Monday, June 23, 2008

A Few Good Mannikins

Last Friday I visited Eaton Canyon once more. This place had become my favorite birding grounds lately due to its proximity to my home. It was not quite birdy that morning except for the usual Scrub Jays and House Finches. As I approached the Nature Center I met my friend and fellow birder-photographer, Kevin. He also expressed disappointment at the obvious lack of birdlife. So I asked him if he already saw the Nutmeg Mannikins. When he said no, I promptly invited him to the place where the mannikins play.

We stood beneath the pine tree craning our necks looking for any kind of movement. Alas, not even a single pine needle quivered. Thankfully, diverting our attention and relieving our growing anxieties, some Lesser Goldfinches fed on the thistles nearby.

After about 20 minutes, Kevin decided to give up. I was about to eat crow when a pair of mannikins flew in. "There they are! There they are!", I shouted. Kevin did a quick 180 and for the next fifteen minutes or so, we took as many pictures as the Nutmeg Mannikins would allow us. The birds would often hide behind the branches or duck into their nest. I told Kevin that I'd probably return the following day and bring my big lens along so I can get closer looks. At about 9 am, the temperature was already in three digits. We both agreed that it was time to leave the mannikins to their own antics.

Saturday, Cynthia finished earlier than expected from her doctor's appointment. I told her what I told Kevin the day before that I wanted to get pictures of the mannikins with my 500mm lens. She agreed. She also wanted to see the birds that I kept telling her about.

At 9 am, the Eaton Canyon parking lot was already full. Luckily we managed to get a spot not far from the mannikins' pine tree. We first staked out the tree and when the little brown birds flew in, I hastily set up my camera gear. So single-minded was my purpose to capture the images of these birds that I used up all 1 GB of my compact flash card shooting nothing but Nutmeg Mannikins.

Except for a gratuituous shot of a young Scrub Jay eating bread from the steaming road.

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