Its not the glass what counts, but how close you can get to the bird

Discussion in 'Nature' started by marc_felber|1, Jul 16, 2009.

  1. Big glass does not always give you the best results. What does is knowing how to approach a bird without scaring it away and learning to be quiet and do talk or make sure you don't step on branches or leaves that will spoke the bird. What has worked for me is hiding behind trees listen to bird noses and then stake out an area for awhile and wait for the birds to come to me. Find out what plants and trees the birds like and stake out the area and wait for the birds to show up. This i never tried but I heard guys that do this for a living, would craw on the ground where the bird will not see them and wear dark hunting clothing where the bird would not notice you as fast. I would not recommend fake bird callers as this is unethical and is bad for the bird and is very harmful for the bird. Some parks will fine you if they caught you with one. Also, use a lens coat. This does make a difference in not scaring birds away with big white lens. I have found using Canon 300 f/4 is better for flight shots since is not as heavy to shoot with than a Canon 500/f4 (too heavy to shot birds in flight).
  2. I would not recommend fake bird callers as this is unethical and is bad for the bird and is very harmful for the bird.​
    That's odd. Around here organizations from the US Park Service to the Audubon Society use bird calls to identify birds. Moreover the Audubon Society sells bird calls. Very odd that using bird calls would be unethical since the Audubon Society, whose primary mission is bird conservation both sells and uses them.
    Bird calls most often simply get the bird to register that they are there, if they do anything at all. They very rarely get the bird to move into a position to that is ideal for photography.
    Plus, when it comes between you and your big white lens, the birds are much more afraid of you. The big white lens doesn't really register.
  3. I generally don't use calls, but have a mobile full of all kinds. What works for me is looking in appropriate areas to find certain species, being alert and quiet as I move around, and wearing dark or camo in the bush. If I see a bird I immediately stop, turn my head to avoid eye contact (shield my face with my camo hat), and try to build trust with the bird, literally. Some may spook regardless.
    In this shot I lucked out spotting him, but he then knew I was there and continued fishing. I avoided abrupt movements, kept quiet, but even managed to adjust my tripod legs without bugging him.
    It still matters what glass you have. The below shot with a 500mm, and I was close enough, but not too close to scare off my subject. It was a overcast and rainy day, so faster glass would've been nice. Sigma 150-500 with OS/IS on a tripod. I'd love a 500mm L but I also love not having to lug so much lens around.
    You could also set up a blind in the field. I prefer to camoflage myself and then avoid making noise.
    He did manage to catch a fish. Apparently Green Herons use live bait to catch fish.
  4. Hey Mat,
    How can you set up a blind in the field if you don't know when and where the bird will appear, they are unpredictable they can show up anywhere places where you least expect it. I was on a wildlife refuage and the birds where popping up in hard to reach areas around 1000mm off the trails so you don't know where and when the birds will be. The big birds are not the problem is the small birds that are. You are right the 500mm is the better glass to use especailly for small birds as they as the easiest to spoke. Refering to Eric question the Audubon society in Houston doesn not allow you to use bird callers at boy scoot woods because I was their and asked them about it. I guess it might depend on the park rules.
  5. Marc... I appreciate your passion but this isn't very good information you are spreading. Take some time to get to know your craft and then give us some useful advice.
    1) getting close to the bird is highly overrated. If you can't afford big glass, this is about the only way to go but generally longer is better. The farther away I can be from my subject the more natural his or her behavior and more IMPORTANTLY the less stress I cause. Also, while waiting for your subjects is the best practice, a lot of time you need to go to them. This of course varies species to species... and there is no better way to improve your photography than to study the habits of your subjects. For example, most flycatchers will favor a territory and return to a selection of perches. A feeding group of chickadees, on the other hand, is unlikely to return once they leave a tree. Waiting for the flycatcher makes sense... waiting for the chickadees... not so much.
    2) Calls are fine so long as you aren't stressing the bird. High Island (i.e boy scout woods) gets an amazing amount of human traffic during the migrations (especially spring) and if everyone used calls it would cause an undue amount of stress, especially since the birds are fatigued from their long journey across the Gulf. The owners of the sanctuary (the Audubon Society) are right to ban calls in this instance. Other locales are not nearly so densely populated with birders (and distressed, fatigued birds) and using calls causes little or no distress. Be aware of the regulations of course... but calling is hardly unethical in most situations.
    3) Using a lens coat makes no real difference (though i still wrap my lenses for protection against natural hazards). Any bird has the eyesight to find you or your camera unless you are truly dedicated to concealment. If a hawk can find a mouse from 2 miles away... who really cares what you are wearing or what your lens is covered in. What spooks the birds is the reflection off of the front element and the moving aperture. You can't do much about the aperture but move your lens slowly to get into position. Generally, the slower you move, the less likely birds are to perceive you as a threat (though they still see you!) and the more successful you will be.
  6. Graig, in some state parks they provide photo blinds, so is does not matter since the birds are very busy feeding on seeds and water. You are so close you need a 300mm lens. In this case 500mm would be to close. I have met some birding photographers who really could afford the 500mm f/4 IS lens. One guy told me he purchased the older non-IS version for about $3, 000, rather than $5, 800. If you meet some birding photographers in the field, some are nice to share some info, some not so nice not willing to share anything. Overall, when waiting on birds I guess It depends on the species, but the last two times out, staying in one place seems to work best because when I was walking the birds can hear me coming and would take off when I was around 2000mm from them, so I stayed in one place and all types of birds started to fly into close range around 500mm as I was quiet. I guess the lens coat can protect your lens from being ding up. I trying walking more slowly maybe this will work and maybe not.
  7. IMO the whole reason for pursuing this type of photography is to showcase the beauty of these animals and document their behaviors and habitats. Getting too close does interfere with natural behaviors. I have never found the need to use any camo coverings for my gear, but I use Nikon so all my stuff is black. I personally feel that the reflections from the front glass are the most startling thing. Birds have very finely tuned senses. They know that we are there more times than not, it is just a matter of how threatened they feel. The amount of traffic a particular area gets can affect this. If I am pretty sure an animal has seen me, I find that I have better results if I just move very quietly, slowly and act like I am not really interested in my subject. If you stalk an animal, chances are it will be intimidated. I do find my 500mm the most useful for bird work.
    I don't really see a problem with bird calls if they are used in moderation, but I find the practice of baiting birds with food repulsive and unethical.
  8. You can get close to birds and shoot with wide angle lens, but that is not really bird watching.
    Picture below shows rather "bird feeding", that could offend true bird watchers as easily as the title of this post...
  9. Hey Katherine,
    There are signs in most parks that do allow you to feed any wildlife especially bears, deer, etc. Its not only bad for the wildlife, it makes the animals aggressive towards humans since they keep coming back for more food. I mostly use the lenscoat for proctection than anything else.
  10. I don't see much problem with baiting birds. Baiting larger animals creates the possibility of future dangerous interactions to the detriment of all, but ocassionally feeding the birds isn't likely to result in harm to bird or man. So long as the food is of good quality and resembles the natural diet its a win/win situation. You get some better shots and the birds get a free meal.
    Of course, many areas (state and national parks especially) ban this practice since, if everyone was doing it, it might become problematic with some species becoming a nuisance.
  11. The problem is that not everyone thinks about the birds' natural diet when they feed them. Yes, in places that are frequently visited fed animals can and do become a nuisance. Most places do have signs about feeding the wildlife, but they are often ignored. You wouldn't believe the things I have seen people do. The worse thing has to be feeding wild alligators inedible objects like cans and other trash. Horrible. :(
    I never thought about the lens coats for protection only. Makes sense if you are going off trail through rough brush. I suppose that is probably the original purpose anyway and the camo came later?
  12. Baiting birds in my opinion is a whole different issue and a big no-no. This past winter a rare species of owl was hit by a car on a country road, and baiting with mice was thought to be the cause. It's completely unacceptable in my mind to bait birds if it in any way endangers them. The food may not be good for them, the location may endanger them, it may teach them not to fear humans, and in some cases in the long run could even hurt their hunting and survival skills.
  13. Haven't ever used any kind of baiting, calling or whatever, and I have to agree with the OP about the way you can get a good bird shot. I use an ever handholded 80-400VR on a nikon D300, and so I am always tripod free walking arround, and getting more opportunities. Big glasses are of no use to me, though I can afford them....
  14. I have taken lots of bird photos with a 300mm f/4 (during travel) and highly recommend it for as a basically essential lens, but there are plenty of times when I had wished for my 500mm with TC. Generalizing about these things has never proven useful to me. When I need to go light I go light, and when I can deal with the weight of a 500mm (and am in the mood) I go with that. -g-
  15. Greg, I agree with you about generalization. What I meant is that I find no fun if I can't go light....
  16. never mind. i decided not to be a wise @$$. JR
  17. Ms. Michael... I completely agree with you. I have seen people do all sorts of amazing stupid things in regards to feeding animals... but I still think feeding birds is just fine so long as you take in care in what you use. In well traveled areas where people are incapable of thinking, I am completely in favor of banning the feeding of wildife. However, I still find no problem with feeding so long as it is done ethically and I will continue to feed in my backyard and wherever I roam.
    Mr. Rossi, I completely agree with you that feeding should not be done if it endangers the birds, but we all must be nuanced about what this means. For example... I put up a feeder and my local songbirds get more food (and presumably larger clutches)... however, my local Sharpies prey on the song birds (which are more numerous than they would otherwise be) allowing them (the Sharpies) to raise more offspring. So yes, feeding the song birds endangers them while at the same time helping thems and helping the raptors( which endanger the song birds).
    Anyways... more food equals more wildlife ipso facto which is usually a good thing. And who really cares if the birds "fear humans." They are just as wild and just as magnificent regardless of what and when they are eating.
  18. In all likelihood the equipment produced by every camera and lens manufacturer is superior to our photographic abilities.
  19. Okay, I didn't mean to drag this post down this road. I'm sorry. I've just seen some really negative effects of approaching wildlife too closely and feeding wildlife recently so I have some pretty strong feelings on the subject.
    Craig- I understand what you are saying. I am not really referring to having a feeder in the yard. I have a bird feeder in my yard. Birds and other animals who reside in areas heavily populated by humans often do so because they have already found humans as an excellent provider of food and have adapted themselves to living near us. On the other hand, in areas where there are less humans things are different. For example, Mathew mentioned in his post above about how a rare owl was hit by a car on a back country road and baiting with mice was the suspected cause. In this case the human interface (the road) was in an area with less human presence and the owl had not adapted to human activity (cars on the road). Many people who interact with wildlife by either getting as close as possible or feeding them do so with great knowledge of their subjects and take great care in doing so. Unfortunately when another person sees or hears about this practice they may not fully understand or care about the implications and act without the best interest of the wildlfe in mind. It is kind of a slippery slope. I personally agree completely with Mathew as to the reasons we should not bait wildlife for viewing or photographic purposes.
    Please understand that this is merely my personal opinion and is not meant as a personal attack on anyone. I never meant any offense.
    I don't necessarily disagree with the OP, I only wanted to point out that we must be very careful about trying to get close in to birds and other wildlife. We must respect them and not stress the animal or affect its natural behaviors. Using bigger glass is one method available to us for doing that.
  20. In my limited experience I have found that only in lucky circumstances am I able to get printable shots using a shorter lens - and those situations come along rarely. In most instances you will alert the animals no matter what you try to do or, like in my situation of late, some red-winged blackbird party will do it for you.
    I've been posting on for opinions on hides to use for bird photography because I need to be closer to my subject - I have a 200mm, and can't afford a longer one right now. If I had a longer lens I'd be able to get the shot from a distance, not needing to disturb the wildlife at all.
    You know where to set up a blind because hopefully you've done a little legwork and/or been to the area before and know that it's frequented by certain animals, during certain times of day and/or seasons.
    But, that is my opinion only.
  21. I would not recommend fake bird callers as this is unethical and is bad for the bird and is very harmful for the bird.
    Exactly how is a bird call harmful to the bird? That makes no sense whatsoever. As for ethics, also explain how using a call to bring a bird closer so it can be observed or photographed is unethical? Your statements make no sense whatsoever. The only way using calls would be unethical or harmful to the birds is if you were luring them with the intention of killing them. Of course, this does not apply to game birds, as duck and turkey calls are used all the time in hunting.
  22. Scott, check out various birder codes of ethics and I think you'll find that calls can indeed be against the code. It can
    also, depending on your jurisdiction, be against various leglislation such as the migratory birds act or other similar
    laws. Don't dismiss it outright as not making sense, because it does in many circumstances. That said, I think it kind of
    falls into a grey area because while it's probably against a purist's code of ethics, I don't know that enforcement
    officials would really care, but that doesn't make it okay in principal.

    Here's a great example. Where I live Peregrine falcons a protected under the endangered species act, and I know
    where some live. To play owl calls or peregrine calls would definitely be construed as antagonizing the peregrines, and
    as such is in contravention of both the endangered species act and also the broader migratory birds act. I know for a
    fact if I did this and then told the enforcement officials (who I am in touch with on a regular basis as part of
    monitoring), they would get very peeved and threaten me with action if I continued. Of course this is more of a precise
    situation, and not the same as playing chickadee calls to attract songbirds.

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