Tag Archives: bird feeding

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”.

Cardinal Seed Treats

Our bird feeder is up all year. This year is supplied some cardinal seed treats. We hadn’t intended this but am glad it happened.

The bird feeder is a simple affair with a platform we set a tray of sunflower seeds, a dish of hen scratch grains and a pan of water on each morning. The food is removed each night.

Cardinals love sunflower seeds. We don’t see many during the spring and summer but a flock shows up each winter. they are late this year because the weather has been warm and the seed harvest is very large.

bird feeder source of seed treats

The bird feeder is basically a metal platform with a roof over it. The containers of seeds and water are slid onto the platform in the morning and taken off at night. The birds especially the morning doves line up waiting in the morning.

Birds are like most animals. They are sloppy eaters. They chase each other, toss unwanted seeds out with their beaks, scratch out other seeds, fly off with seeds to eat and drop them.

Over the years we’ve had several sunflower plants grow from dropped seeds. One year a field corn plant grew. This year milo took root.

We could mow over the top of these volunteer plants. We often don’t as it is interesting to see how the plants grow. There isn’t much farming in the Ozarks, mostly cattle ranching, so we don’t get a chance to see these plants.

Milo looks like a short stout corn plant. The center stalk is smaller and harder topped by first flowers and then seeds.

Milo seeds became cardinal seed treats. The cardinals hung off the stalks pecking off the grains.

cardinal on seed treats

The milo seed head looks solid but isn’t. The seeds are on stalks bushing out from the main stem. The cardinals sit on top leaning over to pick off seeds or turn almost head down to feast.

Goldfinches and sparrows hang off week stalks especially giant ragweed and chicory eating seeds. The stalks are thin but the birds are small.

The only reason milo could be cardinal seed treats is that stiff central stalk. It wouldn’t bend under the weight of the cardinals.

I see the cardinals among the giant ragweed stalks eating seeds. They sit on the buckbrush eating berries. These stalks droop and sway under the birds.

Maybe next year the milo won’t be an accident out there near the bird feeder. The plant is fun to grow. And the seeds make excellent cardinal seed treats for the late fall.

Stalking Nuthatches

All winter nuthatches visit the bird feeder. Peanut butter is their preferred snack although they often snag a sunflower seed and fly off with it.

It’s fun to watch these birds run up and down the wood posts of the feeder. Unlike woodpeckers who can only go up a tree, nuthatches can go up and down. Down is head first.

Nuthatches are easy to spot

Nuthatches have a broad black stripe over the top of their head and neck. They can go down as well as up a tree trunk.

This cusp between winter and spring is a great time to look for birds out on the trees. There are no leaves to hide the birds. The weather is warmer so staying outside isn’t unpleasant. The summer migrants are starting to arrive.

Birds are busy out in the trees early in the morning and toward sunset. They always see you coming and fly off.

Pictures of birds are beautiful. Unless you set up a blind and hide inside taking pictures through a small window, bird pictures are hard to get.

nuthatch on tree

The white face and blue wings are easily seen from the side on this nuthatch.

By accident I’ve found a way to get better pictures with my camera. I’m experimenting with different shutter speeds taking pictures of the goat kids in action. The same ploy seems to work for getting bird pictures using the camera zoom.

A bluebird sat down in a tree by my garden while I was working there. Of course the camera was at the other end of the garden.

I went out in search of the bluebird.

A nuthatch was busy hunting insects on a tree. The tree was on the other side of the creek. I wandered nonchalantly toward the bridge.

The nuthatch had conveniently moved to the other side of the tree so I got that far. Then the nuthatch flew to the next tree. This was as close as I was going to get.

nuthatch looking at camera

Nuthatches seem to have good vision as this one is looking me and my camera over from about forty feet away.

Normally when I use the maximum zoom on my camera the pictures are a bit blurry. I do all right until I top 10X, then I shake just a bit trying to hold the camera steady and take a picture.

This time the camera was still set for kid action shots.

Pictures of nuthatches are fun to look at on the computer. Most of them don’t come out well because the birds are behind the tree, disappearing behind the tree or behind inconveniently located twigs.

This nuthatch was a great model. Using a faster shutter speed made the pictures sharper even at high zoom.

The bluebird?


Bluebirds return to the Ozarks in early spring. Their bright blue back and wings make them easy to identify.

I did see him again and got one nice picture before he vanished into the woods.