Saturday, May 28, 2011

Songbird Photography Tips

female summer tanager
a female summer tanager
Throughout North America, photographing songbirds is a popular pastime. For many photographers, a rewarding experience occurs when a new songbird is captured by the camera's eye. In order to locate and photograph many of North America's most beautiful songbirds, one must learn a variety of techniques.

Before embarking on a trip into the field to photograph birds or other wildlife, it may be important to do preliminary research. Weather often plays a major role in the success of a trip. Other environmental factors may also affect bird behavior, such as tides, moon phases, or other events.

A checklist may also be helpful before heading into the field. These usually cover essential equipment such as camera batteries, sun block, insect repellent, hat, eyewear, and other gear.

Time of day is an important factor when photographing birds and other wildlife. Early morning is often the most active time for songbirds. Another busy period may come in the last hour or so of daylight. When photographing songbird species, the photographer must take into account, not only time of day, but light levels and the sun's position.

Some birds are extremely shy and will not tolerate the presence of humans. In some cases, A blind may be necessary in order to get high quality songbird photographs. In other situations, the photographer cannot get close and instead must use telephoto lenses.

Hundreds of species of birds tend to be found near water. Obviously, ducks, geese and shorebirds are drawn to water, but songbirds such as warblers, waxwings and others are often found along streams, creeks, lakes or ponds. Kayaking or canoeing is often one of the most effective means of approaching these birds.

As the saying goes, patience is a virtue. Successful bird photography often requires that the photographer remain still in the environment. Movement, noise and the glimmer of equipment is likely to alarm birds. In some cases, birds are actually quite curious and if a photographer's actions are non-threatening, they may actually approach to investigate.

To capture images of songbirds, photographers should dress appropriately. Earth toned clothing is preferred as it seems to attract less attention. Bright colored jackets, hats, or shiny accessories are usually avoided as they can draw attention to the photographer. During cool weather, layered clothing will allow photographers to add or remove items as conditions change.

Before going into the field, it is important to be familiar with cameras and accessories. In some cases, camera settings may need to be hastily adjusted in the field. Knowing equipment features can make the difference between a once in a lifetime photograph and a missed opportunity.

Always be alert and ready when scouting out potential areas. Birds often appear unexpectedly but rarely remain in view for long. An opportunity to photograph a bird of interest may last only a few seconds.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

North American Blue Songbird Identification

Spotting North American songbirds is always enjoyable, but identification of bird species can be sometimes be complicated.

This series of photographs show how a wide range of bird species can be quite similar in appearance. Below are several blue male songbirds of North America's Mid Atlantic region.

Distinguishing songbirds starts by looking for identifying characteristics such as beak shape, coloration, habitat, behavior, and other factors.

Binoculars, field glasses, or spotting scopes can be a big help. A good field guide is another indispensable tool to help with bird identification. When possible, digital photographs will allow bird enthusiasts to study birds at home in greater detail.

In the series below, several blue songbirds occupy similar habitats. Each bird has slightly different body coloration as well as behavior.

male blue grosbeak
male indigo bunting

male eastern bluebird

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

2011 National Walk in the Woods Day

National Walk in the Woods day (May 21, 2011) will take place in state and city parks as well as private forests and tree farms across the nation.

The American Forest Foundation created National Walk in the Woods day to inspire families to discover a forest and learn about its importance by taking “walk in the woods.”

National Walk in the Woods day is part of "Celebrate Forests, Celebrate Life," a comprehensive collection of events and resources to educate and inform the public on nationwide celebrations of forests. The project is a cooperative effort by The National Association of State Foresters and the US Forest Service.

The day is just one of many events to be held in connection with the 2011 International Year of Forests. Designated by the United Nations General Assembly, the International Year of Forests is designed to raise awareness of sustainable forest management and forest conservation.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Who is to Blame for Aquatic Invasive Species?

Across North America, a wide range of opinions exist concerning aquatic invasive species and the threats they pose to ecosystems.

In response to these threats, a number of government agencies have gotten involved in the war against aquatic invasive species.

Although science and research are valuable assets in the war against aquatic invasive species, information can be subject to misinterpretation.

One such example occurred in Maryland USA in 2011. Acting in response to the spread of didymo, an invasive algae, the state banned felt soled waders and other footwear.

While there is no doubt that felt soled waders can harbor the algae, the evidence which proves that anglers' boots are the sole source of  the spread of didymo is non-existent.

Even if the extermination of felt soled waders can be achieved, blue herons, raccoons and countless other bare footed creatures will continue to migrate from stream to stream as they have done for thousands of years.

The regulation is pointless. It serves only to divide anglers and law enforcement officials and create a sense of false security. Didymo, like other invasive species will require a culture change in order to combat. These changes cannot be achieved by creating a myriad of regulations that serve no practical purpose.

Meanwhile, Maryland and other states continue stocking their waters with non-native species of fish. While these programs promote outdoor recreation and may have cultural value, the environmental impacts are not always positive.

Hopefully federal and state agencies will review existing practices and discontinue those that have potential to harm native environments.