My Backyard Techniques for a Winning Photograph!
Text By Robert Strickland  © All rights reserved.

 Robert Strickland I setup a feeding and water station in the back yard next to my shed. It includes four feeders and a birdbath. I use a variety of seeds for the feeders. Most birds favor the Sunflower seeds. However, a variety of seeds will draw in many different species. I also hang out a suet feeder as well. This allows me to take full advantage of the bird situation I have right in my own backyard.
 
My backyard is not very large. Approximately a tenth of an acre. I have some trees growing along the fence line, which the birds use for safety. I also have some flowering bushes growing and a Mexican sunflower. The birds use the trees and bushes for a staging area before they come in to grab a seed. Some of the birds such as Northern Cardinal stay on the feeder feeding constantly. Others like the Tufted Titmouse come in quickly grab a seed and high tail for the protection of the trees. Then are ground feeders who just hang around cleaning up the seeds that fall out of the feeders.
 
The birdbath is essential because the birds need fresh water everyday. In Citrus County, Florida, it is dry during the winter months, November through April and the birds enjoy a drink as well as a bath. Some birds just come and have a cool refreshing drink, while other prefer to get in the bath a splash up a storm. The Cardinals seem to want to bathe. They come to drink, splash a little and get right in and let their feathers down and soak up the fresh water. The Tufted Titmouse will come in and splash for all its worth and when they are done look like drowned rats.
 
I set up the feeders and birdbath so there is a good background and a perfect distance for my lens, which I setup inside my storage shed as I use the shed for a blind. My big lens requires 4.5 to 10 meters for focusing. Once I got the station setup, I go inside the shed and setup my equipment. I use a sturdy 4221 Bogen Tripod with a 3030 head and A Canon EF 500mm L IS USM lens attached to a Canon EOS 40D. This setup is prefect for the medium sized birds that visit. However, I get many small birds and I will ad a Canon 1.4 Extender and shoot 700mm. At times, I will use an extension tube in lieu of the 1.4 extender. Sometimes I will use the extension tube and the 1.4 extender together to get close-ups of the larger birds or capture of the little birds like the chickadees.
 
The feeding / watering station and the use of the shed as a blind work very well to allow me the opportunity to capture a variety of backyards birds. It is simple, the birds come for the food and water and I capture them with my camera.
 
This is where I captured the Bathing Cardinal that Won first prize in the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) Photo contest in the Amateur division for Backyard Habitat. That day the Northern Cardinal came to the birdbath to drink and bathe. After a small drink the cardinal decided to take a bath, splashing water everywhere. Suddenly he just stopped and let all his feathers fall, did not move and soaked up the water letting his down feathers collect water.
 
Setting up a feeding / watering station and the use of a blind (shed) allowed me the opportunity to capture a prize-winning photograph.


 
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