American Eagle Foundation

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you probably saw where I mentioned during a recent trip to the smokies some friends and I made a trip over to The American Eagle Foundation.  I have visited several bird rehab facilities and exhibits, but The American Eagle Foundation had the most number of birds of any I have been to.  They are doing pretty incredible things there with both rehab and education.

On our tour, they had several birds outside.  As photographers we got excited for this, because a large portion of the time these tours and/or shows are held indoors in some pretty crummy light.  Seeing that a lot of the birds were outside got us excited.  

They probably had 20 or so different birds outside, but let's face it, this is The American Eagle Foundation....we're really here for the eagles.  They probably had 4 or 5 eagles on display of varying ages.  This is Lincoln.  He is a fully mature eagle and an amazing looking bird.  Not only did we spend some time photographing him, but later we got to see him fly within a foot of us and even took our picture with him.

The folks associated with AEF were fantastic!  I'll definitely be going back anytime I head to the smokies.

Equipment list: Nikon D850 and Tamron 100-400 F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD

EXIF Info: Aperture-priority, 1/1,600 sec, f/8, ISO 400, 400mm

Tree Swallows

I had been away from home for the last week.  When I returned home there were a lot of things going on around the house with the birds.  First, the bluebird eggs had hatched and they were feeding the babies on a regular basis.  Then there was a robin nest in the front yard.  Finally, the tree swallows had started working on a nest in one of the other nesting boxes.

I always watch the birds with binoculars from my garage or porch.  When I was watching them Friday I saw the tree swallows bringing in nesting material like crazy.  I put the binoculars down, ran inside and grabbed the camera, which stays at the ready on my Sirui Tripod and Gimbal Head, and setup in the bird blind.

It only took a few minutes before they started bringing in more and more nesting material.  I spent the next hour or so photographing these tree swallows.  I watched as they built a nest, watched guard and even battled other birds over territory.  It was a great experience...especially for birds that have not nested in my yard before.

Aperture-priority , 1/1,250 sec, f/8, ISO 800, Compensation: +2/3, 380 mm

Click on the image to view it larger.  Hover over the image to view camera settings.

Here's an image of one of them bringing in a few items for the nest.  This went on and on the entire time I was photographing them.  At times, I was photographing them flying into the nest box, too.  So I tried to keep my shutter speed at 1/1000th of a second or faster.  That was pretty easy to do on this particular day.  I only had to raise my ISO to 800 in order to achieve that desired shutter speed.

Image was created using my Nikon D500 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens mounted atop my Sirui tripod and Gimbal Head.

More From the Female Osprey

On Sunday morning our workshop group got the opportunity to photograph both mom and dad osprey eating a fish.  

Dad brought his fish to the nest to eat.  Mom was none too happy about this.  She screamed and squawked at him the entire time he ate, until he finally left the nest with the fish.  I think she was more upset that he brought the fish to the nest than she was that he wasn't sharing.  At one point while dad was eating at the nest, a mighty brave, little kestrel came swooping in trying to steal some of dad's meal.

After dad left the nest, mom went out and got a fish of her own.  She began eating it within the cover of some trees instead of at the nest.  This worked out great for the group.  The trees were much lower to the ground allowing a much better perspective for photographing her.

Aperture-priority, 1/1,600 sec, f/8, ISO 800, Compensation: +1 2/3, 600 mm

It was very cloudy and the light was not great, so I had to increase my exposure compensation for this by 1 2/3 rds.  Shooting a dark subject on a bright background always throws your camera meter into fits, so you need to adjust your settings to compensate for this.  

This image was made with my Nikon D500 and Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 Lens mounted onto my Sirui P-324S monopod and L-20S Monopod Head.

Mobile, AL Birding Workshop

This past weekend was our birding photography workshop in Mobile, AL.  It went really well!  We were hosted Friday night by Calagaz Photo in Mobile, where David and I both gave presentations then Calagaz offered some super specials to the 6o+ in attendance.

Saturday and Sunday morning we held our field sessions of the workshop.  Due to weather and blustery winds, the bird activity started out a bit slow.  However, thanks to the nesting osprey in the area, we got plenty of chances to photograph stationary birds and birds in flight.

We made some great new friends and had a great time!

On Friday morning, while we were out scouting locations for the workshop, we got the opportunity to photograph some osprey that were busy nest building.  

Aperture-priority, 1/2,000 sec, f/6.3, ISO 400, Compensation: +2/3, 600mm

This is the female osprey bringing in a few sticks to accommodate the nest.  She and her mate spent about 45 minutes non stop adding to the nest this particular morning.  She would leave and get a stick, and upon her return, he'd then leave and go get a stick.

I used my Nikon D500 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 lens all weekend attached to my Sirui monopod.  The Tamron G2 did so well at locking on focus and never losing it!

Northern Flicker

Ever since we started going out to Jackson in the spring one of my highlights of the trip is always finding these "bird nurseries", as we like to call them.  Basically, any cluster of aspen trees you find has all sorts of nesting holes in them and all kinds of birds make use of them.  In a small area you could see several different species of birds.

Aperture Priority, 1/1000th, F/6.3, ISO 3200, Exposure Compensation +1/3

This is a Northern Flicker feeding it's chick.  These birds are found all over the United States in any season.  This is the red shafted form of the Northern Flicker.  There is also a yellow shafted form.  Their main diet is insects, mostly ants.  They use their long, barbed tongue to collect the ants.  I need some of these guys in my backyard.  It would be a like an all you can eat buffet for them!

This image was made using a Nikon D500 and Tamron 150-600mm Lens.  All resting a top my Sirui tripod and GImbal Head.

 

The Bluebirds Have Fledged

So it appears last week that Dagwood and Blondie successfully fledged a group of young bluebirds.  I was excited that everything went good with this brood.  They have even slowly began building a new nest for the next bunch.

I wanted to share a few of the images I was able to get just the day before they fledged.

This is Blondie feeding one of her chicks a delicious looking worm.  

Aperture Priority, F/8, 1/1,000th second, ISO 1600, 220mm

Here's the image just a second after the first.

Aperture Priority, F/8, 1/1,000th second, ISO 1600, 280mm

For these types of images I basically get my tripod set, then compose the scene and lock everything down tight so the camera doesn't move.  I'll set my aperture and then check to see if my shutter speed is fast enough and if not I will adjust my ISO until it is.  Then once I have everything locked down and the camera settings all dialed in, I wait.  Once I see one of the bluebirds flying to the box from across the yard, I hold the shutter button down until they reach the box.  It helps having 10 FPS.  

These images were created with a Nikon D500 and Tamron 150-600mm Lens.  I also used my Sirui Tripod and PH-20 Gimbal Head.

Update on America's Favorite Bluebird Couple

I'll try to catch you up to speed as to what is going on in the world of Blondie and Dagwood.  I've been keeping a close watch on their nest.  The earliest I documented eggs in the nest was on April 2.  Then I noticed two eggs in the nest.  Well, those eggs are still there...not hatched.  Since then they have laid three more eggs, but I wasn't able to document at what time they showed up.  I am pretty sure the first two eggs are no good, based on all the information I have read.  Typically bluebird eggs hatch between 12-14 days after they are laid.  The first two have been in there for over a month.  I have hope that the last three are still good.  The bluebirds have been spending a lot of time with the eggs in the last few weeks, so I am holding out hope that the birds know better than I that at least some of those eggs are still good.  I'd like to see Blondie and Dagwood be successful parents.

On another note, they have been eating their tails off.  Mostly Dagwood at the feeders.  He usually grabs food and takes to the nest to Blondie.  She has been spending a lot of time in the nest box, which is why I am still holding out hope for a few of the eggs.

I've been putting out live meal worms for them over the last few weeks, too.  I usually just put them in one of the "holes" on the tree and as soon as Dagwood finds them, it's on like Donkey Kong.

Aperture Priority, F/6.3, ISO 2000, 1/1000th second, Exposure Compensation +0.7, 330mm

In the above image you can see Dagwood digging for worms.  I have placed a handful of live mealworms in the hollow cavity of this posing tree so he can find them.  He's got his head in that hollow area in this image digging them out.  Then when he does find them it allows for photographs like you see below.

Aperture Priority, F/6.3, ISO 1600, 1/1000th second, Exposure Compensation +0.7, 330mm

This is just one of the things I do to capture images of these birds in a more natural environment.

Both images were made using my Sony A6300, LA-EA3 Lens Adapter and Tamron 150-600mm Lens.  Of course I used my Sirui tripod and PH-20 Gimbal Head, too.

Dagwood, You Charmer

So, the action in the backyard is starting to pick up quite a bit.  I've noticed over the last few days a lot of new, migratory birds stopping by the feeders.  Also, I'm still waiting any day now for the bluebird eggs to hatch.  In the meantime, Blondie and Dagwood are packing in the calories in preparation.

I've been putting out live mealworms for them and they are tearing those things up.  It's also been giving me some pretty good photo ops.

Here's a shot of Dagwood giving Blondie a little gift of love.  Personally, I would never want a worm for a gift, but hey, we are all different.

A bit of a tip here.  When I was out shooting yesterday the sun was moving in and out of the clouds causing the light to differ from one shot to the next.  If you find yourself in a similar situation try using Auto ISO.  In my Sony A6300 I can set a minimum shutter speed for auto ISO.  So I told my camera that when I'm using Auto ISO not to let the shutter speed get below 1/500th second.  Then I have my aperture set in aperture priority mode.  As the light changes the camera quickly calculates and adjusts the ISO (much quicker than I can) to keep that 1/500th shutter speed based on my selected aperture .  It saves a lot of missed shots from constantly having to change the ISO.

Image made with Sony A6300, LA-EA3 Adapter, Tamron 150-600mm Lenes, Sirui tripod and PH-20 Gimbal Head.

Aperture Priority at F/6.3, 1/500th second shutter speed, ISO 2000, Exposure Compensation +0.7

 

 

My Nemesis

When you look at the photo associated with today's blog post you may think, "Ok, a shot of a Hairy Woodpecker.".  But it's much more than that...

These dang woodpeckers have been my nemesis for years.  I've tried and tried to attract them to my backyard with no success at all.  As part of my feeding ritual I place suet in small cracks of the posing tree.  I do this for a few reasons.  First, I want the birds to spend time on the tree digging out the suet.  Secondly, I want to hide the suet so it doesn't show up in the photographs.  Over the last few days I noticed something had been eating almost an entire suet block a day out of the cracks and crevices of the tree.  I had my suspicions it was a woodpecker, but I had no way of confirming it.  A few days ago I was out in the backyard doing some yard work and there it was.  A Hairy Woodpecker.  Eating all of my suet.  Taunting me.  I watched him for several minutes as he was pretty content.  Most likely due to my lack of having a camera in hand.

So, yesterday, armed with my new knowledge that this guy liked to stop by in the evenings, I put out a fresh block of suet, sat in the blind and waited.  Sure enough, that little guy showed up again.  He wasn't there but a few seconds, however I still managed a few frames of him.  It was like a victory.  

Now for some technicals...

Sony A6300, LA-EA3 Adapter, Tamron 150-600mm Lens, Sirui Tripod and PH-20 Gimbal Head.

300mm, Aperture Priority, 1/1000th shutter speed, F/6.3 Aperture, ISO 1600, Exposure Compensation +0.7

Wildlife photography is so much different from other genres in nature.  When shooting landscapes or waterfalls, I want my ISO as low as possible, usually 100.  When I go out with the intent to shoot wildlife, I usually start at ISO 1600.  I may end up adjusting that according to the light, but that is usually where I feel comfortable starting out.

Get out there and tackle your nemesis today! 

 

Sony A6300

My Sony A6300 arrived.  Yeah!

I haven't had much time to spend with it yet, but the day it got here I took it out to the bird blind in the backyard.  I wanted to see how it would handle higher ISOs and how quick it would auto focus with the LA-EA3 adapter.  

Well, the focusing with the adapter is not an issue.  It focuses very quickly with my A mount Tamron 150-600mm Lens.  I expected this based on how things work with the A7R II, but I was pretty excited to confirm this.  

Here's an image of a couple of House Finches kissing.  This was shot at ISO 3200.  Pretty impressive...I wonder how it does at higher ISOs than that?

The image of this sparrow was shot at ISO 12,800!  I'd say this thing does pretty well.  I'm excited about using this thing more!

These images were made using my Sony A6300, LA-EA3 Adapter and Tamron 150-600mm Lens.  Gear resting atop my Sirui Tripod and PH-20 Gimbal Head.