Wow. Out today, Mom spotted a snowy owl in a large cornfield in Ottawa's west end. High winds and very cold; I had the camera on a tripod and was using a shutter release, and still the images are soft and gooey. High winds shaking my lens? Wow. At least the nuthatch we saw later was pin sharp. Since it's just the start of winter, here's hoping I sort things out for my next snowy owl shots. Also, a riveting 15 second video of Snowy looking at me then looking away. You can almost hear the owl thought, "Who's that big doofus taking out of focus shots of me?"
This hawk outfoxed me all summer at Mud Lake Conservation Area here in Ottawa, Ontario. I caught glimpses of him gliding through the trees in his hunting grounds in the deep forest of this conservation area on a number of visits,  but I could never get a good photo of him. On the past weekend however, I found him after he had caught a red squirrel. Once birds start feeding heavily, I have found they tend to become oblivious to photographers. That, combined with the lack of leaves on the trees, now  that fall has passed and winter is right around the corner, made it much easier to get some really close, detailed shots. I was very grateful to finally get so close while he was feeding. Not a common occurrence in my experience. I know its a tad graphic, but it is as nature is, and if you saw how your hamburgers get to your plate, you'd probably become a vegetarian. Here's hoping I can get some good owl shots next.
I got the Cooper's Hawk (immature) after it tried (and failed) to get a rabbit. Later in the morning, the Blue Headed Vireo, also known as the Solitary Vireo, chowing down on a bug in the brush.
The "Woodies" at Mud Lake Conservation Area are showing the new colors and styles for Fall 2014.......
Finally, after a summer of trying to get closer than 300 meters, I finally got closer to a White Egret than I've been all year. Great way to finish off a few days of holiday.
Ok, so it's been a lot of birds recently. Yet consider, winter is coming and the birding really drops off until April next year. So, I'm getting in as many days as I can. Which is great for you if you have insomnia and you've found this blog! No more harmful chemicals to get you to sleep, just read my blog and wink out of consciousness......
Great time to head to Mud Lake Conservation Area. The water side (the pond and lake on the south side of the Cassels' Road) tends to have the waterbirds, the herons (both mature and immature, ducks, turtles, etc.) and the north side (the ridge between Cassels' Road and the Ottawa River) seems to have all the warblers. Patience and binoculars, as well as a sound camera set up are essential.

Remember, even with image stabilizing lenses, you really need to shoot at the fastest shutter speed possible while keeping the ISO setting as low as possible to reduce digital noise in your images (higher ISO = faster shutter speed in low light but higher ISO = grainy, affected images).

Using a tripod is really critical. If you want to know why, try holding a laser pointer at a wall from 10 feet. Watch how the laser dot bops around, despite your best efforts to hold it still. Now, if you're hand holding a camera that weighs several pounds, and your tiny bird subject is in movement, your hand movement (remember the laser pointer analogy?) and the bird's movement will result in less-than tack-sharp photos; you'll get blurred images. I carry my camera, set to the lowest ISO for the ambient light, ready to shoot over my shoulder while mounted to the tripod. If I see a bird, I carefully bring the tripod down to the ground and set up and shoot, generally in seconds.  Take caution, however, if you decide to carry your tripod over your shoulder with the camera attached. I use a very high quality tripod (Really Right Stuff) to ensure that I can do so without losing my camera. If you carry your camera mounted, all ready to shoot, make sure you have a safety strap around your neck or some other point of safety. Failure to do so may result in your camera suddenly detaching and crashing to the ground!  Frequently check camera-tripod connections.
Fall bird photography. Tricky, because there's still lots of foliage on the trees to obscure views of birds. And, the plumage has changed from the bright colors of spring to often more drab colors in Fall. However, in Eastern Ontario, if you get out there, you will see all manner of migrating warblers, as well as other migrants coming through on their way south.

Warblers are the big draw in Fall, but the challenges with photographing warblers are that they are small, very fast and flitting, and tend to stay hidden in the brush, making clear photos very hard to obtain. They're also in drab autumn plumage, and are very tricky to differentiate.  Getting good photos of warblers is like trying to catch a housefly with chopsticks.

That all said, I'm lucky enough that I have this kind of spare time to devote to bird photography. Of course, it means boring the nuts off people with endless photos of birds eating bugs and fish. The real money's in photos of naked people and misery. I can't get much of the former and feel that photographing the latter for money is exploitative, so birds it is.

Tonbo wa, kaju-en no kaori ni tsubasa o fukō sa

To order these images as framed prints, on metal (most popular!)  or in acrylic (very exciting colors), e-mail me (in English please): for prices and shipping.
At Andy Haydon Park and Mud Lake today, where I got some pix of the larger predators eating fish, bugs, golliwogs (anything that sort of defies description, like bullfrog tadpoles or cicadas that look like green aliens from outer space. Met a very pleasant family at Mud Lake, who enjoyed looking at my pix via the viewing screen of the camera. All in all, a nice day, rather hot, but lots of large bird activity.


    Chris Kiez, a hardcore photographer since the 80's, learned to take a picture before the age of selfies and cell phone photography, training on mechanical cameras and film. After years of taking photos of all manner of subjects and people, he did over a 10 year stint as a crime scene photographer on two continents. Now, he does portrait and landscape photos, and is currently distressing the world with his relentlessly, excruciatingly boring blogging.


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