View Full Version : Help wanted

Anders Nielsen
01-15-2008, 01:19 PM
As the title says I'm looking for some help. I keep wondering how one can get a really nice picture of birds without trying to attract them in some way. So far I have only been really succesful when I have photographed at my feeder but I really want to move on and take pictures of birds in their natural habitat. This leads me to my to my question: How do I approach a challenge like this? I know I will have to spend a lot of time in the field but how do I get that particular bird I'm looking for (for instance a woodpecker or kingfisher)? Of course I have taken a few pictures of birds "in the wild" but that has just been birds that crossed my road - I didn't look for that particular species.

There are three species that I am very interested in: the Green Woodpecker, the Kingfisher and the European Goldfinch. This beeing said I am looking for approaches for all kinds of birds so please let me know if you want to share your knowledge.

Please ask if there is something I haven't explained well.
Any help will be appreciated.:)

Alfred Forns
01-15-2008, 01:43 PM
Hi Anders Some species is best to photograph by attracting and from blinds

The kingfisher is one My nickname for him is "evil" Can hear the bird coming but don't have one solid frame From a blind would be a different story and will still be in his environment

Studying behavior will give you the best chance Oh one more thing ... use a long lens and converters !!! I'm sure others will give some excellent suggestions

Jared Gricoskie
01-15-2008, 03:07 PM

I guide in an American National Park, so I have many limits and rules regarding my photography; I can't use blinds, bait, or even use a flash. My solution is to spend as much time in the field as possible. Have your camera on your shoulder ready to go, find good birdy habitat and set up. Listen for a flock, or find a favorite area of your target species. Once you find them find the good light, and just spend as much time as possible with those birds.

Many folks will talk about learning your subject, but few books will tell you more than their basic habitat. Again this is something best learned in the field.

So put that tripod on your shoulder, walk very slow (about 3/4 a km an hour or slower), wear natural colors, and sooner or later you will walk away with some great shots. You do have to work a lot harder in this fashion compared to bird feeder birds, or back yard set ups, but its extremely rewarding to capture a great shot of a wild bird who crossed your path.

Anders Nielsen
01-15-2008, 03:34 PM
Thanks a lot for both comments.

Jared: This is exactly the kind of help I was looking for. Thank you very much!!

Alfred: I have a 400mm f/5.6 so I believe a converter won't be very usefull combined with my 400D, but I sure will try to study their behavior as soon as I find the birds.

I am able too use a blind but I have never used one before (except at the feeder) so any information on this will be appreciated too as I know for sure I won't be getting the Green Woodpecker or Kingfisher without a blind - they are so skittish.

Inge Schepers
01-15-2008, 03:35 PM

Of the species you mentioned, I am quite familiar with the Kingfisher. Here are some things to look for: don't even bother trying to find one if there is no water nearby. You should find a small lake / river / canal. There should be something for the bird to sit on, not too high above the water. Kingfishers like to spend a lot of time on sticks, poles, etc. gazing into the water until they spot a fish. They sometimes spend up to about 30 min. in the same spot.

You usually hear them coming before you see them. They make a very high sound. You should be able to find it somewhere on the internet. If you're lucky, you may see a little flash of blue. But most of the time, it's "just there", without you even noticing where it came from.

When it is really cold outside, you will only find them in places with running water, where they can still fish. This time of the year, it is usually a little easier to approach them. But they will only let you get to a certain distance and then they will make sure to fly to the next branch, pole, or whatever is available. During the summer, there is hardly any chance at all that you can approach them without a blind.

I hope this helps a little bit, but they get scared and fly away at the slightest movement or sound, especially during the summer.


Daniel Cadieux
01-15-2008, 06:49 PM
You will want to move very slowly, and not only the walking part. Every move must be calculated. No sense in stalking a bird and then spooking it by raising your camera briskly!! Watch every step. When I walk the woods for bird photography I literally watch my every step as I don't want to step on and snap a fallen twig. I also lift my foot almost vertically as to not drag any dry leaves and create unnecessary noises. I try my best not to cough, and try to hold in sneezes (most of the time successfully, but always painfully! :-) ) Sounds weird but it helps, really...just watch a flock flee in a panic from a loud ATCHOO!! LOL

When I get to an area where there is bird activity I stop, place myself preferably with the sun behind my back and wait, wait, wait (usually with camera up to my face, ready for action). It's amazing how much life there around you is when you just stop and wait. For woodpeckers look for recent activity such as fresh holes in trees, or wood chips at the base of a tree - there is good chance it is a preferred spot and will return. Finding a nest is also a huge bonus - just be sure not to stress the birds, or keep them from their normal routines.

The key for any bird is to know their habits and habitat. You are not likely to to find a woodpecker at the beach, or a Kingfisher in a deep forest! If all else fails, stake out an area you absolutely know they frequent and set up a blind - you'll be amazed how well this works compared to none...but even with a blind movements and noises must be kept to a minimum. A book could be written about stalking birds, but hopefully with a few tips you can have some good luck (which is also a big facto) on your side!!

Paul Davey
01-15-2008, 07:24 PM
Hi Anders

I second Inge's suggestions about setting up a perch on or near a waterway for photographing Kingfishers. Doubling it with a blind/hide will help extraordinarily. I have never attempted this photography myself (I have had an Ameristep Doghouse Blind for over a year and still haven't used it once) but if you try typing "photographing kingfishers" in a search engine you'll be rewarded with a wealth of information and experiences on how to do just that. If you're interested in trying this photographing from a blind/hide, try this article on Wildlife Watching Supplies: http://www.wildlifewatchingsupplies.co.uk/photo_tips/kingfisher.htm . Of course WWS stock a range of different equipment to get you started in the blind. Hope that helps,


Anders Nielsen
01-18-2008, 05:18 AM
Thanks a lot for all the help you have given me. I will give it a try and return with questions if I have any. In the meantime I will allways appreciate if someone would share their knowledge about this subject as I guess there are allmost as many different ways of doing this as there are birdphotographers.

Maxis Gamez
01-18-2008, 06:37 AM
You can always move to Florida. You need little help here! :)