How to Take Bad Bird Photos

Today I’m going to explain how to take bad bird photographs. I’ve had years of experience doing just that, so I consider myself an expert. After reviewing various online photo galleries, it seems that anyone can take very nice bird photos but it takes a master to create truly horrible images.

(If, to see a particular point, you need a larger version of an image, simply click on it.)


Take Better Bird Photos

the handbook of bird photographyWhat’s a birder to do, once we’ve checked off all the easily seen local birds? I, for one, can’t afford endless trips to exotic places. I don’t have time to chase rarities (which is why I missed the Red-necked Rail at Bosque last month). And I don’t keep year lists, or county lists (or even state lists).

How do you maintain your interest in species you see trip after trip? I turned to photography. There’s always the possibility of a better photo—a different pose, interesting behavior, surreal lighting. The more I practice, the better I get, although I have a long way to go before my photos are gracing the cover of National Geographic!


Murdering Seedlings

Lettuce seedlings_LAH_9883I’ve waiting all winter for spring to finally arrive (and it took forever this year). The garden was planned, veggie varieties were chosen, seeds were ordered. When the package arrived, the seed packets were sorted and stuffed into baggies to wait until May. With the first warmer days, I finally ventured outside, prepared my planting beds, hooked up the soaker hoses, and sowed those seeds. Then I misted them daily, lest they dry out and die. Weeds sprouted and were carefully extracted from the seed bed. Then, at last, the first tiny cotyledons showed above ground. My seeds were germinating!

And now you want me to pull half of them out? You must be crazy!


How to Name a Bird, Part 2

If you missed last Monday’s Part 1, be sure to read that post first. Now I’ll continue with my identification checklist.

What does it look like?
Golden-crowned Sparrow_CosumnesRiverPreserve-CA_LAH_0312
This is the obvious one, but even here there are often too many details to take them all in at once. I usually start with color, and “general impression of size and shape” (GISS). Are there any obvious marks that might narrow things down?

If the bird is still posing for me, I move to the details. What color is the eye, and is there an eye-ring? What about the beak? Long or short, pointed (for bug-catching) or wedge-shaped (for seed-cracking), curving or straight? On a sitting bird, do the wings protrude past the tail? What color are the legs and feet? Is there anything else that stands out?


How to Name a Bird, Part 1

Golden-crowned Sparrow_CosumnesRiverPreserve-CA_LAH_0338What in the world is that bird? Birding someplace new is fun and exciting, but it’s also a challenge. How do you make a trip list if you can’t identify the birds you are seeing?

I normally post a bird ID quiz on the first Monday of the month. Today and next week, I thought I’d share about the mental checklist I go through when I’m trying to ID a bird I don’t immediately recognize.

I get to travel a bit. In addition to field trips here in Colorado, I’ve been birding in southern Texas, Arizona, Florida, Indiana, and the west coast. I was really excited when we went to Puerto Rico several years ago. We stayed at a friend’s time share ideally situated between a wildlife refuge and a bird sanctuary. I was having so much fun, I almost didn’t notice the 99° temperatures or the 99% humidity. Almost.


Digging Dirt

Winter beds @home LAH 7Ahh, March. Snow is still quite likely, but on some days our intense, high elevation sunshine beckons me into the garden. There, I’m greeted by one of my favorite smells—the aroma of humus-laden soil. The ground is no longer frozen. Let the growing season begin!

I’ve had my current garden for twenty years now. In that time, I have never stepped on the soil in my boxed beds. After an initial double-digging, the soil remains uncompacted, perfect for planting. Additionally, a soil test last year showed that I have plenty of humus—too much, actually—so I don’t even need to add compost for a while. Aside from adding a side-dressing of nitrogen, I won’t have to dig this year.