Christmas is an extra special time for birders on Hilton Head Island.
The Hilton Head chapter of the Audubon Society takes part in the annual Christmas Bird Count that takes stock of local bird populations.
Barry Lowes has helped organize the local bird count for the past 26 years. In addition to being an avid birder, Lowes also has photographed the birds he's spotted. More than 100 of those photos will be on display Dec. 5 at The Seabrook.
Lowes, who splits time between Hilton Head and Canada, explains what it takes to be an effective bird photographer.
Question. What brought you down to Hilton Head?
Answer. I have had a lifelong interest in birds and wildlife. I was watching the Family Circle tennis tournament way back when. I heard birds singing, and I knew all the songs. I thought, "Wow. If I can hear all these birds singing during this tennis tournament on TV, I've got to go see what this place is like."
Q. What came first for you, birding or photography?
A. I had a teacher way back in the Depression who started us into junior Audubon. I was probably 10 or 11 years of age. I've always been outdoors. Once I retired, I decided I was going to photograph them.
Q. I imagine it takes some patience if you're photographing birds?
A. The first thing you need is patience. It's not like they've got wristwatches and can get there when you need them. When my wife comes with me at times she'll say "shoot, shoot, shoot." If it's not right, it's not a good shot. There's no such thing as hope in photography. You don't click and hope it turns out. It's there or not there.
You've got to understand wildlife. You have to put yourself in the position to take a good photo. Chance only happens so often. Most of the time you have to understand where they'll be, what they'll be doing and what the light will be.
Q. How often are you out with your camera?
A. I carry it everywhere I go. And not just sitting there in a bag. You have it out and you set the settings for whatever you might need if you're taking a picture out of the car window in the middle of the day, or something like that.
Q. Do you come across many unique birds in this area?
A. We do get rarities. They drift. There was a lot of drifting this year because of all those big storms, Irene and so on. We saw 30 different kinds of warblers, a lot of those are ones you don't see. And not only that, we've got a lot of good people who can identify them. If you didn't have good people, the birds would just fly by and no one would notice.