Bird photographs from New Brunswick < Click Here >

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All photographs by David Lilly

Which Bird is the Smartest?

There has been a lot of research done on the American Crow. The conclusion is Crows are very intelligent birds. They are able to remember people. Read more about the Crow.


Crows are not easy to photograph unless you gain their trust. This crow was forging along the side of a quiet road and didn't seem to be bothered by my presence.


Crows are black but reflect light. Without the proper exposure, the photo will contain hot spots. My approach is to underexpose the Crow by two F-stops and change the exposure in post-processing. 


I waited a short time as the crow went about its business of looking for Grubs in the grass. As the Crow looked up and sort of posed I got some great photos. The background was good and I had direct sunlight on the bird. As with any bird I tried for a sparkle in the eye. I did notice as the Crow turned its head in a certain direction he did have steel eyes, so to eliminate steel eye I waited for the bird to turn its head. Steel eyes are when the birds-eye looks white from the reflection of the sun.


Nikon 500mm PF lens with a Nikon D 500 body.

Winter Plumage

Some birds change their summer feathers to winter feathers - we call it their plumage.


The Common Loon and the Black Guillemot are two birds that change their plumage from summer to winter. The two birds in this article are in their winter plumage.


There are many reasons for this change. The males change to a different plumage in the winter because are not mating as a result have no reason to have fancy colours to attract females. More about bird plumages.


In winter plumages some birds are not attractive to photograph. However, if the opportunity arises a bird photographer should photograph a bird in winter plumage. It is always nice to have a photograph of a bird in both summer and winter plumages.


Nikon 500mm PF lens with a Nikon D 500 body.

Environmental Bird Photography

Many bird photographers crop in tight when photographing birds. I am guilty of this myself.


However, many times the photograph is much better when there is more of the environment in the photograph. It shows the whole story - the complete story.


Cropping to close leaves the viewer guessing as to where the bird in the photograph was actually sitting or flying as in the top photo to the right.


In the bottom photograph to the right of this article, I deliberately did not crop the photo.  The  Cooper's Hawk is being shown as it was sitting on a branch in his or her environment.


Nikon 500mm PF lens with a Nikon D 500 body.

Unusual American Goldfinch

Every once in a while I get a unusual bird at my feeders. 


I have a lot of American goldfinches at my bird feeders and they look the same. Most are a subdued yellow as they are in their winter plumage -  top two photos to the right.


For the past couple of weeks there have been an American goldfinch that stood out from the rest of the goldfinches. He or she had a lot of white on the head and back and just looked much brighter than the rest of the birds. The bottom two photos to the right shows this clearly. 


Jim Wilson a birding expert in New Brunswick had this to say about the bird. " I suspect this goldfinch is a leucistic bird, where some normal pigmentation in its feathers is lacking. Well short of being albino (pure white), this goldfinch is without yellow tones on the body but not the head, and there are areas on the body where all the dark pigments are absent. The wing in the second image also shows some normal dark pigments as missing.

Other than outside appearance, this condition of “partial albinism” does no harm except to make the affected animal possibly less competitive in the breeding season."


 See link for more info.


Nikon D 500 with a Nikon 200 - 500mm lens.

Birds Up-close

Getting close to birds is not easy. In order to get a head shot a long lens and some magic cropping in a photo editor will be the solution.


For the images to the left, I photographed with a Nikon 500mm lens and cropped the photos in Lightroom.


Cropping in close allows the viewer to get a closer look at the soul of the bird. Also, the viewer feels more of a connection to the bird.


A close-up of a bird like the photos to the left, although they are cropped still demands the photographer's stilt and patience. The Common Loon for example was photographed as I sat in a small rowboat. I did not move and waited for the loon to swim close. 


Some of the more modern cameras have a high megapixel sensor which allows for a crop of 100% and still produces excellent photos. For the photos to the left, I used a Nikon D 500 which has a APS sensor.


Even cropping a photo that was photographed from a long distance will not give you the clarity and sharpness, you have to be full-frame either with an APS sensor or full frame.