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It’s Easy to Add a Summer Water Feature

Summer is a good time to think about upgrading to a small water feature. Many backyard birding companies have selections of water features with recirculating pumps and tubing that provide a small waterfall option or a small fountain, as do many home improvement and hardware stores. Once you’ve selected your new yard addition, and installed it with a minimum of effort the fun really begins. You can get your landscaping and design juices flowing with the idea of adding decorative rocks and plants, and other elements. It’s easy, and it will add a lot to the attractiveness of your yard, or even your deck or balcony.

What Bird Inspired You to Become a Birder?

One beautiful May day in the Cape May area I shared a memorable lunch with a fun group of birders during a break in a field trip in southern New Jersey. Our leader, Paul Kerlinger, the Director of the Cape May Bird Observatory at the time said he would like to pose a question to each of us: “What bird inspired you to become a birder?” It’s an interesting question that provided an enjoyable response by each of the birders sitting around the big picnic table.

July 20th is LoonWatch Day Across Vermont

This Saturday, LoonWatch volunteers will search for loons on area lakes and ponds across Vermont during their annual loon count, which is a vital component of the conservation of Common Loons. LoonWatch participants provide essential data that’s used for the management, protection, and continued recovery of Common Loon populations across Vermont. LoonWatch is coordinated by the Vermont Center for Ecostudies (VCE) and it exemplifies the Center’s passion for uniting citizens and science for conservation.

Humboldt Bay is Designated as a Site of Hemispheric Importance

Located on the coast of northwest California, Humboldt Bay has been officially upgraded to a Site of Hemispheric Importance within the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network, thanks to a comprehensive survey and the collaboration of federal, state, local, tribal, and private partners to conserve this valuable site. A Bay-wide survey of sandpipers, plovers, and related shorebirds during the spring of 2018 revealed that more than 500,000 shorebirds used Humboldt Bay during spring migration alone – a number five times greater than was previously estimated 20-plus years ago.

Audubon Photo Contest Winners Announced!

This week the National Audubon Society named six winners and four honorable mention photographers in the 2019 Audubon Photography Awards, marking the 10th year of this prestigious photo contest. The most impressive winning photos and honorable mention images were selected from 2,253 entrants from all 50 states and 10 Canadian provinces and territories to appreciate the wonder of birds and the places they inhabit. Birds featured in winning photos included Great Blue Herons, a Horned Puffin, Bobolink, Hooded Oriole, Bald Eagle, and more.

Join the Editor for Weekly Birding Highlights

A mid-summer trip to Minnesota yielded Ospreys, including a great view of an adult and three soon to fledge nestlings that gave me the opportunity to photograph them at their well-built nest. I also found two lone Common Loons in adjacent lakes, each probably having an incubating mate nearby. I also appreciated seeing a Red-shouldered Hawk, a Cooper’s Hawk, and an abundance of Northern Cardinals, which were the primary songsters. These are welcome views of birds I don’t see in the Great Plains, emphasizing some differences between the birds of the eastern woodlands and the adjacent Great Plains.

Mastering Bird Photography

Now you can add the best new bird photography book to your reading and reference list with the addition of Mastering Bird Photography: The Art, Craft, and Technique of Photographing Birds and Behavior by Marie Read to your library. The author shares techniques and the stories behind her compelling images, offering fresh insights into taking successful bird photographs, whether you’re in the field or in the comfort of your backyard. In this richly illustrated book, bird photographers of all skill levels will receive a wealth of essential insider information to help your images stand out.

High Perch Hummingbird Feeders Come in Four Sizes

Wild Bird Unlimited’s High Perch Hummingbird Feeders come in four sizes, including the Large, Medium, Small, and Mini models that provide a variety of nectar capacities, offering 16, 12, 8, and 4 ounce capacities. As you prepare for late summer hummingbird movements as hummingbirds gear up for migration, you may want to add a larger feeder at your feeding station and a small or mini model outside your kitchen window. The high perch allows hummingbirds to comfortably rest, providing you with better, longer views of these special birds.

BirdsEye Birding Apps for Your Cellphone

Using BirdsEye Birding Apps is like having a pocket birding companion to guide you, leading you to birding hotspots, and helping you with bird identification when you get there. The new BirdsEye Bird Finding Guide is their most advanced birding app yet, providing local sightings, national rare bird alerts, bird finding tips from other birders, plus global content including birding hotspots and sightings for any region you may be interested in worldwide. These impressive birding apps also provides a huge library of photographs that illustrate more than 5,000 species of birds along with an expanded bird sounds library to help you hone your identification skills.

The ABA Rare Bird Alert’s Weekly Highlights

Last week’s rare birds included a First State Record Limpkin in Ohio, a First Provincial Record Common Redshank in Newfoundland, and two Third State Records – a Red-headed Woodpecker in Oregon and a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper in North Carolina. Other standout rare birds included a full-color Ruff, a Long-billed Murrelet, and a Bahama Mockingbird; plus three Brown Boobys from such unlikely locations as Oklahoma, Nova Scotia, and Pennsylvania – and there’s more!

Improve Your Photos by Reviewing Images by the Best Photographers

Part of my personal success in bird photography can be attributed to viewing and studying other photographers’ work, primarily bird photographers – or more generally, the photos of wildlife photographers. As a result, I try to emphasize action photos whenever possible, and I emphasize composing photographs in different ways, positioning birds to one side or another rather than centering them in the frame. I’m always aware of how light affects the colors and shadow areas of birds, and sometimes it’s nice to try to add some of the surrounding environment whether it’s plants or water, or even sky and clouds.

Take a closer look at your favorite photos, enjoy the process and analyze the qualities you like best in your own images. Then take a look at selections of bird photos on the websites of professional and local photographers for some ideas and guidance. Studying the way the pros compose and frame their photos of birds is a simple process that can help you improve your own photography in big ways – one photo at a time.

Brian Small photographed the peak behavioral action during a photo session at a Greater Sage Grouse lek. Different birds and different locations provide photographers with a drive for the next ultimate image.

As you view a selection of photos, study how the photos are lighted, what direction the light is coming from, and why some photos have such vibrant colors. Likewise, analyze how the photographer is able to stop action, or how they use a slightly blurred action to add some life to certain images. See how using a uniform background helps to emphasize the bird – either against a clear sky, water, snow, or distant green or tan vegetation. Also appreciate the use of the surrounding environmental elements in given photos – leaves, flowers, buds, branches, rocks, sand, etc.

After reviewing a few other photographer’s work, you will be pleasantly surprised about how much you can improve your own photography, as well as hone your instincts in the moment when you’re photographing in the field. It’s fun and even relaxing to inspect other photographer’s select images. To get you started, permit me to share some of my favorite photographers’ photo galleries on their websites, listed below so you can review their work and glean what you can from the process.

The beauty of a hushed spring morning exudes from behind one of the most colorful songbirds -- a classic portrait of a Painted Bunting taken by Brian Small.

I received a lot of inspiration by viewing the photographs of Frans Lanting, Tom Mangelsen, and Art Wolfe, who are all remarkable wildlife photographers who have developed exceptional portfolios of many different subjects; but today they feature few bird photos in their galleries. Don’t hesitate to check out their astonishing website photos for inspiration, along with that of wildlife artist Robert Bateman, who likewise provided a lot of early inspiration for me. But to emphasize bird photography, I’m going to share with you two Bird Photographers who are strongly focused on photographing birds with exceptional levels of quality: Brian Small and Kevin Karlson.

I have been lucky enough to see both of these premier bird photographers advance from really good photographers to the best bird photographers in North America, and I’m especially glad to call them friends. You will note their names in the photo credits in a number of photography-based field guides, magazines, and birding books, and they are also co-authors of their own field guides and birding publications.

Brian and Kevin’s websites offer a wealth of inspiration for any photographer – beginner or advanced – and they are perfect examples of how the best of the best have evolved from good hobbyists to their present level of excellence. See Brian Small’s portfolio at https://www.briansmallphoto.com/home.html and especially work your way through his Taxonomic List to view the varied images of some of the species listed at https://www.briansmallphoto.com/taxonomic.htmlNote how a single bird offers a variety of images, and how different birds and lighting conditions can vary the look of the images. Be sure to review photos of such rarely photographed birds as Harlequin Quail, a Steller’s Eider, and Elf Owls to name a few.

Brian's striking image of a Roseate Spoonbill in flight emits the graceful essence of this species in a tropical green setting.

An intro to Kevin Karlson’s gallery is provided at https://www.kevintkarlson.com/birds---nature but to see his individual style that often emphasizes action, flight, or implied action in a variety of ways see http://www.kevinkarlsonphotography.com/gallery/main.php My favorites tend to be Kevin’s photos of Arctic species and raptors, but he has a great diversity of photographs to share with you.

Keep in mind that some of these bird photos may emphasize portraits of birds, but that’s partly because many of their bread and butter photographs are used by field guide authors and similar publication interests. Some of the framing is also done to include an open area at the top to fit a magazine or book title – one of many pro elements you may notice. More often, photographers will provide a little extra space for the bird to walk into, look into, or fly into, which you can see in the three photos accompanying this article taken by Brian Small.

Each photo can yield some insights; as you review the photos, appreciate the good and best, and look for new or improved ways that you can illustrate birds with your camera. Don’t hesitate to take a few notes to describe some tips and ideas you may glean, and keep a record of where that insight came from in case you wish to revisit the photo or photographer where you learned that technique.

Actually, you can also take this kind of learning experience to another level or two. Some photographers offer a number of how-to tips, descriptive articles, or instructional videos on their websites, and some lead photo workshops at an interesting location, often at a favorite birding hotspot in season. Some local photographers, nature centers, and birding festivals may also schedule a bird photography workshop or class that will be helpful in developing your photo activities beyond the norm. That’s the enjoyable thing about photography – you never know it all, and you always have new photos to look forward to – onward and upward.

Article by Paul Konrad with photographs by Brian Small

Share your bird photographs and birding experiences at editorstbw2@gmail.com

Aug. 7 - Aug. 11
Southeast Arizona Birding Festival
Tucson, Arizona
Aug. 10
Hummingbird Migration Celebration
Connersville, Indiana
Aug. 17
Henderson Hummingbird Hurrah
Henderson, Minnesota
Aug. 17
Hummingbird Festival & Nature Celebration
Beecher, Illinois
Aug. 21 - Aug. 25
Conference of Western Field Ornithologists
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Aug. 22 - Aug. 25
Davis Mountains Hummingbird Celebration
Fort Davis, Texas
Aug. 29 - Sept. 1
Yampa Valley Crane Festival
Steamboat Springs and Hayden, Colorado
Sept. 6 - Sept. 8
Hummingbird Migration & Nature Celebration
Holly Springs, Mississippi
Sept. 13 - Sept. 15
Puget Sound Bird Fest
Edmonds, Washington
Sept. 13 - Sept. 15
New York State Ornithological Association Conference
Kingston, New York
Sept. 13 - Sept. 15
Taking Flight: Birding in the Catskills
Kingston, New York
Sept. 14
Seatuck Long Island Birding Challenge
Long Island, New York
Sept. 14
Princeton Whooping Crane Festival
Princeton, Wisconsin
Sept. 14
Cornell Lab of Ornithology Migration Celebration
Ithaca, New York
Sept. 19 - Sept. 21
Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens Birding Festival
Midland, Michigan
Sept. 19 - Sept. 22
Rockport-Fulton Hummer/Bird Celebration
Rockport, Texas
Sept. 20 - Sept. 22
Monterey Bay Birding Festival
Watsonville, California
Oct. 17 - Oct. 20
Florida Birding & Nature Festival
Tampa, Florida
Oct. 30 - Nov. 3
Yellow Rails and Rice Festival
Jennings, Louisiana
Nov. 6 - Nov. 10
Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival
Harlingen, Texas
Nov. 20 - Nov. 23
Festival of Cranes
San Antonio, New Mexico
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