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  • Donald Simpson

Make a Backyard Bird Photography Sanctuary

Creating a Backyard Bird Photography Sanctuary is actually very simple to make and once built can either be taken down and stored in less than 30 minutes or left up to enjoy the whole year.

This Blog will provide:

  • A brief overview

  • A Diagram of one possible way to set up your gallery stage

  • A sample photo of each item used in the gallery with some nice photos of birds to give you an idea what things would look like

  • Types of feed and how to make it

  • A few camera settings to give you a starting place

What is it that birds need the most? The answer is pretty simple - shelter, food and water. The approach used in this blog will accomplish that and provide for lots of birds for you to photograph.


Photo Gallery Setup


Ground Driftwood


Nesting Boxes for Shelter


Angled Branches

Carefully Trimmed Tree Branches for Landing

Larger Rocks to Stand Upon

Feeders

Shepherd's Hook

Vertical Perches

Water Features

A few extra words on making perches:

  • Tall flat feeder - you can make the simple box from scraps of lumber and then screw a pipe flange on the bottom of the box. Using four, or so, feet of PVC pipe with threads to match the pipe flange can be screwed onto the box. Spray paint the pipe, flange and box with a dark tone. As piece of rebar can be pounded into the ground and simply place the conduit over the rebar to hold everything together.

  • Small feeder boxes to hide behind perches - you can make several small boxes from scrap lumber and then spray paint them with a dark tone.

  • Vertical perches - Find natural pieces of wood about 2-3 inches in thickness (not sawed if you intend to enter resulting photos in a contest) and about 18" to 24" high (long). Using a 1 inch drill bit drill 4 or 5 shallow holes in the rear of the perch to smear bark butter into. You can also smear bark butter into other natural indentations in the wood. All of this should not be visible from the camera. Then secure the branches in the ground.

  • Horizontal perches - Find natural pieces of wood, like driftwood 3-4 inches high and drill 4 or 5 shallow holes in the rear of the perch with a 1-inch drill bit. Lay the perch on the ground and smear bark butter into the drilled holes and other indentations natural in the wood hiding all food from the camera. With one of the small boxes you made hide it behind the perch and fill with bird seed and meal worms.

  • Plant some flowers about 3-5 feet behind small vertical and horizontal perches.

Types of Food and How To Make Bark Butter

Bark Butter

  • One part pure lard (rectangular package)

  • One part peanut butter

  • One part yellow corn meal

  • Mix the above together well and then blend in a handful of birdseed

Meal Worms

  • Can purchase at the Ag or Bird Accessories Stores

  • In a plastic container line the bottom with cornmeal or whole grain oatmeal, cover two-thirds of this with a dampened paper towel (if mealworms are live)

  • Poke a couple of air holes in the lid

A Few Camera Settings to Give You a Starting Place

Perched or Grounded Birds

  • Aperture: 5.6 to 7.1 dependent upon the size of the bird

  • Shutter Speed: 1/250 through 1/500

  • ISO: Whatever it requires to get a good exposure

  • White Balance: Auto is fine but could change to proper setting or custom setting so that photos look good on the back of the display. Can change later in post processing.

  • Meter: Center Weighted

  • Shutter Release: High Speed (hold the shutter button down)

  • Focus: Center point

Birds in Flight

  • Aperture: 8 to 11 dependent upon the size of the bird (wing tip to wing tip)

  • Shutter Speed: 1/750 through 1/1250

  • ISO: Whatever it requires to get a good exposure

  • White Balance: Auto is fine but could change to proper setting or custom setting so that photos look good on the back of the display. Can change later in post processing.

  • Meter: Spot

  • Shutter Release: High Speed (hold the shutter button down)

  • Focus: A couple of different ways

  • Panning: if the birds are generally in the foreground you can set your focus to be all points or at least a grouping of points in the center. Because the bird is in the foreground one of the focal points should pick up the bird and if your depth of field is sufficient the bird will be in focus.

  • Pre-focus: if you can anticipate where the bird will land pre-focus on that spot and then switch your lens to manual focus. Then as the bird gets closer to the landing spot begin pressing the shutter button.

  • Spot and AI Servo: with larger birds you may have the time to set your focus to AI Servo and lock the focus on the bird following it across the scene. When ready, and you have a pleasing background, press the shutter and continue to follow the bird.

Hummingbirds


Attracting hummingbirds to your backyard is a bit different than the song birds discussed earlier. Since Hummingbird photography could be a blog by itself I will briefly discuss getting them to your location but leave techniques and tips for another blog. Two additional items will give you a great start to attract these small creatures: hummingbird feeder(s) and vegetation. Everyone probably already knows what a hummingbird feeder looks like and there are many videos on YouTube on how to even make your own.


Mix 1 part sugar with 4 parts water (for example, 1 cup of sugar with 4 cups of water) until the sugar is dissolved. Do not add red dye. Fill your hummingbird feeders with the sugar water and place outside.


As for vegetation, hummingbirds grow native plants like trumpet honeysuckle, bee balm, and hummingbird sage, which provide much more nectar than hybrids and exotics. Plant native red or orange tubular flowers to attract hummingbirds, in addition to native plants rich in nectar.


Have fun!!!

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