My favorite bird photography book ..

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PhotoCal

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A few weeks back I bought a copy of Birds: a complete guide to their biology and behavior.

Very highly recommended!

After having bought and read many "bird photography" books I've realized that most recycle the same information. Also, if they focus too much on gear they are quickly outdated. Some will touch on bird behavior but are focused on the gear. That's unfortunate.

Learning about your subject will help you become a better photographer. Whether you shoot people, sports or still life of fruit, it's going to help to learn about your subject. And information about your subject isn't going to become outdated like learning about your gear will. For example, if you shoot baseball you know the game hasn't changed a lot. If you learn about the strategy you can anticipate what is likely to happen in certain situations.

Same thing with wildlife.

In addition, learning about your subject will provide more enjoyment for those times when you may not want to carry gear- or your too feeble to do so. We all face that day.

So while the bird photography books that I haven't donated sit on my shelf, my new bird behavior book sits on my table and I pick it up often.
There are so many subjects and so many interesting species and behaviors.

For those of you who have read my posts, you know that I advocate responsible wildlife photography. I believe their health is more important than our pictures.
Learning about bird biology has made me realize even more how fragile birds are. This book says birds will lose about 10 percent of their weight if they go one day without eating. Now, imagine if our photography disrupts their hunting? If the bird dies from our actions we will.
never know.

While I believe practice makes perfect, I think we can really improve our photography by putting down our cameras.
 
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Thanks for the recommendation. Sounds like a great read. I just got a couple of "How to photograph Birds" books from the library so your timing is perfect. I will definitely buy a copy of "Birds: a complete guide to their biology and behavior".

Our farm is a nesting area for Bobolinks. I have learned so much from watching them for the last 20 years. This will be the first year I try my hand a photographing them. I can't wait.
Karen
 

RAH

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This appears to be somewhat like Kenn Kaufman's "Lives of North American Birds," although I guess the Kaufman book is more specific to each species, while this book you recommend is more general and not specific? Right?
 
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A few weeks back I bought a copy of Birds: a complete guide to their biology and behavior.

Very highly recommended!

After having bought and read many "bird photography" books I've realized that most recycle the same information. Also, if they focus too much on gear they are quickly outdated. Some will touch on bird behavior but are focused on the gear. That's unfortunate.

Learning about your subject will help you become a better photographer. Whether you shoot people, sports or still life of fruit, it's going to help to learn about your subject. And information about your subject isn't going to become outdated like learning about your gear will. For example, if you shoot baseball you know the game hasn't changed a lot. If you learn about the strategy you can anticipate what is likely to happen in certain situations.

Same thing with wildlife.

In addition, learning about your subject will provide more enjoyment for those times when you may not want to carry gear- or your too feeble to do so. We all face that day.

So while the bird photography books that I haven't donated sit on my shelf, my new bird behavior book sits on my table and I pick it up often.
There are so many subjects and so many interesting species and behaviors.

For those of you who have read my posts, you know that I advocate responsible wildlife photography. I believe their health is more important than our pictures.
Learning about bird biology has made me realize even more how fragile birds are. This book says birds will lose about 10 percent of their weight if they go one day without eating. Now, imagine if our photography disrupts their hunting? If the bird dies from our actions we will.
never know.

While I believe practice makes perfect, I think we can really improve our photography by putting down our cameras.
Is that why you haven't shown any photos?
 

Phocal

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My preferred way of learning about a species is to download all the journal articles, PhD dissertations and Master thesis I can find. Typically much better than a book because they are written by experts on that particular species.

Well, that followed with hours of my own observations.
 

Phocal

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My preferred way of learning about a species is to download all the journal articles, PhD dissertations and Master thesis I can find. Typically much better than a book because they are written by experts on that particular species.

Well, that followed with hours of my own observations.

I should add that my method of using journal articles works for any species of animal, not just those with books about them. Have used it for learning about gators, fox, wolverines etc.
 

PhotoCal

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Is that why you haven't shown any photos?


You want me to post a picture of the book? You can google it, I'm sure.

Or are you asking about images I've taken?
There are a few on this forum.

I post images here when I have a particular issue to address (to illustrate a problem or a solution). I posted some when I recieved my Olympus 100-400, as I got mine before many others and felt it would be helpful. I don't believe there were images taken by people who paid retail for the lens.

I don't do anything for "likes".
I'm confident in my abilities, and so are my clients.
 

RAH

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No, I thought perhaps you weren't now taking any photos of birds, thinking even that may disturb them.
That's how I took your meaning (and as a joke). All kidding aside, people are so worried about for example snowy owls that it often seems that you cannot be standing close enough to actually take a picture that is worth bothering with. I mean, sometimes snowies will just sit there and people often gather around them and fire away. But I think that this is considered incorrect behavior and that you really should stand WAAAAY back, and again, essentially so far back that there's no point taking the shot unless you have some SERIOUS magnification.
 

PhotoCal

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The Audubon Society says not to do anything that will alter the bird's behavior.
It's really simple.
Street photographers are able to take pictures of humans without altering their behavior.

Having a long lens can help you avoid disturbing wildlife. There are other things you can do, such as learn about their behavior. It's not always about spending money.
 
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PhotoCal

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There is also a new (2020) book,
Peterson Reference Guide to Bird Behavior.

It's a hardcover and Kindle right now.

One of my favorite bird behaviors is in the bittern. I've taken a few great close-ups of bitterns and of their behavior.
 

BrentC

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There is also a new (2020) book,
Peterson Reference Guide to Bird Behavior.

It's a hardcover and Kindle right now.

One of my favorite bird behaviors is in the bittern. I've taken a few great close-ups of bitterns and of their behavior.

I think we would all love to see these Bittern photos. Very hard birds to capture
 

Phocal

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The Audubon Society says not to do anything that will alter the bird's behavior.

I take things the Audubon Society says with a large grain of salt when it comes to ethics. I love how they say if it's a bird that is endangered or threaten you should not feed it but if it is a bird that is plentiful it is ok to do as you like since there are plenty of them. So altering the behavior of an owl is not ok but doing the same thing to a finch is ok. Basically they say the life of an owl is more important than that of a common finch. Personally I fall on the side of their lives are equally important (yes I am very much against any type of feeding, especially backyard feeders). Why do they do this? My guess is they get a large amount of donations from older people that like to have bird feeders and watch the birds and heaven forbid if they alienate those large donors.

It's really simple.

It really isn't. Just by going about your daily activities you alter a birds behavior whether it is that bird feeding in the tree by your door that you scare off when going outside or that crow eating a fry in a parking lot that you dropped or scared off as you walked by. If you don't think your presence is the woods is disruptive to wildlife you are delusional. No matter how careful you are while walking down a path in the woods, you are altering the behavior of wildlife.

Having a long lens can help you avoid disturbing wildlife. There are other things you can do, such as learn about their behavior. It's not always about spending money.

I am incredibly respectful of the subjects I photograph as well as the other wildlife in the area. But I am not delusional and know that just being in the woods disturbs the routine of every single living thing I walk by. It is no different than ancient man walking through the woods or some other predator coming by, perfectly natural and not something to get upset about. But I do make every effort to not disturb my subject and consider it a fail if I do disturb my subject whether it is getting in or getting out. I probably take more care in getting away than moving in, unlike many photographers I see. Regularly see a photographer doing everything they can to get close and once they get their shot they just move away without a care, spooking the subject and causing them to fly/run. Or the number of times I have watched photographers purposely make a bird fly so they can get a BiF photograph.

Long lenses help but if you understand behavior and have good fieldcraft it is pretty easy to photograph wildlife with shorter focal lengths, I do it all the time. The problem is 99% of "wildlife photographers" don't want to put in the time/effort to develop good fieldcraft let alone the hour or two it takes to get into position for the photograph. They want that photograph as fast as possible so they can move on to the next one. To me there is a huge difference between a Wildlife Photographer and someone who photographs wildlife, I will leave the distinction between them for everyone to determine on their own.

I spent several hours laying in the swamp watching this American Bittern and my patience paid off with what is one of my favorite American Bittern photographs. It started with him being in the tall reeds across the low surface plants of the swamp. Worked my way into position and laid there waiting because I knew he would eventually come into the open and hunt crawfish. Was able to capture a photograph of him coming out of the reeds using the 300/4.

26762429718_db30a80c26_o.jpg
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American Bittern 003 by Phocal Art, on Flickr

He even caught a fish just as he was exiting the tall reeds.

38828351130_53d67124fc_o.jpg
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American Bittern 004 by Phocal Art, on Flickr

Luckily I had my other EM1 with the 150/2 attached laying next to me because he got close enough for me to capture a crawfish catch using the Little Tuna.

39717550245_3571f9554c_o.jpg
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American Bittern 001 by Phocal Art, on Flickr

And the final shot

25767948527_f80879f0b9_o.jpg
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American Bittern 005 by Phocal Art, on Flickr

After spending several hours there I moved out when he got far enough away that I could safely do so without spooking him. He was still happily hunting crawfish when I moved on down the trail looking for baby gators to photograph.
 

Phocal

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I think we would all love to see these Bittern photos. Very hard birds to capture

Ok......................since you asked.

Album of 5 images that also contains my favorite Bittern photograph to date (shot using 300/4 and 150/2)

Another album of 5 images (shot using 150/2 w/ EC-14 and one using 50-200 w/ EC-20)

Album of 6 images of a Bittern eating a snake (all shot using the 150/2)

Album of 13 images and videos that capture some typical behavior (all shot using bare 150/2 with one using the EC-20)

Full series of photos and videos of a Bittern eating a snake (all shot using the 150/2)

8 photograph series of a Bittern catching a crawfish (all shot using the 150/2)

Here are a few videos I just posted to Flickr. I have about 50 videos of American Bittern that I really need to go through and edit. These were quick edits just so I could post them here.

American Bittern mating call

https://flic.kr/p/2kJpYxD
American Bittern catching a crawfish

https://flic.kr/p/2kJtG9S
I have 5 other video clips prior to this one that total about 5 minutes of me waiting for this guy to catch the crawfish. Really need to edit them all together along with the photos I took in between videos. I think I laid there waiting 15 or 20 minutes before he caught the crawfish.

https://flic.kr/p/2kJtFhr
He eventually worked his way very close to me for this up close catching video

https://flic.kr/p/2kJuct9
Ask and you shall receive :biggrin:

Phocal
 
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PhotoCal

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Everyone's entitled to their opinion.
I trust the Audubon Society's opinion over some random dude's on the internet.
 

PhotoCal

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I think we would all love to see these Bittern photos. Very hard birds to capture

No, they are not hard birds to capture. But they can be hard to spot.

As with any bird you have to see the birds first. They freeze and try to rely on their camouflage. It looks silly but seems to work, based on evolution.
So a picture of them would look like a picture of a bird standing still. Except it's a bittern.

And their surroundings can be a challenge due to their camouflage. It doesn't always create the best picture, depending on what you are trying to accomplish photographically.
 
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Phocal

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And that is why the rest of us should heed the random dude on the internets advice? :whistling:

I think what you meant to say was "some random dude/dudette who showed up on a photography forum to spew all kinds of photographic advice without posting photographs to demonstrate what they are saying or that they even know what they are talking about.

I think we would all love to see these Bittern photos. Very hard birds to capture

I just realized you were talking about @PhotoCal and not me. Sorry, the names are so close that it even confuses me at times. You do know he/she will never do that? If they were going to they would have done so in their reply to you.

No, they are not hard birds to capture. But they can be hard to spot.

As with any bird you have to see the birds first. They freeze and try to rely on their camouflage. It looks silly but seems to work, based on evolution.
So a picture of them would look like a picture of a bird standing still. Except it's a bittern.

And their surroundings can be a challenge due to their camouflage. It does always create the best picture, depending on what you are trying to accomplish photographically.

Ok, lets see here. You said this "One of my favorite bird behaviors is in the bittern. I've taken a few great close-ups of bitterns and of their behavior." but when called out on it you say this "So a picture of them would look like a picture of a bird standing still. Except it's a bittern." Are they great close-up photos of a behavior or are they just photos of bird standing still?

Here I will help you out.

When an American Bittern wants to hide among the reeds they will stand perfectly still with their neck stretched straight up and remain perfectly still. Hey, look at that. The behavior is just as you said, a bird standing still because that is part of the camouflage, when there is no wind that is. Should also point out that the vertical stripes of white and brown going down the neck helps them blend in with the environment when adopting this pose. Also pretty sure I have captured some good images demonstrating that behavior.

32520587070_8985325851_o.jpg
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I'm a Weed by Phocal Art, on Flickr

Since animals don't see color as we do, with most seeing less color than a human I will post a B&W version that really shows how they blend in with the environment.

32747128012_c2e7184105_o.jpg
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I'm a Weed by Phocal Art, on Flickr

Oh, here is another one showing how they will match the angle of the reeds around them. Pretty cool that they realize straight up would look out of place when the reeds are angled.

32086022843_027031e6d0_o.jpg
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Can't See Me by Phocal Art, on Flickr

Yes, my above photos are of a bird just standing still. But they also show a behavior of the bird that guess what, is one that they stand perfectly still while doing. Are not most photos of birds of them just standing there? I would bet that at least 1/2 of the bird images on this forum are just the bird standing there, I know I take many of those.

Now when the wind blows they change up the ruse a bit, but you need video to show it because a still photograph will not. In the video below you will see that when the wind blows they will wave their neck back and forth to look like a reed blowing in the wind.

https://flic.kr/p/RWppYk
Here are a couple of videos that also show how they keep up that ruse while on the move and stalking prey.

https://flic.kr/p/RWpDz8
https://flic.kr/p/RWpYSg
So lets see your behavioral images/videos of the American Bittern?

Phocal
 
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