I finally got to spend some time with the birds in the backyard again last week.  It's been a while since I've seen very many birds in the backyard, much less got to photograph any.

If you've followed me for any amount of time you know my favorite backyard birds are The Eastern Bluebirds.  Although they are my favorite, I do enjoy attracting new, and different, birds to the backyard, too.  Most people do not realize how much time and effort go into getting these bird photographs.  It's more than just putting food out.  I easily spend three times as much time watching the birds vs. photographing them.  I spend a lot of time learning their behaviors, seeing which direction the fly in from, learning their flight pattern so I can know what bird it is before I "see" it, learning which perch or tree is their favorite and other things.  This doesn't include placing feed for different species and setting up different trees and branches that will photograph better.  In short, it's a lot of work...but the rewards are pretty great!

Aperture-priority, 1/250 sec, f/6.3, ISO 360, Compensation: +2/3, 500 mm

Image made with my Nikon D500 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens supported on Sirui N-3204X Tripod and PH-20 Gimbal Head.

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.


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.

Moving In

More bluebird images.  

This first image is Blondie moving her stuff in.  Dagwood wasn't much of a help during this "moving in" process.  He did bring a cricket afterwards, though.  You can see that in the second image.

ISO 6400, 600mm, F/6.3 @ 1/1600th second

ISO 6400, 500mm, F/6.3 @ 1/800th second

As always you can click the image to view it larger and hover over it to view the camera settings.

Images were made with my Sony A7R II, LA-EA3 Adapter, Tamron 150-600mm Lens and Sirui Tripod and PH-20 Gimbal Head.

House Finch

A quick post tonight from the bird blind.

Here's a House Finch just eating and chilling out at the feeder branch.  There are plenty of these around the feeders.  When I pull up in the driveway I bet there are 20+ finches out there hanging out every afternoon.

This was taken with the Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 DI VC USD Lens on the Canon 7D.  Of course I was using a tripod...the Vanguard Alta Pro 283CT and BBH-200 Ballhead.  

This was taken in Aperture Priority Mode at F/7.1, ISO 400 and a shutter speed of 1/800th second.  

Bird Blind

I was able to spend some time in the bird blind this past weekend.  I was trying out a new tripod.  I mean it's new to me, but it's defiantly not the latest on the market.  It is the Vanguard Abeo Plus 323CT Tripod.  I like this tripod for one huge reason...I can completely remove the center column and get to ground level.   Can't you get to ground level with your other Vanguard Tripods, you ask?  Sure, but it requires a bit more work.  I have to raise the center column up and slide it through the bracket that essentially turns it parallel to the ground.  Then I can spread the legs all the way out and I'm at ground level.  With the Abeo Plus model I can just get to ground level by spreading the legs out and not fooling with the center column.  I like that!

Back to the bird blind...

I was setup with my tripod and my Canon 7D with the Tamron 150-600mm lens.  That lens is pretty much the reason I even have a bird blind in the first place.  There wasn't much action on this particular morning, but I did get the chance to photograph a few cardinals. 

This guy in the image above was shot at F/7.1, ISO 1250 and a shutter speed of 1/500th.  Why ISO 1250?  Well, it was a cloudy morning and I needed to bump the ISO a bit to get to the shutter speed I wanted to freeze the action.  Even though he is posing for a portrait here ;)

Since the light didn't change, this guy was shot at the exact same settings as the one above.  Both were shot racked out to 600mm.  I really love this long lens Tamron has pumped out!

I'm back...

I've finally recovered from the great IRS hard drive crash of 2014!

Seriously, my laptop hard drive died and I was on the road for a while, so it took me a bit to get everything going again.

Tonight I wanted to share an image I made a few weeks ago in my "outdoor bird studio".  I've setup an area in my backyard to photograph birds.  It's a rudimentary setup with a few feeders, some branches for the birds to perch on and me in one of those pop-up style hunting blinds.  It has worked out great so far!  I set my blind up just outside the minimum focusing distance of my Tamron SP 150-600mm Lens paying close attention to my background.  There is enough room in the blind for me, my Vanguard Tripod and a chair.  

I call this my "outside bird studio" because a few friends of mine have a similar setup, but they can photograph from the comfort of the inside of their house.  My blind does not have AC...unless you unzip a few flaps and, even then, it's not very good.

Here's an image I made of one the cardinals that frequents the bird studio.  I shot this at 600mm, ISO 400, F/7.1 and 1/640th of a second.  The advantage of setting this up is I can position the "perch" branches in the best possible light for the time of day I am shooting.  This one happened to be morning light.  The birds seem to like moving around a lot more then, too.