Mountain Bluebird

How To Get Close To Birds?

People sometimes ask me, how I get so close to the birds I photograph?

If you have ever seen me out birding, you know I am usually dressed in camouflage from head to toe, sitting motionless on my fold-up stool or peering out of my camouflage photo blind. I have been known to bushwhack through dense tamarisk and commando crawl across muddy lake beds to inch closer to wildlife.

But one of the best ways I get close to birds (and not stress them out) is to stay in my car!

I learned this valuable lesson in Denali National Park. I worked as a guide at a lodge at the end of a 90 mile dirt road in the park. No private cars were allowed and all visitors travelled by old school busses along the road. We encountered grizzly bears sleeping on the road blocking all travel, caribou trotting nonchalantly along side and even packs of wolves running back and forth across the road in front of the buses.

The wildlife quickly learned that these giant yellow machines never left the road, were very slow, made frequent stops and posed no threat to them. And the funny smelling, two legged animals inside, rarely if ever got off the bus.

Birds in Nevada (or anywhere) are no different from the animals in Denali Park. Birds quickly get used to our wheeled vehicles zipping along the defined roadways, but they usually flee when the awkward, unpredictable humans emerge from their steel cocoons.

So try staying in your car, with the windows down, binoculars/camera in your lap and see what shows up next time you going out birding.

I took the photos of the Western Bluebirds while sitting in a parking lot. Later, while driving, I spotted a group of Mountain Bluebirds along the road. I pulled over turned off the car and waited. Eventually the Mountain Bluebirds came within 5 feet of my car as they systematically worked their way down the edge of the road searching for insects.

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