Sunday, June 29, 2008

Bird Photography the easy way...

"It's like shooting fish in a barrel." "As easy as falling off a log." "A slam dunk." "Duck soup." "Easy as pie." "Like shooting ducks on a pond."

Or it's supposed to be. Most people think of wildlife photographers as hardcore hikers who roam the woods alone in a constant quest for the perfect bird or animal. I like a good hike as much as the next guy but I rarely achieve the number of quality images from a hike as I do from a good sit down.

That's right. Hurry up and wait... and wait some more. Birds need three things... Shelter, Food and Water. Provide those and they WILL come. It doesn't always work out as you would expect. I live in San Francisco. I put out four different kinds of seed mix, I have trees in my yard and I bought a pretty bird bath and kept it filled with clean fresh water. Not an easy feat when the raccoons are washing up in it every night. I brought in exactly three species of bird... Pigeons, house sparrows and a single cockatiel.

My friend Bruce has a much better set up down the Penninsula. His ranch is up in the hills with lots of lovely oak trees and chaparral. There is a spring that he uses to keep a drip line feeding two small ponds. They are barely 3 feet by 3 feet but that's big enough for the bird. We set up two doghouse blinds and settle in for the morning.

The hard part - these little guys move FAST. Just getting focus, let alone finding their eyes is hard work. It's hot and the blinds act like a sweat lodge so lots of water is a must. But there is nothing like the thrill of seeing these beautiful birds up close and personal and knowing that you aren't doing a single thing to disturb them.

1. Oak Titmouse, 2. newly fledged Acorn Woodpecker, 3. White-breasted Nuthatch, 4. Spotted Towhee

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