Creating Backyard Bird Photos Part 1

Creating photos of birds in your backyard can be difficult. First you need to bring enough birds to your yard so you don’t have to wait hours between shots. Once they show up, you need to get them to hold still long enough to get a sharp photo. You also want to capture an interesting pose or behavior to make your photo stand out among all the other bird photos out there. All of this has to happen before you accidentally scare the birds away.

“American Goldfinch Perched in Tree”

“American Goldfinch Perched in Tree”

We went from seeing only a few of these American goldfinches to needing a finch feeder that would allow more birds to feed at once by switching to fresh thistle seeds.

Let’s start by getting birds into your yard. Birds want the same thing you do, no not money. They are attracted to food, water and shelter. Food is harder than it sounds. The big name brands you get at the grocery store or local pet store are not normally the freshest and attract few birds. If you have a local specialty birding store, they will usually have the best, freshest food. These foods tend to be higher quality and attract a lot more birds. When switched from name brand to food from the local birding store we had so many birds we had to buy more feeders. What about the squirrels? They will eat your bird food. Buy more food, you can’t stop them. Besides they’re part of nature too and will most likely provide you with more photo ops than the birds. Plus it’s interesting to watch the birds and squirrels compete for the food. Getting water for birds is as easy as buying a bird bath. Get one you like to look at it because you care more about the looks than the birds. If you buy a quality bird bath, you won’t need to replace it very often. Some bird baths are too light and unsteady. The problem with this is critters other than birds such as squirrels, raccoons, skunks, neighborhood cats, etc. The critters will jump onto the bird bath knock it over and possibly break it.

If you buy a bird bath with a slick bowl and sides, be sure to add some large rocks in the center to give the birds a place to land. Don’t cover the rocks completely with water. Some birds will stand on top of the rocks to take their bath. Others will use the rocks as a place to hop off into the bowl and then back up again after bathing. If you live in a climate where water freezes in the Winter and you still want to keep the bird bath setup, bird bath heaters are available. Birds love slow moving water, think babbling brook. You can buy drip systems specially built for bird baths or you can fashion one yourself out of a plastic bottle. Just hang a bottle with a pin hole in the bottom from a shepherd’s hook above the bird bath. Keep the bottle filled with water and you’re done. Providing shelter is probably the easiest of the three things that draw birds to your yard. If you already have a good selection of trees, bushes and flowers you’re done. You can buy or make nest boxes and mount them in your yard for even more bird appeal. Birds will use the nest boxes to raise young or as a decoy nest or for roosting in the Winter. Make sure you place your bird baths and nest boxes where it’s difficult for predators to get to but easy for the birds to get to your trees etc. If you don’t have a lot of trees and plants around your home, birds will still visit your feeders, bird baths and nest boxes. You may not get as many as a yard with a lot of landscaping. There are a lot of birding websites and magazines with all the information you need to create a bird friendly yard.

"House Wren at Nest Box"

“House Wren at Nest Box”

I mounted this nest box on a pine tree 7 years ago. Since then the house wrens have raised two broods. The other five years they used this as a decoy nest.

In “Creating Backyard Bird Photos Part 2″ I’ll start discussing actually setting up and creating backyard bird photos.
~ Daniel Kmiecik


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