Roseate Spoonbill

The Roseate Spoonbill is always one of the most popular wading birds among photographers.  When it is in full, breeding plumage there is no question why, either.  The vibrant pinks of this bird really make it an eye catcher!

During my visit to New Iberia recently we made a trip to Jefferson Island.  Jefferson Island is along the entrance road to Rip Van Winkle Gardens.  The birds were really just starting to nest on the island.  There were several different birds on the island, too.  There were Cattle Egrets, Little Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets and Roseate Spoonbills.  

I tried to capture images as the birds were moving around collecting sticks and other materials for their new nests.

Aperture-priority, 1/1,000 sec, f/8, ISO 1400, Compensation: +1/3

On the day I captured this image it was heavy overcast lighting.  That works out great to see all the colors, contrast and details of the bird, you just have to remember to raise your ISO a bit to make sure your shutter speed doesn't drop too low that it may cause motion blur. 

This image was captured with my Nikon D500 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens resting atop my Sirui P-324S monopod.

Gulf States Camera Club Council Convention

Over the last several days I had the good fortune of being able to speak to and meet tons of really great people from the Gulf States Camera Club Council in New Iberia, LA.  I had a blast talking photography with them, shooting with them and enjoying the local Cajun cuisine.  

I had arrived a day before the event started so I could visit this place I had heard so much about from other photographers, Cazan Lake.  The lake has a pretty good sized rookery that several species of Egrets use, as well as some Rosette Spoonbills.  I was excited at the chance to photograph baby birds in the nest.  It appeared I was a bit early for Spoonbill babies, but there were several Egret babies begging their parents for food.

I quickly found out that it's not just the Cajun people in the area that enjoy a good crawfish, but the local Egrets, too.  I was able to capture a few different images of Egret parents feeding the babies crawfish.  

Cazan Lake is about an hour drive North of New Iberia, so I loaded up my gear and headed out so I could be there at sunrise.  I had no idea what to expect when I got there.  There was a small building upon arrival welcoming guests.  I tried to go in and find out where I needed to go but the door was locked.  Luckily a man pulled up in his pickup truck, advised me to put $10 in the drop box and gave me directions to the rookery.  All I had was a $20, so that's what I put in there.  I hope that man got the other $10 for helping me out.

Aperture-priority, 1/1,000 sec, f/8, ISO 220, Compensation: +1/3

This is an image of one of the Egret Nests at the Lake.  I used my Nikon D500 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens to capture this image.  I was moving around quick so instead of using a tripod, I went with my Sirui P-324S Monopod.  It really allowed me to move around quick and offer a bit of stability.  It also saved my arms from getting tired!

My go to formula for birds lately has been using Auto ISO.  I have my D500 setup in the menus to top the Auto ISO out at 12,800.  I have also set in the menu a minimum shutter speed of 1/1000th.  All I need to do then is set my aperture.  You can also do this using Manual Mode by simply turning Auto ISO on, then you set your shutter speed and aperture.  Using Auto ISO has saved many shoots for me that most likely would have been blurry from too slow a shutter speed.

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 Backyard Bluebirds

I've been spending a lot of time in the backyard photographing the birds lately.  This time of year things start to pick up again at the feeders.  I'm glad to see activity picking up.  Everyone knows how much I enjoy the bluebirds, so I never pass up a chance to photograph them.

Aperture-priority, 1/800 sec, f/5.6, ISO 3200, Compensation: +1, 300 mm

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

Whenever it's a bright, overcast day outside that type of light allows me to shoot all day in the backyard...and if I am able to, I certainly will.  This image was taken on just a day.  It was taken about 8:30ish in the morning, so I had to raise my ISO to 3200 in order to get a decent shutter speed.  Luckily, the Nikon D500 had no trouble with noise at ISO 3200!

I typically don't like taking photos of a bird's backside, however I am OK with it as long as I can still make eye contact.  The eye is the most important part in any kind of wildlife photography.  You need to see the eye and it needs to be sharp!  The impact of the photo is increased even more if you are able to photograph your subject at it's eye level.  Sometimes that means getting down low and maybe even dirty.  But it's all worth it for the shot ;)

Image made with my Nikon D500, Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens and Sirui Tripod and PH-20 Gimbal Head.

Merlin

While down in Mobile, AL scouting for our upcoming birding workshop, David Akoubian and I ran across this Merlin.  As we were driving down the road, we saw this bird sitting in the top of a tree and thought it was a hawk.  We turned around, came back and got a closer look through the lens.  We knew it wasn't a hawk at that point, but we were unsure what it was for certain still.  Whenever you are with a bird nerd, like David, and he doesn't know what kind of bird it is, it is a bit of an exciting moment.  You know if David can't ID the bird instantly it must be something special.

This Merlin had just finished a meal when we found her.  She was pretty content to sit on that tree snag and pose for us.  So, while I was just taking pictures David was doing the bird nerd thing and taking pictures from the front, sides and back to properly ID the bird.  Sure enough when we got back in the car, we used our phones to ID the bird as a female Merlin.  I can tell David was doing a happy dance on the inside.

Aperture-priority, 1/640 sec, f/8, ISO 200, Compensation: +1 1/3, 600 mm

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

Although this bird sat and posed for us for several minutes, I think the shots I liked the most were the ones where it appears she is looking directly into the camera.

This image was made using my Nikon D500, Tamron 150-600mm G2 lens and Sirui P-424S Monopod.

Overcast Days In The Bird Blind

Yesterday was a great day to be in the backyard bird blind.  It was a bright overcast much of the day, which meant I could shoot all day long in great light.  So, I did just that.  I would shoot an hour or so then go inside for a few hours, then go back out again.  I don't get a lot of days when the light is good all day, so I take advantage when I can.

Often times when I am out traveling and shooting, I hear people say things like "I don't shoot between the hours of 10 and 2.".  I think that is a ridiculous statement.  I shoot when the light is good, period.  I don't care what the clock says.  

I had a ton of different birds show up at the feeders yesterday, but I was really excited to see these goldfinches show up by the dozens and dozens.  It's the first time I've seen them at the feeders this year.  Everyone of them took their time to pose for the camera, too.

Aperture-priority, 1/320 sec, f/6.3, ISO 3200, Compensation: +1, 500 mm

These goldfinches showed up to eat sunflowers, but when I noticed so many of them I also put out some thistle seed for them.  They tore up the thistle seed, too!

Although it isn't quite time for these birds to be in their mating plumage, I still think they are gorgeous birds.  Even in their "drab" winter dress ;)

This image was taken about 7:45 am, so the light was still fairly dark at this point.  I normally like to shoot these birds at about F/8, but I had to open up to F/6.3 to get more light to the sensor.  I also had to bump my ISO to 3200 to get a shutter speed that would even come close to working out.

I made this image using my Nikon D500, Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens, Sirui Trpod and Gimbal Head.

 

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.

Bringing Home The Mealworms

If you follow me on Facebook, you'll see I posted a picture of the bluebird eggs hatching last week.  It was very exciting, because I really didn't know if they were going to hatch or not.  You can read the last blog post on that...

Well, since the eggs have hatched, feeding has picked up.  I took advantage of that yesterday and spent a little time trying to capture shots of Blondie and Dagwood flying in with food.  The babies are still too young to have their heads out of the box begging for food, but I think I still managed some pretty good shots.

Here is Dagwood bringing in food.  He spent most of the time hunting then delivering the food to Blondie, who stayed in the nest feeding babies.

Aperture Priority, F/8, ISO 800, 1/1600th second, 170mm

This is Blondie.  She only left the nest a few times to hunt.  She came out of the box a few times looking pretty rough.  Raising bluebird babies looked like a dirty job.

Aperture Priority, F/8, ISO 800, 1/1600th second, 320mm

These images were made with a Nikon D500 and Tamron 150-600mm Lens resting atop 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.