Another Week, Another 3000 Shots
My “work” schedule here at the bird feeding station consists of two days on, two days off. My duties are to make sure the feeders are put out and filled each morning ( they have to be taken in and placed in a metal storage bin every night or they are destroyed by the night ” cleanup crew “, mainly raccoons, squirrels, and other night time scavengers ), fill the water features, put out the sign in books and donation jar, set up chairs for our guests, and at 8 AM, go and open the gate. At 4 PM, all that is reversed and I get to go ” home “, to my motorhome, parked about a hundred away. During my eight hours on duty, I get to talk with our guests, answer their questions and monitor the food situation in the yard, refilling feeders and reapplying our peanut butter/lard/cornmeal mix to stumps, limbs, and platforms. Oh, and I also get to take some photos.
A tough job, but hey, someone’s got to do it. Since, at this time of the year, we may only have a few folks coming in during the day, I have managed to find a way to keep myself entertained, and I imagine you have figured out how I do that. This week I continued to experiment with various physical setups for bringing the birds into an area of optimum light, and played around with different camera settings as I still am not happy with what I am getting for results. Don’t get me wrong, I like a lot of these shots and they are without doubt some of the best of this type of picture I have taken so far, but I still have not found a way to completely freeze the action and have adequate depth of field. At this point I assume I will ultimately have to go to using flash to achieve my optimum results, but for now, I am going to hold off on that.
The log I slathered with our peanut butter/lard/cornmeal mixture last week worked fairly well laying on the ground but the three foot length of feeding area when in that position, gave me too much room for error in focusing, so this week, I simply stood the log up vertically, reducing the feeding area to just ten inches across. And to help keep the birds coming in somewhere near my plane of focus ( I have to prefocus on a certain spot since autofocus just won’t work on this type of shot ), I only put the mixture of the back edge of the log. This ended up producing some better shots than I managed last week.
Click on any image for a larger, sharper version. ( All the shots in this and previous posts of the Salineno Birding Station were taken over several days, under varying lighting conditions.)
Green Jay Flight Path
Another new approach I used this week was to place a new, smaller platform feeder under an overhanging limb that the Green Jays like to use to perch on before dropping down to feed. The image above was taken just as the bird hopped off the limb to begin his descent.
A split second later he opens his wings to hold his glide path …
…tilts his body and flairs his tail feathers to begin his landing maneuver …
… spreads his wing feathers and drops the landing gear …
… “parachutes” his wing feathers to slow his descent …
… makes final landing path adjustments …
…readies landing gear…
…and coasts in to the feeder.
All this action takes about half a second ! He travels about five feet vertically and just about the same distance horizontally. Since I have to prefocus on a certain point, and hope I guessed right, each of these photos is of a different bird, most likely, so it’s kind of convenient that most green jays are hard to tell apart. With the difficult light conditions in the yard, I seldom can use anything better than an F4, so my depth of field is very limited, probably no more than a 3 or 4 inch deep field, thus it is all but impossible to have all parts of the bird in focus.
To get this series of shots, I have had to take many ( MANY !! ) shots along the five foot distance, refocusing on a slightly different area each time, and then capturing a bird in that area, then move on and do the same thing again… and again. But, fortunately, I have 8 hours to kill every day, and this is part of how I do it.
More Green Jay shots that I liked but didn’t work in the flight path series.
Altamira Orioles in Flight
This was kind of the assignment I gave myself for this week, to get some decent shots of these intensely colorful birds in flight. These were taken on a solid overcast, cloudy day when there was absolutely no sun. The intense orange of this bird pretty much always “burns” out anytime the sun hits the head of these orioles, so the cloudy day was a blessing in that respect, but also a curse, since I had to use a higher ISO and introduce more noise into the shots, and just couldn’t get any higher than a 1500th of a second exposure, which is simply not fast enough to freeze the wing tips.
Yet, I am still pleased to get some decent shots.
But I will have to continue working on this birth next week!
Interesting Shots I wasn’t Necessarily Looking For
It is not always just one bird that enters the scene as I am shooting, often there are two, or sometimes more. With my narrow depth of field and prefocus situation, needless to say, 99 percent of the shots with more than one bird, someone is bound to be severely out of focus … but every once in a while, the photography gods are with you, and you get some interesting shots.
Red-winged Blackbirds are a scourge here, arriving in massive clouds of food devouring birds. We hate to see them coming in, and they do so relentlessly. In the first photo, this Altamira Oriole is showing his displeasure with the new arrival intruding on his food, and in the second image makes his departure, rather than share the stage with this unwanted guest.
The Altamira is a little more comfortable with this Golden-fronted Woodpecker, most likely because of the distance between them.
He is not all that pleased to share with another of his kind.
And this image was really unexpected, A Great Kiskadee descends for a bite just as a rare Audubon Oriole alights to do the same. The Oriole quickly left.
I haven’t had a great deal of luck capturing the Northern Cardinal in flight yet, a smaller, and thus more difficult subject than the Green Jays, Kiskadees, and the Altamira Orioles.
And when this rather colorful female Cardinal arrived on the scene …
… and I got this out of focus shot of her hovering over the log, I knew what my next assignment would be. I now have to get a good shot of her in this type of position. She is considered the drab version of the species, but I had no idea how colorful the underside of her wings and tail were, in fact, I would now have to consider her a more interesting bird than the male.
Stay tuned !
Thank you for shopping Amazon from my site!
When you click through to shop Amazon from here, I get a tiny commission, one that does not in any way impact what you pay, and all those tiny commissions eventually add up and that helps me keep this blog going !