So only Cardinals look good in the snow? I get hundreds of searches a week all year for Cardinals and Blue Jays in the snow, so it seems they are the only birds people want to see foraging around in Winter. I have two birds I see less frequently in this post. Click on any to make much larger.
The White-throated Sparrow is unusual in my bird-watching at the Falls. It is rarely seen in my garden due to their preference of thickets.
In the post, When You Need a New Bird Feeder, I got a comment on non-native Sparrows, like the House Sparrow, at the feeder.
I said many sparrows are native, but I see them infrequently in Winter. So I just had to lure one in for this post.
You want to know how?
I first went to an area with dense understory plants. Next, I set out my iPhone and started playing the calls of Chickadees. When alone in the woods, I look a little less ridiculous playing bird calls. The birds are fooled when in their habitat.
I learned this from my bird watching friends. Many birds respond to the chatter of the Chickadees. Varieties of birds will fly to where the phone is playing the calls. Take notice of how many birds are intently watching in the direction of the iPhone. They are not watching me!
The phone was put on a log (seen above) where I want birds to visit, and the rest is up to them. The Cardinal is looking at the log holding the iPhone. My app is by Cornell Lab of Ornithology, but there are many good ones on iTunes.
I will play a Cardinal song to lure Cardinals for instance.
The bird calls bring them in close too. It is similar to how a hunter calls in geese and ducks.
Play a Red-tailed Hawk and see what happens. You won’t see a bird for days.
Last January, I showed how to bring birds to your habitat naturally with shelter plants and fruit, nut and berry producing shrubs and trees. I also showed dangers that fly into a garden brimming with songbirds.
The series went on to explain how to build a winter photo studio for the birds, with the intent to get natural photos. I also covered how birds stay warm in Winter, and started the series with this introductory post.
Birds that rely on natural foraging make much more difficult birds to photograph. There is little control where they land. Branches are often in the way and many times the background of the composition is not ideal. But this can be modified like I showed in the posts last year. In the field, I carry portable pruners to clip twigs where necessary. In the photo above, I just did not clip enough.
You don’t generally want the birds in deep thicket like above and below. Exposure is a bit trickier and the mass of branches often is distracting. It is work finding an angle that helps focus on the bird. This is where pruning helps. I can see three twigs needing removal, above and below.
By baiting the birds with food, you can have them land more predictably. I carry seed in my Jeep for these occasions. Once you lure them in, the food keeps them hanging around. By observing, you see where they land most frequently. Prune around those spots.
Do you think nature photographers just sit and wait? I took a class in 2011 where a renowned wildlife photographer spilled the secrets on pruning and baiting. There is a lot of waiting, but also there is things to do to increase the odds. I learned from him how to create the backyard studio.
Have a look at my links in this post and follow along for more tips this coming year.
I have these little birds in flight as well. To capture birds in flight, see my post, Gulls in Flight – A Photography Learning Experience, and Winging It – Gulls in Flight Part 2.
Happy Holidays, may they be bright with colorful birds!