Birds in my Backyard

Over the summer, seeking respite from the scorching heat, a multitude of wild birds alighted in the patch of trees in my backyard. They came throughout the summer in all colors and varieties. However, capturing the birds through the canopy of branches was challenging to say the least. They were mostly high up in the trees or hidden in the thick undergrowth. I had to lure them within the reach of my lens and hit on the idea of setting up a a bird bath or a bird feed. After some research and a few visits to the local hardware store, I setup a bird feed with mouth-watering snacks for the type of guests that visited my backyard. The effort was fairly successful.

My setup was very simple. I suspended a bird feeder from a tree out side my window. I setup my camera on a tripod behind the glass window, switched to manual and focused on the feeder. I also mounted my remote controller to the camera and then relaxed back in the sofa with the remote in hand, waiting for birds. This setup was safe as it did not frighten the birds. The downside was that I had to shoot from behind the window glass. I came up with a few muggy shots initially. The fix however was simple and not photography related: I overcame my laziness and scrubbed the grime on either side of the window glass 🙂

I shot with a 200 mm f2.8L lens and the pictures where good. However, I wanted more reach and back I went to research. After considering all those amazing telephoto lenses available, with due consideration to my budget, I ordered a Vivitar series 1, 2X telephoto extender thro amazon (link). The improvisation paid pretty well – I had a few good close ups and sharp bird-eyes. Since telephoto extenders double the f-value, the lowest I could go in my f2.8 lens was f5.6. However, it also doubled the reach of the lens: my 200mm became 400mm. Since I shot using canon 7d which has an APSC sensor, the effective reach was even better.

I had to also vary techniques depending on the time of the day. During noon, for example, the patch of land behind the feeder was bathed in sunlight so all my pictures came dark and feature-less. I had to set the white balance to shade or cloud to avoid the backlighting. I also experimented with the angle so that I could avoid that patch of sunlight. In order to blur the background and get crisp shots, it was not necessary to open the lens wide. A setting for f/5 to f/6 gave beautiful bouquet shots with good color.

These are some of the birds I was able to photograph & identify:

Northern cardinal
Eastern blue bird
Chipping Sparrow
Eastern towhee
Carolina chickadee
Tufted titmouse
Carolina Wren
Brown thrasher

Descriptions of most of these birds can be found here. Enjoy the pictures and leave some comments back. Pro-bird watchers, if you think I have mis-identified any of the birds, please drop a line. Any further tips & tricks would help me as well as other readers.

With a bit more improvisation on the feeder and the type of bird feed, I hope I could attract even more birds. The other day I found some humming birds, high up in the trees. And who knows what birds will come in autumn, winter and spring. I am looking looking forward.

Finally a word about squirrels. Usually I love them. (Check out my photo here). However, when it comes to backyard bird watching, squirrels are the #1 spoil sports. They will raid the bird feeder so often and scare away the birds. They go nuts over the nuts that are in the feed and feast on the sunflower seeds. I also severely underestimated their acrobatic skills – they can reach the feeder immaterial of anywhere I hang it.  As of print time, this issue remains unresolved!

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