Taking Bird Pictures

All summer the best place to see birds is on the bird feeder. Trying to get bird pictures out on the hills is almost impossible because the birds vanish into thickets of leaves.

When winter arrives, the leaves fall onto the ground leaving the birds sitting on bare branches. It’s easy to see them. It’s easy for them to see the camera.

bird pictures of Downy Woodpecker
The peach tree is old and rarely ripens any fruit. The birds love it as they sit waiting for time at the bird feeder. The downy woodpeckers find it a good place to hunt insects and it is probably riddled with hidden sunflower seeds.

The first thing to remember when taking bird pictures is that birds are camera shy. They are also people shy.

Walking down the road in the morning the birds move down the road in front of me. Even with bare branches birds hide well. By the time I get to where I can see the bird clearly, it flies further down the road.

The sun presents problems too. Cameras like well lit subjects to focus on. They do not take good pictures looking directly toward the sun.

chickadee bird pictures
Black-capped chickadees are winter visitors here. They have such sharp coloring. They descend on the sunflower seeds, grab one and flee. Sometimes they move in on the suet cake, if the woodpeckers aren’t there.

Birds must know to stay on the side of the road with the sun shining straight through the trees at the camera. If they don’t, they still do it.

I like the zoom on my camera. I can be a hundred feet from a large bird like a crow or fifty feet from a smaller bird like a cardinal and still get good bird pictures.

The disadvantage of using the zoom is how it magnifies any quiver in the hand holding the camera. It takes many shots to get a couple in focus.

There are fewer species around in winter. Those that are around make good picture subjects.

careful Red Cardinal
For months few cardinals visited the bird feeder. The birds were busy on the hills and now on the giant ragweed stalks gathering seeds. This one was checking for fallen seeds out away from the barn. It is wary because my cat Cloudy is sitting at my feet watching it.

Woodpeckers are busy establishing nesting sites. They fly onto a tree and drum staying in the same place for several minutes.

Nuthatches are fun subjects. They are colorful blue and white. They go up and down tree trunks.

Juncos and sparrows hop over the ground or sit on the fences. Blue jays and cardinals hang on the brown giant ragweed stalks. Morning doves sit on the black walnut branches watching the bird feeder.

The key to getting good bird pictures is to keep the camera handy and leave the cats at home.

Find out more about Ozarks winters in “Exploring the Ozark Hills”.