Through The Eyes Of A Bird Watcher

May 9, 2016

From winding rivers to lush greenery, it’s no wonder the Northwest is one of the most beautiful regions in the world. However, just below the pointed tops of evergreens lies another world to notice – the life of native birds.


Earl Blackaby of Walla Walla is an avid bird watcher and has been catching local wildlife on film for six years. After suffering from a stroke, one of Blackaby’s recovery tasks was light exercise. And after his retirement, he found that he had time for more walks.


“These walks gave me lots of time to check out nature and notice things I hadn’t paid the time to notice before,” he said. Specifically, he noticed the birds and animals around Walla Walla.


For the past two years, Blackaby has submitted a growing collection of bird photographs to Northwest Public Radio’s photography blog, but he does so without incentive or pay. So what’s the reward for a local bird photographer?


“Wealth doesn’t have to come from a paycheck, but from the success of observing nature and documenting the beauty all around us.”


For Blackaby, the hardest bird to find is the Belted Kingfisher, a small fishing bird often disappears below the water before he can snap the picture.


“The really hard part is to watch them hover over the creek, then quickly dive into the creek for a fish,” Blackaby says. The best luck with those is to find one perching on some shrubbery near a stream.


But getting the perfect photo of a bird isn’t all up to luck. He recommends visiting with other bird watchers and researching the best places to find birds.


In Walla Walla, the Blue Mountain Audubon Society hosts a weekly bird walk around Bennington Lake, which Blackaby recommends as a great bird watching spot.


The area also lies at the edge of the Blue Mountains, has the Mill Creek walking path, and plenty of other trails, rivers and ponds. For that reason, Blackaby doesn’t find the need to venture more than 15 minutes outside of his home in Walla Walla.


Interested in bird watching? Blackaby has a few tips: “Practice and good luck helps you get better, enjoy what you’re doing, and learn the best places where you may find the subject you’re seeking.”


He says anyone could just read material, but what works best for Blackaby is actually getting outdoors and experimenting as he goes.


“There is always that excitement about the surprise that may be waiting for you just around the next corner.”