Archive for Sunday, March 30, 2003

Birds in back yard make beautiful photos

March 30, 2003

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As a wildlife photographer, I'm always keen to observe and photograph birds, whether it is in a nature preserve, or in my own back yard. I've found that birds are the most elusive creatures in the world. They can simply take wing and disappear. So the key is to observe them closely, get them used to your presence, watch where they land, perch and how they feed, whether on or off the ground.

A bird in the hand, or at a feeder, is definitely worth two in the bush, because it's easier to bring them to you than it is to chase after them.

Once you get them coming your way, you'll want to limit their access to one specific spot. I usually disguise my feeder to get them to come to it. I take a thick branch, drill a hole in it, and attach it vertically to a metal tripod with a clamp. Then I fill the hole with seeds and place it within range of the camera. I make sure that I turn the branch so that I don't see the hole. That way, when a bird lands on the branch, I'll have a clear, natural looking shot.

You can also construct a shelf feeder out of a simple piece of wood. I usually put a branch or a piece of brush somewhere close for them to land, before they alight on the feeder. Birds are cautious when feeding and they like to have a spot where they can observe what's going on around them, and when they think it's safe, they'll land at the feeder. They'll fly first to the branch, and then hop to the feeder. This is where you want to focus your camera.

I always get ready ahead of time by pre-focusing on the area I've selected and watching where the sunlight falls. You don't want to shoot directly into the sun, nor do you want the feeder to be in shadow at the wrong time of day.

Birds are most active in the early morning or evening hours, and you need to practice patience when you begin this hobby. I take a book, magazine, or bird guide with me to help identify any newcomers to the feeder, and I read while I wait for the birds to show up. You need to be quiet, and not make a lot of quick movements, because they'll respond to noise and motion. Of course they may also respond to the sound of the camera at first, but quickly become used to that once they realize they will not be harmed by it. Remember that you may have to spend several hours before you have an opportunity to photograph your feathered friends and that it may take a good deal of time, patience, and willingness to sit and wait for the right moment to present itself.

You may have to shoot a lot of film to get one good picture. The reward is getting to know the habits of these fascinating creatures. You may find yourself becoming intrigued enough to join the ranks of birdwatchers that have made this a top hobby.

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