A Kingfisher And A Jerk

I encounter a lot of very nice people through my bird photography but I meet my share of stinkers too. Be prepared, you won’t find a single quality image in today’s post – only a mediocre one and a description of my encounter with one of the rudest folks on the planet. And the first can be blamed on the second.

Yesterday afternoon, after averaging 2-3 daily trips down to the Jordan River for the last month or more in my stubborn attempt to find “my” male Belted Kingfisher again (he no longer shows up at his previous favorite spot), I finally found him once more. But please bear with me while I set the stage so you’ll better understand what actually happened. It’s a fair amount of reading so if you don’t have the interest and/or endurance to get through it I understand and I hope to see you tomorrow but I have a rant within me that’s screaming to get out.

I pulled up to the curb of a parking lot adjacent to the river and there was a sidewalk between me and the river on my left (I was shooting from my pickup of course). I knew there was a kingfisher buried in the trees on my side of the river because I’d heard him chattering at me but at first I couldn’t see him so I located the best spot for light angle based on sound direction and parked. As soon as I could look carefully I located him – he was close but buried in the branches so I just waited to see what would happen. It was only 34° F. so the parking lot was empty and almost no one was walking along the river so I was hopeful for some interesting shots of the kingfisher as he fished the river.

But then along came a man (I’ll call him Roy for the sake of convenience) on the sidewalk walking his small dog and about to walk by within just a few feet of my pickup on my left. I figured Roy would flush the kingfisher and he did, just before he and his little dog reached me. And that’s ok, it was bad timing but stuff like that happens in bird photography – especially in a semi-urban setting like the Jordan River Parkway. Sometimes I cuss when it happens but up to this point it was nobody’s fault.


1/5000, f/6.3, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

When the kingfisher flushed he flew to the far side of the small river and landed here – too far away and too buried in the branches for quality shots but I had a very good chance for flight and diving shots as he fished the river right below him. Roy had seen the kingfisher flush noisily and watched it land in this tree as he continued to walk toward me and he also knew I was trying to photograph the bird (with my huge lens sticking out the window that was impossible to miss). I got my lens on the bird and had about a half-second to fire off four quick shots (this is one of them) before Roy deliberately stopped between me and the kingfisher, turned his back to me, and watched the bird in the tree. All I could see through my lens was Roy’s back.

Based on the chattering of the kingfisher when Roy stopped with his dog the bird obviously wasn’t happy with their presence so he flushed again and disappeared. I couldn’t see what direction he flew because Roy was so close to me (about 8′) he completely blocked my naked-eye view. When the kingfisher flew off Roy turned and continued his walk with only a quick glance at me as he left, apparently to let me know that he’d accomplished his goal of ruining my opportunity. And I was pissed!

I’m as sure that Roy did this deliberately as I am that the flat-earthers are wrong. The chance that he was just oblivious to the point of absurdity was simply impossible and I think others would agree if they’d been there.

I’ve had similar experiences before. I once had a duck hunter in a diesel pickup at Farmington pass me very slowly so he could see what I was aiming my big lens at – it was a “sticky” male American Kestrel quite close to me. When the hunter saw the kestrel and what I was doing he honked and gunned his noisy, stinky engine and deliberately flushed my bird.

I’ll bet some of my bird photographer readers have similar stories. I’ll get over it but as I write this a few hours later I’m still simmering. And disappointed in my species.

Apologies for the rant. I’ll get back to more familiar fare tomorrow. And yes, I feel (a little bit) better – catharsis is good for the soul…



61 comments to A Kingfisher And A Jerk

  • Linda

    I think anyone who photographs wildlife has similar stories. I was once photographing an alligator in Louisiana….Ahead of me on the dirt road I noticed a guy shooting a pellet gun at alligators from his truck….I started filming him, he noticed and left….Now, adult alligators probably wouldn’t be hurt much by a pellet, unless it hit them in an eye…but it pissed me off….I turned in the film clip with him, his truck, liscense plate, and his actions to WL & F…..Though I am almost sure they laughed it off, I felt better having done it. What motivates a person to be such an ass?

  • Andy

    Ron sorry about that! Jerks are jerks but a lot of well meaning birders are equally clueless ! There is a Long Eared Owl colony a couple hours from me, it is on a private resort/campground. Well the birders started

    tramping thru private campsites, not asking permission and ruined it for the rest of us!

    • Yup, there are clueless and/or deliberate bozos in both camps, Andy. And I guess in every other type of group as well.

      The problem was, this guy was far from clueless. He did it deliberately.

  • Betsy Livingstone

    It seems that jerks are in ascendence these days. Your rant is very mild, considering the purposefully obnoxious behavior. Aaaarrggh!

  • Sorry to hear you had to encounter such a weak person Ron. I have witnessed this kind of thing a few times. It does disappoint me in our own species.

  • Trudy Brooks

    Well Ron, It happens a lot in the Big Horn Mountains when I am driving around looking for Moose or Elk. I drive pretty slow and stop to watch the animals and some one drives right in front of where I am parked and block my view of the Big Game animal. They jump out of the big Suv and snap a picture and the animal moves on and so do they. So I don’t get my clear picture. Oh well, I live close and see the Game all the time, so I drive around and wait for the next time. One thing is the animals don’t fly away, so I do have a second chance. It does happen to all of us, and it is a pet peeve.

  • Hiss and spit.
    My curse for people of his ilk is a hope that they acquire permanent, painful hemmorhoids. Not life threatening, but undignified and uncomfortable.

  • Love your photography Ron and your tenacity as a wildlife photographer.Doing what we do will find many interesting people, good mostly and a few head scratchers and pulse pounders.

  • Alice Beckcom

    Ron, your story and stories of your readers, make me ‘mad’ and disgusted. I have not experienced a rude person taking an action that purposely ruins an opportunity for a great photo. If I did, I’m sure that I would react angrily.

    Unfortunately there are people in this world that enjoy causing misery to another human being. They must be miserable being themselves.

    I always enjoy seeing your Kingfisher friend.

  • I’m calling him Donald, and no one can stop me. My personal favorites are the “drivers” who have actually swerved toward me as I am standing photographing lightning on the side of a road. “Lets see if we can make her jump”… It is especially amusing to them because it is often twilight and raining and then they can swerve and splash me (including my 500mm lens) Brings a whole new meaning to the phrase, “Shoot first, focus later”.

  • Eldridge Rawls

    For those of us trying to observe nature ,Hell is other people.

  • Dan Gleason

    I Iike the shot. It shows kingfishers as we typically see them and is a perfect prelude to the closer shots to come. — I’m sure we have all met our share of jerks, but on one occsion I at least got some satisfaction. I was doing a count of shorebirds on the mudflats of a reservoir just west of town. Much of the water is drained in the fall and it attracts many shorebirds. I was with a wildlife official and we had binoculars raised and our scopes on tripods next to us. Suddenly, this jerk deliberately drove his 4-wheel rig, honking his horn, right in front of us and out onto the very mudflats we were looking over. After tearing a long swath in the mud, his vehicle became stuck and no matter how hard he tried it wouldn’t come free. After a long and difficult slog across the mud he finally approached near enough to ask for help. The official’s response was perfect. He suggested that he roll up his windows tightly so that when the reservoir is flooded again next spring, the truck might have a chance to float out of the mud. Then we walked away (and notified the Sheriff’s office).

  • Joanne OBrien

    I have had many similar incidents and I am only a beginning bird photographer! For instance, in late September when I was at an almost-deserted beach when the tide was low and coming in fast. I was having a wonderful time photographing a small flock of sandpipers and plovers. They had gotten used to me as I crouched in the sand dodging incoming rivulets and I was getting decent photos with my 100-400 lens! Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a man walking directly toward me from a quarter a mile away coming from the parking lot. He was not walking along the shore. He walked quickly and with so much purpose I felt as if he knew me or was coming to speak to me. Keep in mind, this is a huge empty beach with nobody around and plenty of shore line to share. It turns out he was a bird watcher who stopped right behind me, binoculars raised and scared all the birds who dispatched quickly to a safer distance! Fine for him with his binos, not so good for me. It took him about 2 seconds to survey the flock, looking for rare specimens I suppose, and then he was off again, clomping down the beach. I coulda killed him! By the time the birds came back down the beach to me again the light had changed and tide was in more. The optimal moment had gone.

  • Susan Stone

    I had the experience of few months ago of watching a Texas Horned Lizard, who was about to start eating ants. We had some other people with us (at Hueco Tanks State Park), when one of the other volunteers deliberately chased it away. That made me mad, because we see very few of those lizards, and I was disappointed that the other visitors would not get to watch him eat. To me, people like “Roy” are just plain nasty. My impression is that he is someone who pretty much feels powerless, and finds ways like blocking your view to feel powerful and pleased with himself. Clearly a very mature person… I’m glad you found your Kingfisher, and hope you’ll have more opportunity with him.

  • Love shot of kingfisher…tangle if branches and all….. I wish an incurable STD on your interloper…..

  • I’d bet dollars to donuts I can guess who he voted for…for “president”…that’s the kind that would. We were parked, with others, watching and photographing a Bald Eagle I called Big Mamma, who was in a nearby tree. Our grandsons were with us and we were giving them their first look at one of these magnificent birds. A guy drove up, got out of his car, looked a few seconds and started jumping up and down, yelling and waving his arms. Big Mamma, of course, flew off. Stupid got back in his car and drove off. The rest of is were too stunned to react, but one woman had asked him why he did that. His reply, “I wanted to see it fly”. I was furious with myself for not getting his plate number and the names of the others, then turning him in to a ranger friend. It’s illegal to harrass an Eagle…had a similar experience with a deer I was trying to photograph from my car…like you, with a big, long, obvious lens. A jerk drove up, got out and started throwing McDonalds french fries at it…now your not allowed to even stop on that road because of jerks like that. Before it was a great place to see, photograph wildlife, especially bears and deer.

  • Barbara

    I would have coughed and asked him to move!! Sometimes you just have to let people know they are being idiots!!

  • Todd Blessing

    I’ve had similar encounters but with children. They’ll deliberately scare birds off I’m photographing and parents laugh thinking it’s funny.

  • Zaphir Shamma

    A small man who lives in his small world trying to wring out a modicum of pleasure at others expense simply because that’s the only satisfaction his small life can produce. These people inhabit our planet and it’s our unfortunate experience when they enter our orbit. He’ll go on with his small life and most likely remain insignificant except when he (or she) is able to generate angst to others. No one will remember them when they go and I think this self-cathartic post is a good step for you not remembering him either. Thank you for sharing as always – Zaph

  • Marty K

    I’m thinking that “Richard” might be an even more fitting name…

    I’m also imaging all the zoonotic maladies that his little friend (while of course remaining asymptomatic, itself) might pass on to him.

  • Very nice shot of the kingfisher at a distance. We have had jerks who blast their air horns as a small group of us are watching a Bald Eagle nest from a safe distance on the opposite side of the road. I should be ashamed of myself, but it is hard to let those bad feelings go.

    • Yes, it IS hard, Ken. That’s part of the reason I wrote this post – to try to get it behind me. It bothers me that I’m allowing Roy to occupy any more of my thoughts or my time than necessary. Like I said, catharsis…

  • Elmer Deloso

    Many times I despair for our species because of folks like Roy, but then at times I see a glimmer of hope because of folks like Ron. Many time I read reviews of new & exciting photo gear that produce “Art” with portraits. But I am often reminded by encounters like this story that pull me back to staying with nature, wildlife & birds.

  • Ron, first, I love the photo, especially for the split-second chance that created it. Second, this post really resonated with me because of the numbers of people I’ve encountered like this. As Wendy wrote, there are obviously those who aren’t conscious of the effects they’re having, or who accidentally intrude. But it’s difficult to deny the deliberate acts we experience like this, as outright gestures of malice. I’ve had a few similar things happen to me with hunters. There are some who seem to enjoy flaunting their power over non-consumptive users of shared spaces. My little car was also once “coal rolled” by a couple of jerks in a truck in a rural area of Oregon. And, photographing birds on SoCal beaches comes with a lot of human intrusion. In one case, I was set up, lying in the sand photographing terns and my setup was obvious, as was yours. A guy comes along, removes his flip flops, and starts clapping them together to flush the birds, telling them to get the hell out of there. WTH? I got up and addressed the harassment with him, but he was nasty as hell, so I let it go. The irony of these situations is that part of the reason we’re out there to begin with is because of the often peaceful and sane counter example that nonhumans provide in a messed-up human existence. Thank you for posting this.

    • “The irony of these situations is that part of the reason we’re out there to begin with is because of the often peaceful and sane counter example that nonhumans provide in a messed-up human existence”

      Ingrid, You already know how much I admire your gift for writing and that sentence is an example. You cut the chaff so expertly with your phrasing and that short sentence says more (and does it accurately) than I probably did in my entire post.

    • Judy Gusick

      Had to look up “coal rolled” – new on to me – GAWD! 🙁 Must have a huge budget to waste fuel that way…………:(

  • Emily

    While I am so annoyed for you, this truly makes for a good read, Ron! Don’t pay any mind to those diesel driving, photograph blocking, flat-Earth fanatics who have no respect for our world’s natural beauty and those who try to capture it. They’re the same type who go to a national park and smoke cigarettes while trying to mount a bison for the perfect picture 🙄🙄. I’m sure “Roy” (again, nicely done with name choice 🤣) was probably packing heat and would’ve shot the kingfisher to prove how manly he is if you hadn’t been there. Gah! It’s no wonder you surround yourself with nature. People are jerks.

  • Wendy Chapman

    Hi Ron,

    I enjoy your bird photography and read you posts almost every day. I photograph a wide range of subjects and can say that this happens in every genre of photography. I also have to admit that I do not own the planet and if someone wants to walk on the beach and stand in front of me to see a gorgeous sunset it is also their right. Most of the time they are innocent and as caught up in the reverie of the moment as I am. Sometimes we photographers can get pretty myopic and forget it is us who may be being rude by expecting or wanting others to stay out of our way! That said this person is in that minority who deserves a bash on the head with a 500 mm lens! I am sure he is the kind of guy who skips ahead in line at the grocer or and then talks at length about the weather to the cashier so everyone has to wait. Some people are like that and it is very annoying.

    I always try to remember the many wonderful people who do their best to stay out of your way and even enjoy talking with you about what you are doing. They are considerate even when I assure them it is fine for them to walk ahead of me. They more than make up for that jerk.

    • You’re right, Wendy. Most folks are nice and at least try to be considerate. Even the oblivious ones can be apologetic when they’re finally aware of the situation (that happened to me just a couple of days ago).

      But Roy was in a different category altogether!

  • Judy Gusick

    One could only wish for a long distance “cattle prod” to “get their attention” – yes I have VERY evil thoughts in situations like that! 🙁 As for the diesel may his fuel gel up while he’s “hunting” a long way from anywhere in cold, wet weather! 🙂 Afraid I would have descriptions other than “jerk” for them!