful bird, you deserved that sighting. Luck is when opportunity meets preparedness.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Ken – Many thanks. We should all have that opportunity. (Although Kenora is well outside their range….)

  2. Jim Robertson says:

    Nice series of photos of a wonderful bird. A nice serendipity happening.

    I note that not only is Kenora outside its territory , so is Ottawa (and most of the US and Canada)

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim – Thanks. It was the highlight of a good morning, for sure. The fellow that I spotted spotting it said that since he’d hurt his knees, he saw way more birds. Slower isn’t altogether bad. 🙂

  3. Carla Dawes says:

    Wow!!! Moments of grace indeed. Such a beautiful bird. Great captures Isabel!

  4. John Whitman says:

    Isabel – more days like that for you and eventually you will come around to my approach to photography. “Take lots of pictures and hope for the best.”

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      John – That’s pretty much what I did for this. Most of my shots were fuzzy or of the bird’s back. But it’s always thrilling when even a few work out well.

  5. I caught my breath, too, when I saw your banner photo. The joy multiplied with each photo. Thank you for doing what others cannot do and for sharing so generously. I also delight in the observations you extend to life in general. Staying open to breath-catching surprises may be the best way of attracting them. As I scan the snowy scene outside my windows, I can imagine feathered embers illuminating the grey-brown trunks and branches. I can imagine the future lighting up that way.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – I expect you have Northern Cardinals in your neighbourhood, at least for part of the year, right? Like this little guy, they’re happy to pose. Something to look forward to.

  6. Tom Watson says:

    Talk about being in the right place at the right time!

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Tom – True! The bird had to be there and, likely, the guy who spotted it – so that I could spot him. Other birders told me that this bird (or one just like) usually hangs out further down that one trail, where I almost never go. So it was lucky in a few ways.

  7. Lorna says:

    Beautiful bird and observations on an important life skill – noticing. Thanks Isabel.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Lorna – Many thanks. It’s great to be at the northern end of the range of these sub-tropical birds – I get to see them without having to deal with the heat that usually accompanies them.

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