Yardbirding, eBirding & Finch Irruptions

Yardbirding, eBirding & Finch Irruptions

A 15-year-old bird photographer's story of exposure.

I have always enjoyed birds, whether it be the simple pleasure of watching the ruby-throated hummingbirds zip around at the feeder or experiencing the rare moment of spotting a great horned owl at dusk. Although it wasn’t until after we moved from an urban area near Kitchener-Waterloo to a rural country setting on the Bruce Peninsula in Ontario that I really became interested in birding and photography. 


It began on a cloudy, damp day in February 2018. I was out in my backyard when an adult bald eagle suddenly flew about 25 feet over my head! In total astonishment, I watched it glide off into the distance and disappear behind a grove of trees. I had only viewed them in photos before, so it was a very exciting moment. I guess you could say that was the moment that got me hooked on birds. I then decided to try to get a photo of one, so I dug out my dad’s old Lumix camera and started searching for more bald eagles. Soon, I came across several other birds, like kestrels, killdeer and cedar waxwings. Later in the year, I discovered eBird, a website where I could post my bird sightings and photos, and also check out sightings by other birders. 

Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle

Since then, my experience in birding and photography has improved a great deal, and each year I am seeing and photographing many new species of birds. Some of my favourite groups of birds would probably be owls, warblers and shorebirds. I especially enjoy “yardbirding” (birding around my yard) and the pure fun and challenge of finding as many species as possible around our property in Miller Lake. Another spot where I like to bird often is Stokes Bay. There are usually a lot of ducks, swans and geese there in the spring and fall, and I enjoy scanning through the flocks and picking out the different species.

Since upgrading to more professional camera equipment, I am now equipped to capture photos I could never have dreamed of. I’ve learned that bird photography requires a lot of patience, yet it is very thrilling and rewarding once you’ve captured that perfect shot. 

Snowy Owl

My favourite time of year for bird photography is fall because the colourful leaves on the trees make for the perfect backdrop. Birding last fall was especially productive, since it was an irruption year for northern finches. Finch irruptions, which happen every few years, occur when there are fewer seeds available for the finches to eat, so they fly farther south in search of food. Throughout the fall, I did a considerable amount of finch watching, and by the time fall had ended, I had found and photographed all seven species of northern finch. 

Blue Bird

Fall is also a great time of year for hawk watching. With most of the birds of prey heading south for the winter, sometimes rare or uncommon raptors will make brief appearances. Such was the case when a black vulture made a couple of appearances while I was out hawk watching in September 2018. 

It is an especially favourable time of year to find owls, too, and I have seen or heard multiple owl species from my yard in fall, including the uncommon short-eared owl and the northern saw-whet owl.

Sometime in the future, I would love to experience birding in Florida and to photograph such birds as spoonbills, kites (a species of hawk) and the many fascinating species of shorebirds in that state. In the meantime, I’m very content continuing to enjoy God’s awesome creation in the beautiful surroundings of my home in Miller Lake.

Zane Shantz
Zane Shantz

Zane Shantz is a 15-year-old who enjoys birding and photographing God’s amazing creation. He lives in the rural area of Miller Lake on the Bruce Peninsula in Ontario. You can follow his birding/wildlife adventures and photography at zaneswildlifephotography.blogspot.com or email him at zaneshantz@gmail.com

Posted on Thursday, September 23rd, 2021
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