A White Crowned Sparrow And A Simple Reminder


I think it has been almost a month since I photographed this white crowned sparrow at a local wildlife management area. I feel bad admitting it wasn’t the subject I was hoping for when I got up in the morning and went out in search of birds. As many outdoor photographers do, I too had in mind what I wanted to photograph. I was hoping to find rough legged hawks, barn owls and any other high profile bird which might make itself available.

white crowned sparrow
A white crowned sparrow makes for a great photography subject.

But as I have learned many years ago an outdoor photographer can’t always pick and choose his subjects and if he doesn’t want to come home empty handed he needs to keep his eye open and his shutter button finger ready. It’s a hard lesson to learn sometimes for us outdoor photographers can be a bit fussy and sometimes stubborn in wanting to shoot a certain subject. I too am that way a lot of times but the white crowned sparrow reminded me to always keep an eye open for the subjects most others overlook in search for the higher profile subjects.

white crowned sparrow
The white crowned sparrow is commonly found in marshes and even suburban yards.

This particular morning was turning out to be a bust. I wasn’t having any luck finding any of my target species let alone getting the chance to photograph them. I decided to call it a day and head home. I argued the weather was poor and the light was bad so I convinced myself it just wasn’t the right day to photograph. Well, as I was heading back to the entrance of the bird refuge I noticed a lot of little birds flying back and forth across the road. I approached slowly and low and behold it was a small flock of white crowned sparrows. I get them in my yard all the time but I never really thought I would see theses sparrows here.

white crowned sparrow
I often mistakenly overlook the more common birds such as the white crowned sparrow in search other more rare birds to photograph.

It wasn’t what I initially sought out for on this trip but when opportunity knocks the outdoor photographer needs to answer, especially if he doesn’t want to get skunked and go home empty handed. I started to watch and observe the small flock of white crowned sparrows for a bit to see how I could proceed to get some interesting photographs of them. Getting to know ones subject, especially wild birds, is a great advantage for the bird photographer and I sometimes forget this simple rule and rush in and start snapping as many photographs as I can but if one stays back for a bit and watches he can often get the upper hand in photographing wild birds. It not only gives them a minute or two to settle down and get used to their new audience but it gives the photographer time to study their new subject a bit and find where the best shots might come from.

white crowned sparrow
A white crowned sparrow perched on a fence post.

Being patient and watching these birds also reminded me how all birds are interesting and can make great photographs. There is always a great image awaiting the outdoor photographer if one keeps their eyes open to the more common things around them. The white crowned sparrow is one of the more common birds around my neck of the woods and I can only think of maybe a couple other times I have tried to photograph them, mostly in my yard when other birds weren’t readily available. That is my mistake and I need to constantly remind myself to stop overlooking the common subjects like the white crowned sparrow while out photographing. Even the most common of subjects can make great photographs if done correctly. I now find myself watching out for the more common species like the white crowned sparrow, for example, to photograph. It’t not having a rare subject which makes the photograph great but rather how the photographer uses the subject in his photos which makes a photograph sparkle.

white crowned sparrow
There is always something to photograph, like this white crowned sparrow, if one keeps their eyes open to the natural world around them.

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