Many of the best bird photos I have taken did not involve super telephoto lenses or expensive trips to exotic locations. I did not have to sit in a freezing rain or endure hours or harsh sun to shoot all of the photos (including the Rose-Breasted Grosbeak shown above) on this post.
These images were all taken on a back porch on the same day at Deep Creek Lake. (please click here to read more and see many additional photos)
Here are some of the tricks that I have been taught and picked up in the short few years since I started photographing birds in our backyard:
1. Birds like food. This is probably a no brainer but it is worth pointing out that having several feeders on a deck makes a big difference when you are trying to attract our fine feathered friends. If you want to attract woodpeckers you should hang a suet cake. Certain types of bird feed will attract different birds. Blue Jays for instance seem to like peanuts. Baltimore Orioles like oranges.
Keep in mind that it can take a couple of days after you put up your feeders for the birds start dropping in. It is sort of like starting a blog, you need a lot of content to attract readers and you need to post regularly. The word has to get out. When setting up your feeders for photography I would suggest placing them in a way so that your background will be clear of clutter and consistent. Be sure to refill the feeders regularly when they are empty.
2. Squirrels like food too. As shown in an earlier post on this blog See Squirrels, the more bird feed you put up the more squirrels you will attract. Birds stores offer many feeders that will discourage SQs from pillaging your feeders. Some of them work some of them don’t. The further you can hang your feeders from your porch or from your house the less chance there will be of squirrel theft. Be warned though, these furry troublemakers can jump a long way and they are very persistent creatures.
3. Props help. A great trick I picked up from a recent nature photography lecture was to place a log or branch on your deck railing. You can either smear suet on the back or drop bird seed on the log. As you can see from many of the photos here, the birds will perch on the log. This leads to a more natural looking photo and beats the bird on the porch railing look. My experience has been that the more bark there is the log the better.
4. Stay back and give the birds space. Sometimes I will set up a remote camera on the porch and activate the shutter from inside our home, but usually I will set up a chair right next to a sliding glass door and shoot with a 200MM lens thru the clean window. The birds seem to be comfortable with this. Some of the birds will come to the feeder even when I am out of the porch but
most will not.
5. The higher the better. When you set up your feeders or are looking for a place to shoot from, the higher the spot is the better. Most, though not all birds, perch in trees and make nests in trees. I am very fortunate in that porch from where I shoot the majority of my bird photos in Deep Creek Lake is close to tree top level. If the feeders were set up on the ground level we probably would not see the same variety. The other side of the coin is ground feeders like Robins rarely if ever venture up to our feeders.
These are just a few of the things I do to make my backyard birding photography more successful. Remember to always be patient and understand that there may be some days that you might see few if any birds at all. In coming posts I will talk more about best ways to compose and shoot photos when the birds are there (which will usually be the case when you follow the advice above.)
Thanks for dropping into my blog and happy birding!