When I was 13 years old I built a bird blind out of palm fronds to conceal myself while photographing birds. Today they are much more sophisticated even including wheelchair ramps. (Courier stock photo)

As a young birder, I started doing wild bird photography when I was around 13 years old. Admittedly, I wasn’t very good, but photographing birds was an extension of my love of birds. I had a serious drawback though — the camera I was using — an old Minolta — didn’t have a powerful lens, so I could only take pictures of birds that were close.

On my own, I decided to build a bird blind. Fortunately, my dad was a woodworker, and he had a lot of tools and building materials. My first blind was rather crude. After all, I was only 13! I built a wooden framework that I covered with chicken wire. I then went around my neighborhood in Tucson collecting palm fronds from people’s yards. Using wire, I attached the palm fronds to the chicken wire.

This is the bird blind I built when I was 13 years old. (Courtesy)

The final step was cutting strategically placed holes in the palm fronds where I could stick my camera lens through so I could photograph the birds that came to my water feature and bird feeders. I literally spent hundreds of hours in my bird blind. And back in those days I also spent a lot of money on film and film development! To this day, I still have all my slides from those early years of doing bird photography.

My collection contains a lot of pictures of Gila woodpeckers, northern cardinals, Gambel’s quail, curve-billed and Bendire’s thrashers and rufous-winged sparrows, just to name a few. Interestingly, as I got older, I stopped doing wild-bird photography and I never really picked it up again. I can’t say why I stopped. I guess my interest just gradually changed over time.




This was the bird blind I built when I was 13

Fast forward 50 years. I find myself talking bird photography every day with customers in my store! And of course, we’ve hosted a wild bird photography contest here at Jay’s Bird barn for 14 years. Now, my cell phone is my camera and, from time to time, I shoot pictures of birds using my cell phone in conjunction with my spotting scope.

As an authorized Vortex and Swarovski dealer, we talk to a lot of people who want to do bird photography using digital camera equipment, using their binoculars or spotting scope as their lens. Hence the name, digi-scoping.

As part of our 19th anniversary celebration, we are offering two free digi-scoping photography fieldtrips—on Friday, Oct. 28, from 2 to 5 p.m. at Willow Lake, and on Saturday, Oct.29, from 8 to 11 a.m. at Watson Lake. Pre-registration is required, as we are limiting these field trips to 10 participants. Call the store at 928-443-5900 to sign up.

On Saturday, Oct. 29, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., we will be hosting our 19th Anniversary Celebration Open House which is free and open to the public. As part of our celebration, we will be offering a wonderful free lunch along with several special activities.

Carl and Joan Tomoff, local authors of the “Woody Plants of the Mogollon Highlands” will be doing a book signing from 11 a.m. to noon. This is a must-have book if you want to know more about the native plants found so abundantly here in the Arizona Central Highlands.

At noon we will be announcing the winners of this year’s 14th annual Wild Bird Photography contest, and at 1 p.m. we will be entertained by the Beautiful Signers from Yavapai Exceptional Industries.

For more than a decade now, Jay’s Bird Barn has partnered with Yavapai Exceptional Industries by providing meaningful employment to adults with disabilities. Each proprietary Jay’s Bird Barn bird seed blend is mixed by the good folks at YEI right here in Prescott.

Until next week, Happy Birding!

Eric Moore is the owner of Jay’s Bird Barn, Arizona Field Optics, and Hallmark in Prescott, Arizona. Eric has been an avid birder for over 50 years. If you have questions about wild birds that you would like discussed in future articles, email him at eric@jaysbirdbarn.com.