Wildlife Photographer’s Camera Fails, Humorous Drawings Ensue

When nature photographer Donny Moore went out to shoot an annual bird migration last month, his camera unexpectedly failed during the outing. To “bring some levity” to the sad situation and to make the most of his time in nature, Moore decided to start sketching instead with his kids’ art supplies.

The Ontario, Canada-based Moore says that as a hobbyist nature photographer, he was excited to start birdwatching and doing bird photography as migration kicked off in May, but his camera wasn’t up for the task this year.

“The worst possible thing happened,” Moore tells PetaPixel. “My weather sealed camera body didn’t seem so weather-sealed anymore and it malfunctioned under the first wet morning shoot. I was instantly devastated but being a nature lover, I wasn’t going to let that get in my way of enjoying what birds were moving through.”

Moore’s personality is one that always begins looking for good lemonade recipes when life hands him lemons, and that’s what happened in this case.

“I have always dealt with most situations by bringing some levity to it and this was going to be no different,” he says. “So I set about sketching some of the sightings I got by using my kids’ art supplies.”

“I would like to clear up any confusion, these are indeed only drawings and not actual photos. The Prothonotary warblers are always enjoyed when they arrive due to the fact their numbers were critically low. They do seem to have made somewhat of a recovery thanks to conservation efforts. Now you can enjoy all the beauty of them with this fine detailed 5H pencil and Crayola colored pencil sketch. The Great Horned Owls are as abundant as usual but I wanted to note that most of the fledgling owlets will be readying to leave soon. Please keep in mind that this is also a drawing and not a photo as you are used to seeing. I’m sure offers will be coming in soon for me to illustrate the next National Geographic birds of North America edition but I hope to have a camera in hand soon so I will turn that offer down.”

“Traditional naturalists used to go out, before cameras and that, they would take field notes,” Moore tells CBC. “Some description of the bird, and a little drawing. So, the idea came in my head, ‘well, I have no camera, I might as well practice what I preach.’”

“In truth although many of the usual suspects have been passing through we have not had any great days for viewing the bird’s. The early weather was not pushing birds our direction and there has not been any suitable weather to push them low in the trees to enjoy good looks. The view in the top sketch shows exactly what I have been seeing this past week. Long looks high up into the trees to see the birds and more likely to hear. I have added the lyrics to the Northern Parula song for you to learn to sing along to. The second sketch is of one of the highlight species that showed up on Saturday. 3 Black-necked stilts were recorded at Hillman Marsh. These elegant shorebirds walk with ease upon their stilts. An expected species to see each year in migration but never guaranteed. Always take the opportunity to go see them if you hear they are in town.”

Moore’s humorous sketches have become a hit among his friends and followers on social media.

“In my head I’m up there with some of the great names in the nature world of art like David Sibley, but that does not seem to translate down through my pencils,” the photographer says. “Trying to keep the sketches as basic as possible but also trying to highlight some field marks of the wildlife I came up with caricatures more than any kind of realism.”

“Over the last couple of days there has been a further wave of migration come through the area. True to form most have stayed high in the trees. That being said I was treated to some excellent views of some nice birds around Shuster Trail in Point Pelee on May 19. Just to remind you my camera is still broken and these are only sketches of what I got to see and not actual photos. The mourning warbler is one of the “skulkers” mostly staying close to the ground in the fresh foliage only to appear for brief glimpses now and again. I crouched down and gazed along a fallen log and to my surprise he hopped onto the log and mourned long enough for me to get the reference for this fine sketch. The second illustration, yes illustration not photo! Is of a northern water snake that had found a big Bullfrog for lunch. We watched as this female snake slowly swallowed its meal. The frog in all honesty was disappointing in its efforts to free itself from the jaws of death. As we watched 2 smaller male snakes came and copulated with the female as she tried to eat. All in all it was good to see nature in harmony and doing as it is supposed to do.”
“One of the highlights of being in Newfoundland 2yrs ago was the diversity of Seabirds to be found. The Puffins had just started showing up on their breeding grounds and as their name suggests they were Puffin away after that long flight. Also evident was the reason why they get called the Clowns of the Sea. Full makeup on and all the trimmings, it was a sight to behold. I’m led to believe that all clowns have registered their name and makeup style with the clown union. So when I inquired of this one what its name was, you know what he told me? Go on have a guess??? Wrong!! He didn’t tell me anything as he is a Puffin not a Parrot. So due to his lack of conversation, I called him Perry. Perry and I enjoyed the most wonderful 5sec conversation. One I won’t ever forget!”
“The much sought after Annular Eclipse rendition 2021. It was a glorious morning on June 10, 2021, thick pea soup fog encased the region but for one little spot on Belleriver Marina. A gallant few braved the 100 humidity and fresh hatch of fish flies to take in the natural wonder. As we set about setting up our equipment, I got the easel set up and the pencils sharpened, eager for the sun to break through the horizon. The thin belt of cloud along the horizon both helped and hampered our viewing as it took slightly longer to burn through (this due to the moon blocking its heat of course) but once it did, that beautiful peach had quite the bite out of it. The crowd of all kinds with their safety glasses adorning their eyes took in this sight for a good 30mins. I eagerly etched away on my paper trying to include every detail to perfection. Thankfully our next total eclipse is due in only a couple of years and by then I surely should have a quality camera set up to bring you some mediocre photos to accompany the drawings.”

Sketching has been a fun and surprisingly productive diversion so far, but Moore is looking forward to getting back to creating photographs.

“Some of my followers of my photography latched onto the drawings and I bantered back and forth in the comments,” he says. “The descriptions I gave for the sketches, while also lighthearted, still hopefully engaged some people into what is out there for us to enjoy.

“[The sketches] have gained their own little of popularity with some followers, [but] I do hope it’s not too long before I have a good camera in hand to get back out shooting what I enjoy best.”

You can find more of Moore’s sketches (and his wildlife photos) on his Facebook and Instagram.