Birds

I am fascinated by birds. And I envy them for their beauty, resourcefulness and most importantly the singing.

I am just beginning with photographing birds. I have tried many different forms of photography, and this one is the most difficult, making me appreciate the genre’s masters all the more. I am fortunate to have befriended Butch Lombardi, a renowned bird photographer, protector, conservator and bird lover. Butch is guiding me down the path and hopefully when this mess of a world is swept clean we can again walk together and enjoy the birds in nature.

I am going to post these images in progression. At this point, I am struggling with capturing birds in flight. Butch suggested I visit a spot in Tiverton Rhode Island at low tide, suggesting there would be ducks feeding, and he was right. I photographed two swans in different places – maybe it was the same couple since the two spots were about a half mile apart. I tried hand-held panning to capture ducks in flight and got a few images that for my skill level are worthwhile. Today I used a Panasonic GH5 and 100 – 400mm lens. I’m having to bump up the ISO to get required shutter speeds, and the sensor has more noise than I am used to. I set the camera using a tutorial found on naturescape’s website. The author suggested matrix metering and continuous tracking focus. The settings and menu on the GH5 are dizzying to me, being used to the Leica menu that is geared to simplicity. The instruction booklet is an inch thick. Like anything in photography, acquiring skill is going to take time and practice. Without further adieu, here are my shots from day one.

February 28, 2021, Route 77 Tiverton, Rhode Island

Mute Swans, Merganser, Mallards

I had to crop the birds in flight. The ducks in flight is about 25%, the other few are more substantial crops. I struggled mightily with panning and keeping fast moving birds in my viewfinder. The camera seems to track reasonably well when it achieves focus. I feel like an anti-aircraft gunner in the process! I am not educated in the species of this wildlife, and hopefully will become more so over time. There was what appeared to be a hawk hunting from afar. It came my way once but I wasn’t able to capture the hawk in flight unfortunately. The light was very flat, making the imagery bereft of color.

March 18, 2019

Red Headed Woodpecker, Barrington RI

Red Winged Blackbird, Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary, Bristol RI

We went on a morning walk at the Audubon Society facility in Bristol where there was flat light. I struggled with the Panasonic GH 5 and long lens, the lens was hunting a lot, and manual focus from the long throw is difficult. Also, the viewfinder is not conducive to eyeglasses, so I had to take my glasses on and off to find the bird, then shoot with the diopter corrected to my eye. Definitely not optimal. Anyway, I got these two fairly decent shots. The light was very flat, and I struggled capturing the woodpeckers in the tree limbs. Just after I packed up to leave, the woodpecker appeared clawed to the side of a tree so I grabbed the camera and captured him. The image is not as sharp as I would like but it is part of the learning process with this camera’s very complex menu. I am considering pulling out my monster Nikon kit if only because I am more familiar with its menu system.

A Red Headed Woodpecker, I am told it is rare to have them in New England. There are about six of them in a grove near the Rhode Island Country Club
A Red Winged Blackbird. This bird is very common and the woods were full of them. It’s not the best composition.

March 21, 2021

Mute Swan, Bristol Harbor

We finally had a warmish day with sunlight today. My laziness continues, I heard all of the birds singing as I drank my coffee and enjoyed the sunlight coming through the windows. I went out in the early afternoon to give the dogs a scamper and captured this beautiful mute swan exploring near the docks. I have learned to capture subjects with the sun at my back, using exposure compensation depending on the birds coloring. Mute Swans are very common in southern New England, and usually are in male and female pairs. If one gets too close when they have chicks in tow, they aggressively snarl and open their wings while advancing towards an intruder. For this image, I departed from the vexing Panasonic 100-400 and used the fantastic Olympus 40-150 pro zoom. It is a zoom lens that aligns with my prime lens habits and I especially like the internal zoom rather than the bazooka telescoping of the Panasonic. I don’t’ know if I will ever warm to that lens, but will continue to use it out of necessity. The Olympus lens is extremely sharp with beautiful color renderings. I used the vivid setting for this image in my Panasonic GH5.

March 27, 2021

Black Legged Kittiwake

April 25, 2021

Osprey, Bristol Harbor

Frustrated by the Panasonic GH5 autofocus system, I purchased a used Nikon D500. With the crop sensor I will get a bit more reach from my longer Nikon lenses. I am familiar with the Nikon menu system, something I struggled with on the Panasonic. I had a fixed 300mm F4 lens and kept my distance so as not to disturb the osprey, so these are quite a dramatic crops. Shortly after I turned to leave, it went on the hunt. Its nest is just to the south of this branch, and I will go back with a longer lens. There are two points to photograph the nest from and one is much closer. Now I must decide whether to cut bait on the Panasonic kit. I’m not getting on with it at all.

April 24, 25 2021

Sparrows

I am trying my best to identify the bird life using my National Geographic bird book. I believe #1 is a house sparrow and #2 is a sharp tailed sparrow. The sharp tail has built a nest underneath the roof of our patio, and from reading this is a common trait of this species. I am still struggling with getting good sharp images of the bird life, but it sure is fun and fascinating.

House Sparrow
Sharp Tailed Sparrow, a constant companion from our patio

April 27, 2021

Osprey Near Bristol Harbor

I am visiting this nest daily. It appears there is a family about to hatch. I am feeling much more comfortable capturing birds using the Nikon system, and the D500 is an outstanding camera. These images were taken with the 200-500 AFS lens. Tonight I balanced the kit on my monopod. I still have to work out a good stable stance while using it. It felt good not to wrestling with a weighty camera and long lens. I got as close as I felt comfortable doing without violating the birds’ environment (about 75 yards away). Honestly, I need tutelage on when one is getting in too close for the Osprey’s comfort – they deserve respect.

April 29, 2021

Grackle, Bristol Harbor

There was a light rain yesterday and I decided to give another run with the Panasonic GH5 and 100 – 400 lens. I was shooting at ISO of around 1000 so there is some noise and with the lens at the long end I am finding some softness. I believe this is a Grackle. The bird was feeding in the marsh, poking its beak into the mud. I am using the Peterson guide to North American Birds and doing my best on identification. If anyone is following this portfolio and can help with misidentification it is appreciated. Speaking of mud, I got smattered in my share of it and my sneakers were full of the stuff and went straight to the washing machine. I have a pair of hiking boots in the car now.

May 7, 2021

Snowy Egret, Bristol Harbor

lasousa2015

Husband, dad, photographer, old camera lover, lawyer.

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