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Bald Eagle activity at Wallkill River NWR

Bald Eagle activity at Wallkill River NWR

Bald Eagles are not uncommon at the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge, which spans over NW New Jersey and across the border into Pine Island and Warwick, New York.

The Eagle can be spotted perched in a tree from far away.  Once you know it’s there, it’s just a matter of how close you may actually get to see it.

The weather was cool and crisp and no one else was around.  I approached very slowly, stopping occassionaly, and thinking, “I just need to clear this last tree for a clear shot”.

Well, it was my lucky day!  It usually flies off at this point.

 

The Canadian Geese were honking away, taking off, flying over, splashing around nearby.  The Eagle was unphased.

Then, it decided time was up – time to find some breakfast!

Bald Eagle takeoff
Bald Eagle takeoff
Bald Eagle takeoff

While the Eagle soared over the refuge, I decided to stay put for a few minutes.  Glad I did – it was on it’s way back!

bald eagle flight

And now for the coolest shot of the day – I just love how the Eagle puts out it’s huge talons to grab onto the branch!

bald eagle landing

Since it returned, I decided to try and get a little closer.  I fumbled around for my 1.4x extender and it seemed to take an eternity to get it onto the camera body – my hands were shaking nervously to “not blow it”!

After a minute, everything was in place and I got a few more shots.  Here it is looking towards me.  

bald eagle with ext

After a few more minutes, it flew to the nearby nest to join it’s mate.  They “cuddled” for a moment or two and eventually took off over over the Wallkill River.

What a morning!

 

Camera settings

Title shot was 1/800, f/5.6 ISO 200; 400mm

Following shots were 1/1250, f/5.6 ISO 200-320.  I kept the ISO on Auto since it was clear and ISO was low.

Final shot with 1.4x extender was 1/1250, f/8, ISO 640.

Most of my gear is listed here.

Hope you enjoyed!

Seven Ways to Help Backyard Birds in the Winter

Seven Ways to Help Backyard Birds in the Winter

During the winter months, snow, ice and freezing temperatures can become regular weather events. Snow Squall alerts pop up on phones for hazardous driving conditions. Hunker down – the Polar Vortex is coming! The media creates a panic to “hurry and buy all of your essentials”.

 

So how does this affect birds and is there anything we can do to help backyard birds survive the winter?

 

Many birds migrate away from cold weather. For the ones that do stick around, their food sources become limited. Some birds can lower their temperatures during the night to conserve energy, but that is often not enough for their survival.

For extended cold periods, there are a number of things that you can do to help backyard birds in the winter. As a bonus, get some enjoyment from watching them!

cardinal

Cardinal at the Birdfeeder by GeorgeB2 at Pixabay

1. Hang up a bird feeder

An easy way to help birds in your backyard is to have the right kind of bird food for winter. Start putting out feeders in the fall so that the birds know about them – before the snow arrives. This can be a little tricky in bear country. I put out a small serving of food in the morning and afternoon so that it leaves no trace for bears.

The feeder should be sheltered. It will be less likely to get covered in snow if it is protected overhead by large tree branches or a wide roof overhang. You can also cut some evergreen branches to attach to the top of feeders for extra protection.

Part of the reason to put up a feeder is to enjoy watching the birds. Place the feeder very close to your window or far from your window to prevent birds colliding with windows. Decals and reflectors can also be placed on windows.

This window bird feeder is installed outside my husband’s office window. The feeder is easy to reach and clean.  Surprisingly, there are not a lot of scratches or anything to make it look unsightly, even after over one year of use.

Squirrels cannot get to it because it’s about 20 feet off the ground, which is also a great location from other larger predators.

2. Offer the right type of food

Birds benefit from a higher fat diet in the colder season. Suet is common as a winter food because of its high calorie content. However, not every bird will eat suet, but you might be surprised by the ones who do. Here’s a guide on what types of food birds eat.

 

Good foods to feed birds in the winter are:

 

  • black oil sunflower seed
  • peanuts – not processed and no salt
  • suets – you can even make your own
  • nyjer seed
  • peanut butter

Sunflower seeds by csabanagy at Pixabay

Winter Bird by Oldiefan at Pixabay

Depending on the type of seeds being used, consider what is underneath the feeder. In other words, if you have small children, the seeds should not fall in or near their play area.

Ground-feeding birds such as Juncos, Sparrows and Morning Doves will also collect the fallen seeds. So will the Squirrels.

If you are concerned about seed shells wrecking your landscape or attracting other animals, consider buying no-waste seeds, which are already shelled. They are more expensive due to extra processing, but may be worth it.

3. Provide access to fresh water

Fresh water can be difficult for birds to find in the winter. Consider adding a heating attachment to your current birdbath as a low-cost option. Better yet, install a heated birdbath. Heated bird baths come in a variety of options such as traditional standing birdbaths, ground-level bird baths and even bird baths that can attach to your deck.

Birdbath by Gerhardg at Pixabay

4. Create shelter for your backyard birds

Some of these tips will require advanced planning. The key is to provide places in your yard where birds have shelter and an area to forage for their own food.

 

  • Plant evergreens and shrubs. Birds can take cover in the foliage and branches during extreme weather events.
  • Grow local fruit or berry trees. This is a natural choice for birds to forage over the winter.
  • Let your garden and flowers overwinter. Don’t pull them out or cut them down. This can provide food for bird and even homes for insects.
  • If you’re lucky enough to have sunflowers standing in November, the birds will enjoy the seeds during winter. I can barely keep the flowers intact for a few days around here!

Chickadee Sunflower by 995645 at Pixabay

Chickadee Sunflower by Schanin at Pixabay

  • Pile up some leaves, branches, fallen debris, cornstalks and tall grasses in area of the yard for shelter and nesting material.
  • If you have a live Christmas tree, put it near your brush pile for extra shelter. I like to put it outside and attach suet “ornaments” for the birds to enjoy.

 

If you are using natural evergreen branches for cover over your birdfeeder, this may present an excellent photo opportunity!

Birds will typically perch on the highest branches or structure as they evaluate and make their way towards the food source.

Watch their behaviors, be prepared, make any necessary adjustments, and take lots of photos!

5. Install a bird house

Bird houses and roosting boxes offer a safe place to gather and stay warm. A bright and colorful birdhouse can spruce up your yard in the cold, bleak winter.

There are endless options available for bird houses. If you’re a DIY’er, you might want to make one or two. Kids would enjoy painting them. They make great gifts, too! They can be customized to your local area, such as a Lobster buoy birdhouse. This can be a great creative project for all ages and all abilities.

Winter Tit by Oldiefan at Pixabay

6. Create a birdwatching station

Keep track of the birds you see. There are a few ways to do this, some with a simple journal or more advanced with the eBird app from Cornell University. There are a few birdwatching events that you can participate in during the winter, such as the Christmas Bird Count by the Audubon Society.

Don’t forget to have a handy guidebook or poster near your station.

7. Keep bird feeders and baths cleaned.

Bring in feeder on a regular basis and clean with dish soap and water. Do not use chemicals or harsh cleaners. For bird baths, you may need to soak in some vinegar if there are any mineral deposits from the water.

 

Summary

There are a number of options to choose from in order to provide shelter for birds in winter, provide food and water, and enjoying their presence in your backyard. From hanging a simple birdfeeder, offering fresh water, and repurposing last season’s yard debris for bird shelter, it is well worth the effort.

Not convinced?  Check out my post about the Surprising Benefits of Birdwatching.

 

Thanks for taking care of your backyard birds. They will appreciate it and you will love seeing them visit!

Disclosure: Some of the links on this page contain affiliate links, such as Amazon links. I may earn a small commission from purchases made through some of the links, at no extra cost to you. I only link to products that I personally use and highly recommend. Any purchases made through affiliate links are greatly appreciated, as they enable me to continue to create content to share with you.

13 Simple Homemade Wooden Birdhouse Ideas

13 Simple Homemade Wooden Birdhouse Ideas

Winter is just around the corner. So are a bunch of other holidays and end-of-year craziness. Who has time to make birdhouses? It may be easier than you think.

Providing shelter for your favorite backyard birds doesn’t have to be expensive or elaborate. The birds will just be happy to have a place to rest.  If you intend to keep them up longer, be sure the opening is the proper size and not too big.

Here are a few simple homemade wooden birdhouse ideas. You can buy one assembled and paint it – fun idea for a paint-and-sip, or have your kids paint it – even better! It may be just the thing to help you get your mind off things for a little while and help the birds.

Simple birdhouse design painted in bright yellow to add a spash of color

Cute curved design with a rustic roof painted in blue with flowers

This house looks like it was embellished with popsicle sticks or simple wooden shapes.

This wooden cabin is a more advanced design, attached to the top of a fence post

Two simple wooden birdhouses placed next to each other for a duplex

Very creative use of recycled material using golf balls to make the ultimate Birdie House

Why settle for one? These were made from fence panels .

Understated Octogon design that appears to be in a formal garden

Fun camper design, a little more challenging to make

These are similar designs.  The Star opening is super-cute, but definitely not suitable for nesting in the spring.

Saved the best for last!  I love the design of this beautiful simple house!

 

Finally, after scouring the web for a simple DIY plan, check out this 5 minute plan using simple tools and nails (not glue!) from one 6′ fence post.  I’m going to make one soon!

In Summary, I hope you found an idea or two to add a birdhouse to your backyard for the winter.  These are intended for shelter, not nest building.  However, if the opening is small enough for wrens and chickadees, it may OK to leave up in the spring.  

Happy Birding!

Sandhill Cranes at the Wallkill River NWR

Sandhill Cranes at the Wallkill River NWR

Sandhill Crane: Antigone canadensis

Over the past couple of years, we have been fortunate to observe Sandhill Cranes at the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge, which borders New Jersey and New York. We have seen their nest and eggs and this year, there are two pairs, the second believed to be the juvenilles.

It has recently been reported that one of the Sandhills was limping. This morning, I did in fact observe one of them carrying on with a heavy limp. I’m not sure how well it can survive with the limp, especially with the colder weather approaching, so I decided to write this post.

 

sandhill cranes pair
sandhill crane rustic pix

Sandhill Cranes are abundant in the Great Plains, where they make their migratory stopover. Sightings are considered rare in New Jersey, but possible. They are more commonly spotted in South Jersey in Cape May, which is the “birding capital” of New Jersey.

sandhill crane
sandhill crane standing tall

Interesting Facts about Sandhill Cranes

  • Sandhill Cranes mate for life, which can be over two decades
  • Considered elegant, they are inspiring to cultures worldwide
  • Dancing skills during courting involve wing stretches, head pumping, bows and leaps into the air
  • Their call is quite impressive and unforgettable, a product of their anatomy

The Sandhill Crane is a heavily-bodied bird with long legs and neck. Coloration is mostly gray with some warm tan batches. They have a beautiful crimson crown, long black beak and yellow eyes.

 

sandhill crane bad leg

This is the Sandhill Crane with the bad leg

All photos were taken today at the WRNWR.  Here’s a compilation video that I put together – you can share with your friends!

Eight Surprising Benefits of Bird Watching

Eight Surprising Benefits of Bird Watching

So what’s so great about bird watching? People stand around with binoculars wearing funny hats and vests, pointing and calling out names. It may look weird and boring to some, but there are actually a ton of benefits to bird watching, some that may surprise you!

Bird watching, aka Birding, has become more popular than ever. With the Covid pandemic forcing us indoors for prolonged periods of time, perhaps you have had more time to observe these fascinating creatures.

Birding has had a huge influence from eco-tourism to optics. Whether you live in a big city, suburb, rural area, in the mountains or near a lake or ocean, you can always find birds. And, many of them change with the seasons, always giving you something to look forward to.

Perhaps you have been birding for many years and making great progress on your “life” list. You know why you love watching birds. But did you know about the surprising benefits of bird watching?

 

1. Physical Activity

Birds provide us with a connection to nature. When you get outside and watch birds in their natural habitat, you are immersing yourself in their environment. In many cases, you will be breathing in fresh air, soaking up the sun’s rays and listening to their beautiful songs.

It may be as simple as filling the bird feeders or going to the local park. These activities get us up and moving around, one small physical benefit of birding.

If you’re a more experienced birder, you may also be lugging around a big lens or scope, a backpack, and making longer trips with your gear. Even using binoculars for an extended period of time will get your arms working.

binoculars retired

Image by Ingela Skullman from Pixabay

2. Stress Reduction

When you really “get into” bird watching, you allow yourself to be totally immersed in the momement. Being surrounded by nature – the sounds, the scenes – induce a state of relaxation. It’s nature therapy for your brain and it helps to boost your immune system and natural endorphins.

Most birders explain their hobby as relaxing and peaceful. It requires you to be quiet and calm in order to focus in on your find.

 

3. Mindfulness

Birding is good for our brains. Not only are we looking for our subject, but we must listen to the sounds, identify shapes, patterns, flight and behaviors. A good birder needs all of these skills to make a positive identificaton as quickly as possible. When a new bird is discovered, it provides an endorphin boost, like a good catch.

bird watchers

Image by benmenting from Pixabay

4. Community

Birders and people who enjoy birds are everywhere. My co-worker would always ask me about a bird that he saw over the weekend. It was fun for me to help him identify it, and he was equally thrilled with learning more about what he saw.

When you are out at a local park or wildlife refuge, there’s an easy opportunity to ask a birder what they’ve seen. A short story may follow with a big smile. There are birding clubs all over to share and learn. The natural splendor of birds attracts a wide range of people from all walks of life. Having a common interest makes meeting people remarkably easy.

5. Economic Impact

Getting into bird watching begins with interest and can be very low cost and even free. For a small fee, field guides and birdfeeders are added to increase knowledge and access. From there, binoculars, scopes, cameras are added. These range in cost from very low to huge investments such as long camera lenses, camera bodies, and high-end binoculars.

Depending on the season, birders will travel regionally and internationally to get closer to birds. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, more than 50 million* people watch birds in and around their home, spending close to $50 billion* annually on trips and equipment (*estimates adjusted to current year). 

safari watch

Image by Greg Montani from Pixabay

binoculars kid

Image by Acertmsweeper from Pixabay

6. Fun for Everyone

Birding is a great, low-cost way to get kids out of the house and learn about nature. It can also help bond with home-bound folks by sharing your sightings; arrange a bird feeder so they can watch from the window.

Spending time outdoors and appreciating the environment provides quality time together. It can be a great activity for a date idea too! Researching birds and planning a local trip or vacation or festival to see them can be a great activity. For several years in a row, we drove up to Maine to go on Puffin tours – that was usually the highlight of our vacation!

 

7. Leads to Other Interests

When you become interested in birds, you do your best to protect their environment. This can lead to growing native plants and flowers in your yard, igniting an interest in gardening. Adding flowers attracts other pollinators, such as bees and butterflies.

In my yard, there are over 50 common milkweed plants for Monarch Butterflies. By hosting these plants, I can closely monitor them for eggs and caterpillars. Over the last few years, I have released over 300 Monarchs!

A variety of other perennials provides seeds for goldfinches and other small songbirds. Sunflowers are highly treasured by all critters in my yard, including chipmunks and squirrels.

All in all, bird watching leads to a keen interest in creating and preserving a natural environment.

monarch caterpillar on Common Milkweed
Clear Chrysalis

8. Connect Online

Finally, there is a huge community of birders online. Cornell University has created Merlin, a bird ID app, and eBird, which allows birders to track sightings, post photos, videos and sounds of their findings. Enthusiasts can then monitor these reports by geographic “hot spots” based on a date range. It keeps people engaged with other birders in their local area and beyond!

 

Summary

So there you have it, eight surprising benefits of bird watching. Birding can be done solo, with a group, with your family, or connect online to share and report your sightings. It brings you closer to nature and provides a great sense of appreciation for the environment. It has a huge economic impact, gets you outdoors and stimulates the brain.

We need birds much more than they need us.  We have to do our part to preserve, protect and educate for the future.  Make your next friend a birder!

 

Ready to welcome more birds to your backyard?  Check out my other posts:

 

13 Backyard Birds with Gorgeous Golden Fall Foliage

13 Backyard Birds with Gorgeous Golden Fall Foliage

On a recent photoshoot, I was able to capture closeup shots of some backyard birds with gorgeous golden fall foliage. As the days get shorter, the sun also begins to set sooner, casting beautiful backlight on my subjects.

We had our first snow of the season this morning! To end October on a high note, here are 13 “lucky” photos of my backyard birds captured before the leaves fall off for good.

blue jay fall foliage right

The boisterous Blue Jay, Cyanocitta cristata

Tufted Titmouse

The charismatic visitor: Tufted Titmouse, Baeolophus bicolor

chickadee fall

The acrobatic charmer: Black-Capped Chickadee, Poecile atricapillus

female cardinal looking straight

Looking right at ya!  Northern Cardinal, Cardinalis cardinalis, female

blue jay feather

Blue Jay strikes a pose showing off his beautiful wings

tufted titmouse

Tufted Titmouse with a little head tilt

blue jay

Blue Jay surrounded by beautiful fall foliage

chickadee

Golden Sun lighting up the feathers of this Chickadee

blue jay

Green and burgundy leaves create a unique palette behind this Blue Jay

female cardinal gold

Golden sun compliments the feathers of the female Cardinal

tufted titmouse

Another minute goes by; the Tufted Titmouse is not shy!

blue jay closeup

We end with another closeup of this handsome Blue Jay.  Must of been the food selection at the bird buffet!

Hope you enjoyed the fall foliage photo shoot!

Stay tuned for more backyard birding tips, including how to make an easy perch for more natural-looking bird photos!

In the meantime, check out my GEAR page, recently updated.

 

 

Photographing Hummingbirds in Flight – 8 Top Tips

Photographing Hummingbirds in Flight – 8 Top Tips

Look, a Hummingbird! Seeing a hummingbird creates an instant smile, pops up your mood and makes you forget about everything else for a moment. They are truly fascinating and fierce little fliers that are always welcome to our home.

We see tons of hummingbird pics perched on feeders. How about photographing hummingbirds in flight?

hummingbird on salvia

So how can you photograph hummingbirds in flight? First of all, you need to know where to spot them. Then, you can figure out what they like to eat and their behavior. Know your subject. Then, we’ll look at some of the best setups to get some great shots!

 

1. Where do they live?

Hummingbirds only live in the Americas. They migrate north, all the way to southern Alaska, and the most diversity in species can be found in humid tropical and subtropical forests of South America, including the Carribbean.

There are more than 300 Hummingbird species! Here are a few of the more common species and their ranges:

 

  • The Ruby-Throated Hummingbird is a very common species living in the Eastern United States to Canada. They migrate north (from Mexico) from March to October.
  • Anna’s Hummingbird can be found on the West coast from northern Mexico to Southern Alaska.
  • The Black-Chinned Hummingbird is the most widespread and common species in the southwestern United States.
  • The Rufous Hummingbird is the most widespread species in western North America.
ruby throated hummingbird on pink salvia

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird female

annas hummingbird on feeder

Anna’s Hummingbird by Bryan Hanson / Pixabay 

black chinned hummingbird

Black Chinned Hummingbird (above) and Rufous Hummingbird (right)

both images by Daniel Roberts / Pixabay

rufous hummingbird

There are many other hummingbird species that you can learn about.  My favorite birding resource is All About Birds from Cornell

Now let’s take it up a few notches – how do we capture great images of these fast moving fliers? Depending on their size, they are able to hover in air by flapping their wings anywhere from 12 to 80 beats per second! The noise created from their wings produces a humming sounds, thus, they are known as hummingbirds! So, they’re super-fast, small and can spook easily.

You can visit areas where there are known populations, such as botanical gardens or wildlife management areas. Here in New Jersey, considered the Mid-Atlantic region, we’re not fortunate to have those options nearby, so we have to get them to visit us!

2. Best chance – feed them!

Hummingbirds have become accustomed to feeders. In fact, when they arrive in the spring, they will often go directly to the feeder location from last year! Place a few throughout your yard and be sure to keep them clean.

These cute little feeders stick to a window or you can use them to hand-feed hummingbirds!   They are super lightweight and easy to clean and refill.  Check them out on Amazon.

It’s better to keep them in a shady location, but that’s not always possible. Clean them thoroughly at least once per week. The sugar water goes bad and insects can muck it up. A simple solution of 1 part sugar to 4-5 parts water works well (about 20-25% sugar).

 

 

Even better, grow flowers that they love – and look better in pictures!

Knowing the best plants to grow is critical for attracting hummingbirds. These flowers provide nectar for the birds and habitat for all the insects they also like to eat. Plus, they don’t require cleaning like the feeders do! They are naturally attracted to red, orange and bright pink; some of their favorites include:

  • Cardinal Flower, Lobelia cardinalis
  • Mexican Sunflower, Tithonia
  • Trumpet Honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens
  • Salvia, Lamiaceae
  • Bee balm, Monarda didyma

Zinnia is my personal favorite – they are easy to grow and easy to photograph for not only hummingbirds, but Monarchs and a vast array of other butterflies and pollinators.

hummingbird on pink zinnia

Short on Space? Not enough time? Not in your Zone? Don’t fret! Look for these at your local Garden Center in a hanging basket and/or container:

  • Fuschia
  • Petunia
  • Verbena
  • Salvia
lantana flower

Lantana
Image by Paul Diaconu / Pixabay

  • Geranium
  • Nicotiana
  • Dahlia
  • Zinnia (short varieties)
hummingbird red hibiscus

Hibiscus

Image by Tess Pixy256 / Pixabay

3. Behavior

As hummingbird traffic around your feeding areas increase, spend more time out there so the hummingbirds get used to you. Be PATIENT. They have to get used to you. They may be skittish at first, but they will come back.

You have to know your subject to be successful. Spend time observing them. Create some perches near the feeders. One of the easiest things you can do with a larger multi-port feeder is to keep one port open, secure an attractive flower in another opening – it should be taller than the feeder if you have the room, or branch out from the feeder for them to perch. Tape up any other openings and secure the flower with tape – masking tape should be ok – it won’t get too sticky.

Like most creatures, hummingbirds tend to be quite routine in their habits, especially where they perch. Observe how long they stay, the lighting and composition. Use binoculars if you have to. Soon enough, they get used to gear like a tripod and camera and will tolerate the sound of the shutter.

If you observe their behavior well enough, you will notice that they will circle around the top of a flower, like a Zinnia, so just be patient to get your shot. With other flower types, such as Fuschia, which is typically hung from a basket, there may be a little more obstruction. They will most likely circle back around, so just be ready and just take lots of shots.

4. Begin with Perched Birds

Start your endeavor by photographing perched birds. The first spot to practice is on birds at the feeder. Figure out how close you can get, lighting, exposure, shutter speed, composition and even how they behave. They may hover for a second, grab a quick drink, hover back up, and move on to the next spot or flower.

Next, practice photographing them when they are hovering near the feeder, instead of perched on it or drinking from it. Next, follow them to their perch. You will gradually increase the interest and storytelling of your photos!

Most of today’s cameras, whether it be an entry-level DSLR or perhaps an iPhone or Samsung camera phone, offer some great choices. It really helps to have a long lens. Using a wireless remote is another great option: Have your camera setup at the perch and fire away from a distance, even while sitting in your house! It’s also possible to shoot through a window – make sure it’s clean. The window may also act as a blind if you don’t move too quickly.

The key is to anticipate where the bird will hover before landing; they commonly hover 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 cm) from the feeder perch. If you can pre-focus your lens to this area, you might have the best chance of getting good, natural-looking keepers.

ruby throated hummingbird male perched

5. Lighting

Hummingbirds are most active in the early morning, which is also when you can get some really beautiful natural light. Ideally, the light should face the subject. It will be much more challenging to get a good back-lit photo of the bird without additional apparatus, like flash. It also helps if it is partly cloudy – the clouds act as a natural filter to soften the harsh sunlight.

The best light from my preferred shooting area – the deck – appears mid-morning. Based on my work schedule, I only had the weekends to get a chance at a great shot in that location. BE FLEXIBLE to increase your chances!

6. Shutter Speed

We know how fast these little guys can move – we need to freeze their movement. Therefore, you will need a fast shutter speed. A good range is 1/1600 to 1/2500+ but you can experiment to see what works best for you and your equipment.

Light and FPS (frames per second) will also affect how much (or little) speed you can get away with. I recommend using manual mode to set the shutter speed and aperture and use auto-ISO. Use the lowest f-stop possible depending on your lens.

Some of you are lucky to have the 70-200mm lens with f/2.8mm, even the f/4. I have an older, but classic, 400mm f/5.6 with no IS (no image-stabilization), but I’ve managed to get a few good ones over the years. Of course, the lower f-stop will also produce nice blurry backgrounds to make your subject pop!

hummingbird hovering over feeder

7. Background

Background can really make or break a photo. It doesn’t matter how great your subject looks. If the background is cluttered, it gets an instant downgrade. If it is too dark or splotchy, it may be the look your going for, but a clean, neutral and natural background is where it’s at.

This takes a lot of practice and planning, but once you get the hang of it, your photos will greatly improve. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is to simply MOVE. Move up, down, point up or down. Move to the left or right for a brighter background while your subject has some pleasing shade on it.

A great example would be photographing hummingbirds in flight from your deck. How many of you have a canopy or umbrella? Even in harsh summer sun, if your feeder is in the shade and the background is well-lit and far enough away, you will get a great clean background with lots of pleasing bokeh. Give it a try!

8. Tripod or Hand-Held?

This is debatable; a tripod can slow you down but get you the sharpest shot. If you’re shooting with 400mm and longer, this may be your best option. If you’re setup with a remote controller, you have to use a tripod. To get the most flexibility and shots (not necessarily keepers), shoot handheld. A combination of both is really ideal, especially if you’re lucky enough to have a variety of hummingbirds in your area.

Summary

Hummingbirds in flight make for some of the most challenging bird photography. Be patient, start slow, observe, shoot, progress, add more interest, experiment with composition, repeat. Enjoy the fact that you can witness these little wonders and remember – always enjoy what you’re doing!

What techniques have worked best for you? What types of hummingbirds do you have in your area? What flowers do they LOVE? What camera / lens camera do you use? Let us know in the comments below.

Disclosure:  Some of the links on this page contain affiliate links, such as Amazon links.  I may earn a small commission from purchases made through some of the links, at no extra cost to you.  I only link to products that I personally use and highly recommend.  Any purchases made through affiliate links are greatly appreciated, as they enable me to continue to create content to share with you.

dt 20 year anniversary plan
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