aba events
Nikon Monarch 7

    Are your windows ready?

    Today’s installment is a quick check to see if your windows are ready for special visitors.  In this case I’m not talking about the serious issue of bird strikes (but if you are having problems with this please review these excellent strike-prevention posts by Julie Zickefoose and David Sibley.)  Instead, I’m talking about how to be ready when neat birds show up outside your windows, either to visit feeders, water, or habitat near your abode.

    Some steps are probably obvious, but nonetheless here’s what I do during the winter feeding season.

    1) Remove window screens.  Viewing and especially photographing birds through screenless windows is ideal.  Shooting through the glass this way is good, and opening the window, even if only wide enough for the camera lens, is ideal.

    2) Wash your windows.  It is amazing how grimy the outside of my windows get, and my sliding glass door gets really smudged from kid height down.  Clean glass = better viewing & photography.

    3) If there is a bird that you really want to photograph, start by shooting through the glass.  If the bird sticks around you can always try to open the window later.  If you flush the bird away by opening a window you should then build a time machine, go back in time prior to your unfortunate window-opening decision, and photograph the bird through the glass first before attempting to open the window.

    4) If you have the opportunity, turn off the indoor lights to cut glare from the inside of the glass.  You will also then be hidden in what amounts to an apartment/condo/home-sized photo blind.

    5) If the bird’s position and your indoor arrangements permit, shoot with your lens close to the glass (or even touching your shade hood to the window), as perpendicular to the glass surface as possible.

    6) If it is really cold out and you open your window, warm indoor air escaping can cause image-blurring heat distortion.  If you are in a small room such as a bedroom, close the door to reduce airflow.  Otherwise, time your shots and/or shoot many pictures to try to get some sharp images amongst the blurry ones.

    Here are some of my favorite shots taken from inside my house.

    AMGO10
    Male American Goldfinch, photographed out my sliding glass door.  Water brings in lots of great birds- here I opened the door and sat on the living room floor to photograph birds hitting my Bird Spa.

    AMKEbath5
    Once I caught a glimpse of some strange movement out in my dripper bath and noted this American Kestrel having a splash.  This time I photographed the small falcon through the sliding door glass, not wanting to scare away the bird.

    BOWAs3
    In April of 2005 hundreds of Bohemian Waxwings choked the trees in my back yard, waiting for a turn at my water features.  Here we see some shoulder-to-shoulder waxwing drinking along the rail on my back porch, shot through my kitchen window.

    NSHR_juv_lr1

    NSHR_juv_lr2

    This past January, an immature Northern Shrike made an appearance (and apparently had a meal to judge by the blood on its breast feathers) in my back yard.  It flew up to the ornamental cherry tree that shades the back porch, sitting up high and only offering belly views from the first floor.  But much to my delight, the view out of the second-floor office window was eye-to-eye.  After snapping a few images through the glass I quietly eased the window open enough for my lens to get unobstructed views in the cherry tree.  When the shrike flew over to a nearby cottonwood I opened the window all the way and carefully leaned out a little to shoot again from the elevated position.

    Redpolls_lr1

    In December our yard was blessed with a two-day visit by a flock of redpolls.  Since this thistle feeder is off to the side of our back porch I leaned out the sliding door just enough for some record shots like this before getting a more serious photo blind setup in place out back.

    The following two tabs change content below.
    Bill Schmoker

    Bill Schmoker

    Bill is known in the birding community as a leading digital photographer of birds. Since 2001 he has built a collection of digital bird photos documenting over 640 species of North American birds. His photography has appeared in international nature publications, books, newspapers, interpretive signs, web pages, advertisements, corporate logos, and as references for art works. Also a published writer, Bill wrote a chapter for Good Birders Don't Wear White, is a past Colorado/Wyoming regional editor for North American Birds and is proud to be on the Leica Birding Team. Bill is a Colorado eBird reviewer and is especially fond of his involvement with the ABA's Institute for Field Ornithology and Young Birder Programs. Bill is a popular birding guide, speaker, and workshop instructor, and teaches middle school science in Boulder, Colorado. When he isn’t birding he enjoys family time with his wife and son.
    Bill Schmoker

    Latest posts by Bill Schmoker (see all)

    • Chuck Carlson

      I’ve found that, with casement type windows anyway, getting the camera down at the sill where the cold air is coming into the room reduces the amount of turbulence between the camera and the subject. Warm air rising goes out nearer the top of the window. I also found that taking the hood off the lens can make the first shots clearer. The hood can trap warmer air in the hood which can cause a bit of turbulence until it disperses and the hood cools down from room temperature.

    • http://godgirlgail.com Gail @godgirlgail

      Great shots! Especially love the Kestrel view.

    • http://profile.typepad.com/schmoker Bill Schmoker

      Excellent tips, Chuck, I'll certainly keep those in mind when I'm battling a strong temperature gradient!

    • http://profile.typepad.com/offshorebirder Nate Dias

      Got this shot out a kitchen window the other day:

      http://www.flickr.com/photos/offshorebirder2/8450831539/in/photostream

      I wish I had set a higher shutter speed – it was a perched bird and I had no idea what was coming!

    • http://profile.typepad.com/schmoker Bill Schmoker

      Touché!

    Birders know well that the healthiest, most dynamic choruses contain many different voices. The birding community encompasses a wide variety of interests, talents, and convictions. All are welcome.
    If you like birding, we want to hear from you.
    Read More »

    Recent Comments

    Categories

    Authors

    Archives

    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    • Planting an Interest at Farm Camp April 22, 2014 8:28
      To my brother Benjamin and me, it’s not summer without Farm Camp. Run by Connie, a teacher at my former middle school, and her husband David, Farm Camp is a small, outdoors-oriented, all-ages camp that runs throughout the first half of summer. […]
    • Adapting To A Human World April 17, 2014 11:08
      For many species, the slow process of evolution makes it very difficult to adapt to a dynamic society. However, some birds have evolved certain characteristics to assist in ensuring the survival of the species in the face of an ever-changing world. Others have learned behaviors that can assist in their survival. […]
    • From Coffee to Penguins: Winter Research 2014 April 2, 2014 6:04
      This post is the beginning of a series meant to highlight new discoveries about birds and make ornithological research more accessible to young birders. […]

    Follow ABA on Twitter

    Nature Blog Network