Bird photographs from New Brunswick < Click Here >

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All photographs by David Lilly

Evening Grosbeaks in the Morning

This sunny mourning I was observing my bird feeders and out of the trees came five Evening Grosbeaks. Three males and two females.

I have seen them before at the feeders, but only two. So, this was a surprise. Ok, maybe not so much of a surprise because on one of my walks a few weeks ago I did see a flock. I knew they would find my feeders eventually.

I have a two squirrel buster feeders not suited for Grosbeaks, so they did not hang around very long. I will have to put a large open feeder up and see if they hang around.

The Grosbeaks are a  northern bird that migrate to the southern regions of Canada and Northern US in the winter. I did not see any in the winter 2019 -2020. A report on the food supply in the Northern Boreal Forest for this winter says natural food is poor. This might explain why I am seeing a few Evening Grosbeaks now.

The Evening Grosbeak is one of the prettiest birds that has come to my feeders. The yellow colour and the big beak make them easy to spot. They are about the same size as an American Robin for ID purposes.

Updated Photos as of 21 Nov 20

Read more about the Evening Grosbeak.

Nikon D 7200 with a Nikon 500mm F4 lens.

Woodpeckers and Nuthatches

As winter approached many of the birds I normally see and photograph have made their way south.

The hardy birds like the Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, Red-breasted Nuthatches and the White-breasted Nuthatches stay all winter in Canada. Lately they have provided me with great photographic opportunities at my bird feeders.

However, they are not easy to photograph. The dark overcast days have compounded the challenges and forces high ISO's, 3200 with my Nikon D7200 to be exact. I find any higher and the noise would be unbearable. To help offset this, I use Topaz AI Denoise software.

With the high ISO's I still have to set the Camera 's shutter speed to 1/1000s at a minimum to be able to catch the fast moving birds. My aperture is usually wide open at F4. The Nuthatches do not stand still for more than a second.

Instead of trying to follow the birds I now have figured out their favourite perch where they stop for a few seconds and just focus on that spot and wait. Sometimes it takes a while but eventually they will cooperate.

Nikon D 7200 with a Nikon  500 F4 lens.

"Steel Eyes" in Bird Photography

If you photograph birds you most likely have encountered "Steel Eyes" in birds eyes. 

It is not a phenomena. It occurs when the light strike the birds eye at a certain angle and displays as a blueish-white coating over the bird's eye. It is actually a reflection from the back of the birds eye. The purpose it is belived is to collect more light in dark environments.

In humans we see "Red Eye" when we use a flash and the light bounces off the retina. We see the red from the blood cells in the back of the eye.

To the right the top photograph of a Hairy Woodpecker is a good example of "Steel Eye". The bottom photograph was photographed a split second later when the woodpecker turned its head and the "Steel Eye" disappeared.

"Steal eye" is seen most often when using a flash. A simple fix is to raise the flash well above the camera, so that the light enters the birds eye at an angle.

I was not using a flash when I photographed this woodpecker, so I had to wait for the woodpecker to turn his head away from me slightly.

"Steel Eye" is most likely to occur when you have the sun  directly behind you. In this case the overcast light.

Nikon D 7200 with a 500mm 5.6 PF Nikon lens.

I have written a few articles on backgrounds for bird photography and how important they are.

If you look at the two Black-capped Chickadee on the right you see two completely different backgrounds. The Chickadees were photographed a day apart on the same stump.

The feelings evoked in the two photographs are completely different. In the top photograph there is a warm feeling. In the bottom photo with the snow in the background gives it a cold feeling.

In the bottom photograph the contrast between the Chickadee and the background is well defined.  

Both backgrounds are out of focus and smooth (blurry). In both photographs I was using the Nikon D 7200 camera and the Nikon 200 - 500mm lens. I make sure there is enough space behind the bird and the background and stopped my lens down. in this case I used a 5.6 F-stop. The stump has not moved but the snow made the difference for the background.

Also for photographs with snow in the background I used centre-weighted metering, metered of off the stump and added an EV of +7. It was pretty close to the proper exposure.

I focused on the stump exactly where the Chickadee was sitting and waited. All I had to do was press the  shutter as I had the focus locked in with the AF button on the back of the camera.

Just in case you have not figured it out, I like to photograph the Black-capped chickadee as it is the provincial bird of New Brunswick, Canada.

A Different Background

Two of the Same Woodpeckers

Two Pileated Woodpeckers on the same tree was unusual for me.

I have never seen two woodpeckers on the same tree doing a strange behaviour as I witnessed in this situation. So let me explain by providing what some birders on my Facebook page offered as a possible explanation.

Both woodpeckers were male. One of the woodpeckers was sort of chasing the other woodpecker around the tree. They continued this behaviour for some time. As a result I photographed the woodpeckers and finally left them where I had spotted them.

Initially, I thought it was a mating ritual, but then noticed they were both male.

A birder on Facebook suggested it was a separation event where a parent was trying to chase the juvenile male woodpecker out of his territory. For me this is the best explanation. Also one of the woodpeckers was bigger than the other and had a more pronounced red under the beak.

In the first link below there is a good explanation for the routine I observed. 

Here are some links with more info.

Nikon D500 with a 200 - 500mm F 5.6 PF Nikon Lens

Visiting Winter Birds

Winter here in New Brunswick can bring a variety of Boreal Forest birds some years.

This year has seen an influx of Common Redpolls.

The American tree sparrow is also one of the sparrows that winter in this part of Canada.  

These migrants provide variety along with the local species making for a delightful winter of bird photography.

Nikon D500 with a Nikon 500mm pf 5.6 lens.

Black-capped chickadees take flight

Photographing birds in flight is difficult. The smaller the bird the more difficult, especially a small bird such as the Black-capped chickadee.

The trick is to find a bird feeder and observe the spot where they land before they go to the feeder.  I would recommend prefocus on that spot. 

Start firing the shutter as soon as they land on the spot because they will immediately go to the feeder. 

I found through many tries if I wait until they fly it was too late - all I got for photos was empty space.

I used 4000sec shutter speed, a higher shutter speed would have been nice but the light would not allow it with a F 5.6 lens and a fixed ISO of 3200. I could have push the ISO higher but I don't like the grain. As it was there was snow falling that added a few hot spots.

All of the photos I was using a tripod .

Nikon D 500 with a Nikon 500mm 5.6 pf lens.