Starting a book project…

On my 40th birthday friends presented me with a copy of world renowned bird painter J. Fenwick Lansdowne’s 11″ x14″ book ‘Birds of the West Coast’ Volume 1. I loved the format. It had the name and text on the left hand side of the pages with the paintings on the right. His Royal Highness Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, wrote it’s Foreword.

It was the inspiration for a title that I co-authored with Isidor Jeklin of Toronto ‘The Art of Photographing North American Birds’. In this title, my publisher choose to place all the text in the front of the book with the photographs featured at the back. Just before our book was published in 1984, I wrote to Fenwick and after seeing some of our images he generously agreed to write its Foreword.

Some years later my wife Tina and I visited Victoria and we enjoyed a beautiful meal at the Empress Hotel with Fen and his wife Helen. The following day  Tina and I had the privilege of visiting Fenwick’s studio and I came very close to purchasing an original painting of a Wilson’s Warbler. A short time later Fenwick left Victoria for Hong Kong to paint birds for the title ‘The Rare Birds of China’.

Over the years I’ve both self published and had publishers. Looking back, I’d never ever again consider self publishing. It’s just too hard to distribute a title so I’m on the hunt for a publisher. Below is the rough outline for a possible 8.5″ x 11″ book ‘The Evolving Challenges’ (of bird photography at a nest):

The above ‘book’ does not always work. If you have trouble do a search for:

“issuu The Evolving Challenges Donald Waite”


A hungry almost-ready-fledge Cedar Waxwing literally turns upside down begging for food.


A male Red-wing Blackbird makes a rare visit to a tippy nest containing young.

Starting a book project…2020-03-26T14:18:22-07:00

Song Sparrow and Chum Salmon fry…

In April 2004 Damon Calderwood and I discovered the nest of a pair on Song Sparrows in a briar patch adjacent to the Alouette River in Maple Ridge. The Alouette emptied into the Pitt River which in turn emptied into the Fraser River. In other words, the Alouette was tidal. Since these birds feed primarily on seeds and insects, we were surprised to see the adults bringing in Chum Salmon fry. We speculated that the birds were hunting for them in small pools along the river’s edge as the river receded. Due to this rich and abundant protein source, the babies grew faster than at the normal rate. Damon wrote a more comprehensive article for Wildlife Afield. Go here for his article:


A Song Sparrow brings a Chum Salmon fry to the nest to feed its hungry young.

Song Sparrow and Chum Salmon fry…2020-03-26T14:18:22-07:00

Damon S. Calderwood’s Yukon experience, 2004

I can’t remember when Damon began to do the writing for his book ‘Flights of Fantasy Photographing North American Birds’. The book was published by my company in 2006. Oh, my goodness, that’s already eleven years ago!

I always tried to instill in Damon the challenges of trying to get several ‘elements’ into a single bird photograph. So many bird photographers (since it’s now pretty much politically incorrect to photograph birds at the nest) seem to be satisfied with a shot of an adult bird in a tree, on the ground or in flight with a pleasing out-of-focus backdrop. To me, these photographs, even though the bird might be entirely in sharp focus, are boring. I bet that comment is going to hit the nerve with many ‘opportunist’ bird photographers.

Below are just a smattering of images taken from his book.


In this photograph a perfectly camouflaged male Golden Plover broods three newly hatched chicks and incubates a remaining egg as he snaps at an annoying gnat.


A brooding female Common Redpoll flutters her wings in anticipation of a feeding from her more colourful mate.


A White-crowned Sparrow exits its rootlet nest.


A pair of Hermit Thrush do an over and under full flight manoeuvre near the nest.


A female Semi-palmated Plover broods one young while another explores the tundra.


These newly hatched Artic Tern chicks have a warm downy coat to protect them from the cold northern winds.


A pair of Lincoln’s Sparrows enter and exit the nest simultaneously.

Damon S. Calderwood’s Yukon experience, 20042020-03-26T14:18:22-07:00

Trip to Burns, Oregon, 2006

In 2006 David J. James, birding associate Damon S. Calderwood and I drove down to Burns, Oregon, for almost two months of photographing birds at the nest. It was an exciting time and we managed to photograph 29 different species.

For me the most rewarding discovery was a pair of Mountain Bluebirds occupying the abandoned nest of American Robins. This phenomenon had been written about in Arthur C. Bent’s ‘The Life Histories of Birds’ but had never been photographed. We had surmised that cavity nests were at a premium in the area and the bluebirds had resorted to the robin’s nest. The site was perfect for photography as it was only 4-feet off the ground in a juniper. I immediately set up my blind and strobes around the nest. I cut two dead branches off the nest tree after one of the sharp sticks poked me in the eye. I also cut some live branches from a neighboring juniper and placed them in behind the nest. My purpose for this was twofold – to provide background for the photography and to prevent the adults from “coming in the back door”. Almost immediately the adult birds accepted my presence and came in with food on the average of every five minutes to feed the babies. Almost every time an adult would come into the nest, the bird would dig down into the robin nest’s clay bowl as if trying to excavate.

When I left in the evening I covered the nest with the cut branches making sure that there was a way for the parents to get to the babies for feeding and brooding. I knew from experience that baby bluebirds, because they are cavity dwellers, are very noisy. While taking my photographs, I saw owls, hawks and shrikes within earshot of the nest.

Right in the middle of my photography on the third day a  state trooper happened to see my setup and decided to investigate. He had observed my parked Sports Utility Van with my logo and Waite Air Photos Inc. on all 4-sides and had decided to investigate. He saw my blind set up about 8-feet from the nest. He also noticed a saw and correctly concluded that I had used it to cut the branches. I tried to explain that my placing of the branches had probably saved the lives from nearby predators. My explanation fell on deaf ears. He gave me a $299 American maximum misdemeanor for harassing wildlife: to wit Mountain Bluebird. To make a story short, I had my day in court, plead guilty, and paid $225 American (the minimum allowed by law). This was my first time to ever have an encounter with the law over birding Things had certainly changed during the time that I had been away from any serious bird photography.


I photographed this male Mountain Bluebird attending to his ready-to-fledge young residing in the nest of an abandoned American Robin, first time for this to be documented with photography. Damon S. Calderwood wrote an article that was published in the ‘Living Bird’ – one of the most prestigious bird magazines in North America.

To say that I was upset with the ticket would be an understatement. I immediately got in touch with the district biologist in Burns and invited him to accompany me to photograph a pair of Loggerhead Shrikes. I had earlier discovered the nest when it still contained eggs. I was a little taken aback when he arrived out at the nest and began taking photographs of my setup. I was beginning to think that perhaps I’d set myself up for another ticket. He took the first shift in the blind and I watched from my SUV from the roadway. The next fifteen minutes seemed like an eternity for me but then there was a series of quick flashes from the strobes as both parents came in with pieces of a skinned mouse. One of the pair had caught the mouse and the pair had taken their time carving it up into small pieces on a nearby “butcher block”.  This block, simply a dead tree, was used by the two birds to cut up their larger prey and was located about 50 feet behind the blind. The biologist stayed with me for a couple of hours. After the photography session, the biologist and I visited a restaurant in Burns and he agreed to issue us Canadians permits to photograph birds. Surprisingly, no such permit existed however a permit did exist that allowed teachers to take students out during the breeding season to look for nests.

A day or two later, I contacted the a biologist in Salem, the state’s capital, and talked about the circumstances of my misdemeanor. I told him that the trooper failed to see the big picture and that individual farmers were cutting down hundreds of acres of hay and that nesting birds were being cut up and shredded by the thousands if not millions. He tried to tell me that the farmers held off haying until the nesting season was over. Somewhere in the conversation I interjected that I was a farm boy and suggested he drive to Burns to see for himself just what the farmers were doing. I spent on to explain that farms were opening flood gates and that birds on one side of the dikes were being flooded out while birds on the other were being left high and dry resulting in an untold number of deaths to birds per acre. I told him that grazing cattle stepped on God knows how many nests per acre. A burocrat, he gave me the phone number of the top national biologist in Washington, DC.

She and I talked and I told her everything that I’d discussed with the Salem biologist. I even suggested a national permit for knowledgeable bird photographers be given consideration. She was very apologetic and said that the trooper shouldn’t have given me a citation unless I’d caused the death of the birds. Before hanging up, she told me that she’d send faxes to all the law enforcement agencies in and around Burns instructing them to leave the Canadian bird photographers alone.


An adult Loggerhead Shrike brings an Alligator Lizard to feed whole to one of its almost ready-to-fledge young.


A Loggerhead Shrike and its almost ready-to-fledge young take a noon day siesta. Note that this image has been ‘flipped’ in Photoshop when compared to the one above.


A Virginia Rail picks up a newly-hatched young in its beak.


A Snowy Plover moments before exiting the nest with its dried out young.

Trip to Burns, Oregon, 20062020-03-26T14:18:22-07:00