Birding and more...Newsletter
2010 / Issue 10



In this instalment, I'll be discussing HOW TO COMPOSE A GREAT IMAGE.

There's more to taking a great bird picture than just getting the bird in frame and in focus. The lighting, the setting, the depth of field, the pose, the angle of the shot, and eliminating any distracting elements, are all important factors that determine the quality of a photograph. Since most birds only give you a few seconds, this is a lot to take into account before you press the shutter. So how do we get this done, and done consistently?

First, be prepared. Have your camera settings (the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO) the way you want them. These choices will often be determined by the amount of sunshine, the position of the sun, and the density of the woods you're shooting in. Generally you'll want a well lit bird with no shadows across it's head or body. I usually try to keep the sun behind me while I'm shooting, and you can also use a fill-flash to help get rid of any pesky shadows.

Now you're all set (or as set as you can be) and a bird lands on the branch of a tree ahead of you. How do you frame the shot so that you have a chance for a great image? The first skill is seeing what you're shooting. I know this sounds obvious, but it's very easy in the excitement of the moment to overlook the small but important details - like are there any leaves or branches in the foreground that are obscuring parts of the bird? Are there twigs in the background that appear to be growing out of the bird's head? Are there any dark shadows across the bird's body? Am I leaving enough space around the bird (especially in the direction the bird is looking)?

By way of illustration, here is an example of a 'bad' and a 'not-so-bad' photo that I took of a hawk. I took the picture on the left the instant the hawk landed. I wanted to make sure I had a record of it. However, the hawk's face is in shadow, there is a background branch "growing' out of his head, too much of the belly is obscured by a foreground branch, and the tip of its tail is cut off. I knew I may only have a couple of seconds to correct the problems, so I simply took a large step to my left and shifted the angle of the shot slightly. This corrected most of the issues, and as a bonus added a nice catch light in the hawk's eye - a really important element of all good bird shots.

Most birds don't give you much time, so it's important to recognize what has to be done (usually a slight shift in the angle and direction of the shot - or maybe waiting for the bird to change its posture) to transform a ho-hum shot into something special. Give this a try next time you're out on a shoot and you may be pleasantly surprised with your results.


Baby Robin
taken by Debbie Mora

It's the time of year when the baby birds are emerging from their nests. This youngster looks like he's just getting his first look at the world from ground level - beautifully framed by its natural surroundings. Thanks for this great photo Debbie, and we're looking forward to seeing some of the pictures you took in Texas!

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a picture is worth a thousand words

Care to guess what this angry female Cardinal is saying to the hapless Dove?
What's New this week at

ew posts have been added to the Birding and more blog.

New photos have been added to three of the galleries.

The main page now features Garry's recent shot of a Cardinal in our Honey Locust tree.

Which bird has the longest beak?
The Australian Pelican's beak is 18.5" long, but only one bird has a beak that is


Adding a bird bath to your garden is a great idea. It can be an attractive focal point and more importantly it provides drinking water for the birds, and a place for them to bath. Bathing and preening are essential for birds to maintain their feathers in optimum condition.

To ensure the health of your feathered visitors, it is important to keep your bird bath clean and free of algae. Cleaning the bath and changing the water frequently not only stops the spread of disease, it also prevents mosquitoes from using the bird bath as a breeding ground.

FOLLOW THESE STEPS - Every 3 or 4 days:
1. Drain the water from your bird bath.
2. Scrub with a stiff bristled brush.
3. Never use harsh chemicals, bleach,
    or strong detergents.
4. Refill with fresh clean water.


The May 24th long weekend is just past and what a lovely weekend it was! It felt like a mini-vacation and I spent most of it either working in the garden or relaxing in the gazebo. We have a pair of cardinals nesting in our hedge and what fun it was to watch them take turns flitting around the yard, perching on various shrubs or garden accessories, chirping to each other and then going back to the nest. At times they were out together and of all the birds we watch, they're the most like a “couple”. We are so thrilled that they have claimed our garden as their territory and that they seem to be so comfortable with it and with us. The male in particular will perch in the Honey Locust about six feet from our gazebo, cock his head and look at us for several moments before choosing the back of one of our patio chairs, maybe eight feet from us, as his next
preferred perch before moving to the fence and then on to a feeder before finally heading back to the nest. Up until now we've seen the cardinals mainly in the early part of the day or at dusk but right now, during nesting season, we're seeing them continually throughout the day and we eagerly anticipate soon being introduced to their offspring.

While it thrills us to observe our garden being exactly what we envisioned – a habitat for the birds
and other small wildlife, a peaceful oasis for us – we were able to find a couple of the shrubs on my wish list so it's going to be even better! I finally was able to purchase a Highbush Cranberry and am so very pleased about that. We also bought an “Albury Purple” St. John's Wort which will be planted in a fairly shady location, next to the hedge. It turns out that the Azalea requires a lot of sun but the St. John's Wort can handle shade so I think this is the perfect place for the three-foot shrub, and the yellow flowers will add a bit of brightness to the area. Since the Azalea is relatively expensive we'll probably leave it for next spring's budget – something to look forward to!

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