Thursday, July 07, 2005

Frustrating bird photography

Ever since we named our place "Kingfisher Farm" after one of the first birds we saw here, I've been trying to get a picture of its namesake.

They are wary birds. I haven't been able to get near. So a few days ago when one was perched nearby I grabbed the camera. The only shot I had was through a screened window.

Then he ended up looking like some sort of demon bird anyway.

He swooped down to grab some spilled dog food off the workshop porch! Can't say that I've ever seen Kingfishers do that before. Then, frustratingly, he never came back within camera range.

This morning just as my husband was about to leave for work, we noticed something skulking near the pond. From the size and color I thought it might be a Little Blue Heron, but something wasn't right.

I grabbed the binoculars, and wow! A juvenile White Ibis! Talk about your cool yard birds. Quick, the camera!

Ugh. Much too far away. Oh wait, maybe we should try digiscoping! But hubby had to leave or he was going to be late. When he took off the Ibis did too.

I set up the scope anyway, and hoped he'd come back.

He did!

Ta-da! Not perfect, but a lot better than the camera alone. I had to take about 45 shots to get one that was half-way decent. (There is no way to attach this camera to the scope lens.)

A green heron showed up so I tried photographing him too, but he didn't stay put very long.

Still needs work.


White Ibis (Eudocimus albus)
Green Heron (Butorides virescens)
Belted Kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon)

Much better picures than mine:
Juvenile White Ibis
Adult White Ibis
Ibis overhead (wow)

Link to site with other great bird pics and digiscoping articles.


Edited to add: Make sure to read the comments for an interesting discussion on the physics of black vs. white feathers!


Anonymous said...

Cool shots. All I ever see here are boring robins and cardinals. Maybe I should put up a pink flamingo in the yard to attract the more exotics (and angry looks from the neighbors).

swamp4me said...

Trying to get pictures of birds has left me cussing more times than I can count. Why, oh why, won't they sit still!

(No wonder Audubon took such drastic measures to make his drawings.)

Anonymous said...

I think I've noted before that I have a severe case of camera-skills envy.

An ornithologist once told me that many white birds have black tipped feathers at the end of their wings because the black coloring makes the feathers more durable in some magical way. Thus these feathers at the more damage-prone part of the wing can last longer. Sounds good to me.

robin andrea said...

Oh wow, those are great photos. You really got some excellent shots. The Kingfisher is so cute, and that baby White Ibis is just beautiful beyond words. Then, to be rewaqrded with a Green Heron showing up is stunning good fortune.
The world is full of so much beauty, and you have both the eye for it and the patience to perceive it through your camera lens. Thanks for enriching our lives too.

Anonymous said...

The dark coloring in feathers is produced by the same stuff -- melanin -- that makes for dark hair in mammals, which is one reason dark ultralong hair is easier to keep than, say, blond: melanin strengthens keratin. Unlike a lot of feather color, this is a physical pigment (and obviously, a useful material) rather than prismatic, structural color.

With our little camera and so-so skills, Joe and I rarely even attempt to photograph birds. I did get an amusing shot of a ruddy duck when we were up in the Sierra before the 4th, though. That's the nice thing about plants: They more or less hold still.

That kingfisher shot is very nice, actually, as the screen door gives it an intriguing texture. And congrats on having an ibis!

Anonymous said...

Great job of doing the best with what you've got!

That's quite a collection of birds you have going. There's a couple birds I'd love to photograph but the only time I see them is as they wing it high speed through our backyard and typically after dusk.

roger said...

the kingfisher pic is great. maybe not so much as a nature photo, but as art. i love the gnome face on the post.

swamp4me said...

You should just entitle the first shot "Kingfisher in Fog" No one need know the truth ;)

Anonymous said...

kingfisher shots are notoriously rare. the birds are ever alert and scold such attempts from a long distance. i always call the kingfisher "rex"...because their relatively big heads remind me of t-rex...nothing very scientific there! :) we get quite a few ibis here in the spring, they always remind me of hieroglyphics - with their stork-like appearance. so i suppose by now i've made it clear that i see birds like a poet and not a scientist...good shots karen!!!

Rurality said...

Thanks y'all! Just yesterday someone reported a Glossy Ibis in the county. "Why can't we ever get any Ibis?" I wondered... :) I wonder if the Tropical storm (Cindy) pushed him up here.

I have noticed that birds in places with lots of people tend to be less skittish, at least if you use a car or truck for a blind. But out here in the country they're not used to being approached by cars either.

Great discussion on the feathers! I had not heard any of that before.

I feel so lucky to have seen this Ibis. It's one of the few times I've ever seen one away from the coast. If Alabama had a lottery I think I'd buy a ticket today. :)

Next on the yard wish list is Wood Stork!

Rainypete said...

There are a few ways to get that cam hooked up to your scope. If you are interested drop me an email telling em what kind of cam you are using and I'll throw a few links your way.

Anonymous said...

lovely! we don't get anything but woodpeckers, cardinals, and bluejays here. oh, and owls...

Anonymous said...

Bird photography has been an absolute nightmare for me. I feel your pain.

And I'd love to be looking at the photos you DID take, except the computer at work has blocked all images on Blooger's pages for some reason.

That really sucks.

Crowe said...

Heheh at least you ended up with birds that look like birds. I took 10 shots of a songthrush today and in all of them the unhelpful sod positioned its head at a weird angle that makes it look like it fell headfirst into pencil sharpener.

Magazine Man said...

If you want get that kingfisher to come closer, I'll have to come by. I'm sure he'll start dive-bombing me (I seem to have that effect). I'll refrain from bringing my dog with me though...

R.Powers said...

How about a pelican for a yard bird? A few years ago, my young daughter ran to the porch and exclaimed, "There's a pelican by the pond!" My response was , "I don't think so Honey." We are 15 bird miles from the Gulf and the pond is really a small one. She was adamant so I walked down to the pond with her...sure enough, a brown pelican was paddling around in our pond. He stayed for about 3 days.

Kingfishers are incredibly hard to get close to so I think you did pretty good with your "King of The Mist" photo.

Rurality said...

Rainypete, that would be great - the camera isn't an SLR so I don't know if it would work or not.

Thingfish23, they just did that at my hubby's workplace too.

Sara I got some pics of a baby mockingbird just like that. :)

MM the camera doesn't do motion very well either, or else I might take you up on it!

FC a pelican would be a great yard bird. Maybe the next hurricane will send one up... one sent a Roseate Spoonbill up to Lake Purdy (just south of here) a few years back.

Dusti & Fletch, after I learned to ID a lot of birds by their songs, I was really surprised how many you can hear that you never see. I think they call them "invisibirds".

DPR, hubby is glad that you noticed his gnome! He says I need to do a post showing his gnomes & dragon some day. :)

Sharfa said...

Well, I'm impressed. Kingfishers are really cool birds. I swear I've seen them at my folks place in Maine on the lake one summer.

The most exciting birds I've seen here are some Hummers & Woodthrushes. We do have Loons and an Eagle that have nested on the lake in Maine though. There is nothing so lonely as the call of a Loon, or with such a look of attitude as an Eagle.

Love the Gnome!

Ontario Wanderer said...

Fantastic bird shots! I know a few local birders that get good shots but they spend most of their lives doing it and use blinds, 35 mm cameras, and huge camara mounted scopes.

If you get some tips re using a scope with the digital, please let me know. I am also having the same kind of luck with a microscope and would love to find a way to hook my digital up to it also.

Sure am glad I found your blog site. You always have something interesting on the go!

Rurality said...

Sharfa, you probably did! They are definitely in Maine. We have loons here only in the winter. And they rarely call during the winter. I wish we got them here at our place, but I think the ponds are too small for them. I believe they need a pretty big landing strip. :)

OW, yeah I believe really good bird photos require the patience of a saint, which I am sorely lacking.

Anonymous said...

Telescopes (don't know about birding scopes) usually have a threaded area where you can screw on something called a t-adaptor. I've found that some of the point and shoot Canon cams have an optional lens adapter (~$15) which will screw right onto a t-adaptor ($10?). I've used this setup to hook a Canon A70 to an Orion telescope.

For $35 you can buy a universal mount, which clamps onto your scope and has a thread for mounting your camera on it.

Or you can make your own:

Anonymous said...

Sorry about the ugly links in previous comment, a little to quick on the submit button. Here they are linkified:

Universal Adaptor
Homemade Adaptor

Here's a bunch of lens adapters:
bug eye digital

And t-adapters

Be mindful of the thread sizes of all the components. There's also the issue of getting your camera lens to look through the scope lens, which involves positioning the two properly and adjusting the zoom of your camera (the A70 needed to be zoomed in all of the way). Before dropping money on adapters first make sure that you can get the camera and scope to play nice just by holding them up to each other by hand. If you have to be five inches away to obtain focus and the mount adaptor is only 3 inches long you aren't going to be happy about purchasing it.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

One more time... T-Adapters

Also various other adapters. Go to digi-t page and scroll down for t-adapters.

Rurality said...

Thanks Jer I'll check those out!