Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Beating The Winter Wildlife Photography Doldrums

February is well underway and although the weather here is not as brutal as it was in many years in the past, it is still a struggle for both humans and wildlife to survive.  Sometimes the winter doldrums are broken by frequent sightings of species such as golden eagles and bald eagles, but this is not the case this year. 

Eagle At Conowingo, MD: Canon 7D- 500mmF4, ISO 100- 1/500 sec. f5
When other species are hard to find, one can always turn to birds that are commonly seen at the feeders.  I maintain a back country feeding station, which is set up so the birds may be photographed in their natural environment.

Male Downy Woodpecker: Canon 40D- 500mmF4, ISO 400- 1/6000 sec. f5
 The downy woodpecker shown above paused for a moment on a section of hollow sassafras stump, which has several large woodpecker holes in it.  The feed is placed on a partition installed in the hollow core of the trunk which keeps a suitable supply of feed just below the holes. The photo below shows the feeder and its' natural surroundings.

Natural Feeding Station
At one time I would have mowed the "weeds" that surrounded this, but I learned that leaving certain species resulted in improved backgrounds. Note the broken stalk of Pokeweed in the upper right tangent of the photograph.  That provided a natural perch for the female cardinal shown below.

Female Cardinal: Canon 40D- 500mm F4, ISO 100- 1/2500 sec. f5
The weathered trunk to the right of the sassafras feeder provided a wonderful perch on which to capture a portrait of a White-throated Sparrow.

White-throated Sparrow: Canon 40D- 500mmF4, ISO 400- 1/2500 sec. f7.1
The sassafras tree did not grow in this spot, but the broken off section of locust tree did.  The sassafras log was found lying on the ground in another area, transported to this spot and cut to an acceptable length.  It was then anchored to nearby objects with thin metal straps and lag bolts, which were painted brown and camouflaged as good as possible.  Since the lowest hole was several feet from the ground and the log was completely hollow, I sealed it off about a foot below the lower hole by spraying foam insulation inside the trunk to provide a platform for the seed.

With a bit of creative thinking, one can beat the winter doldrums without having to travel long distances in search of suitable subjects--at least until conditions are right to make a trip in search of more esoteric subjects.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.