A Passion for Wildlife Photography (PART 6), Predicting behavior (1)


If you can predict what your subject may do next, you can select equipment, settings, and camera angle to take advantage of the information. There are a number of hints suggesting an animal’s next move.  I will discuss some of them in this and the following blog.  1)  Repeated behavior, 2) reaction to the approach of another animal (friend or foe),  3) assuming a subservient pose,  4) behavior after preening,  5) preparation for flight, 6) nervousness (turning head side to side or bobbing) suggesting flight, and 6) changes in muscle tone or shifting of weight.  If I am lucky, such observations allow me to capture the action.  See the following images.

Osprey carrying grass to next
Osprey carrying grass to next

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It was easier to capture the images of these birds in flight since I knew where the birds were going – to their nest.

American oystercatchers attempting to frighten off black skimmers attempting to nest nearby.
American oystercatchers attempting to fighter off black skimmers attempting to nest nearby.
Pelican landing initiates defense on part of other pelicans with young in the area.
Pelican landing initiates defense on part of other pelicans with young in the area.

 

Egrets fighting over the fish concentrated in this small pool of water.
Egrets fighting over fish concentrated in a small pool of water
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Guanaco fight. Anticipated when one approached other running with its head down and neck out-stretched.
One puffin invades the territory of another.
One puffin invades the territory of another and a fight ensues.
Turkey.   As it happens with other species of birds, female assumes subservient position willing to accept mate.
Turkey. As it happens with other species of birds, female assumes subservient position in the presence of a strutting male indicating its willingness to mate.
Sanderlings fighting.  One sometimes puffs up making itself look more formidable.  May also squat to avoid a fight.
Sanderlings fighting. When meeting another bird entering what it considers its territory, the defender sometimes puffs up making itself look more formidable or it may immediately attack the other bird. If it squats, it is indicating that it is the weaker of the two trying to avoid confrontation.
Puffins announcing to intruding bird that they are a  pair.
Puffins announcing to intruding bird that they are a pair.

When one animal approaches another it initiates some kind of behavioral response – a warm reception, indication of a  willingness to mate,  or an aggressive reaction.   I prepare to capture whatever occurs when  I always prepare for a photo opportunity when this occurs.  See descriptions above.

Bufflehead in channel at Chincoteague, VA after preening.
Bufflehead in channel at Chincoteague, VA after preening.

 

Puffin after preening.
Puffin after preening.

 

Canvasback Duck flapping wings to rid itself of loose feathers.
Canvasback Duck flapping wings to rid itself of loose feathers.

Preening is often followed by the flapping of wings in terms of birds to rid itself of loose feathers.

Black skimmer baring gifts as part of courtship.
Black skimmer baring gifts as part of courtship.

If see one adult bird approach another adult with a fish or other gift, watch carefully for what will happen next.  In this case, both are carrying fish. Predicting behavior often requires careful observation of the scene in front of you.  More info & photos in next blog.