Posts from the ‘Get Close’ Category

Special Offer & Backyard Bird Pools

It’s spring! …well, kind of…an inch of snow on the ground yesterday (11 inches an hour north!) and high temps in the low 40s…But time to start thinking about some warm-season wildlife photography…and Getting Close!

SPECIAL LIMITED TIME OFFER!
(Isn’t that what all the infomercials say?)
I’m offering a free copy of my North Woods Journal to anyone who purchases the Get Close and Get the Shot DVD AND posts a review on a photography website, blog or forum by May 15th Then just send me a link to your review. (Remember…Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are right around the corner!)

More details and video clips from the Get Close DVD here

I’m including a short 3-minute clip from the Get Close & Get the Shot DVD on building a small backyard pool to attract birds…and how to photograph them. It’s easy and fun…and could be especially productive during late May migration or during the heat of summer.

Images like this Purple Finch are possible with a tiny backyard pool…and a large dose of patience!
Just dig a shallow hole, line it with something waterproof like poly, fill with small rocks, then add either a small waterfall with a hose and some rocks, or a drip. Birds find the sound of running or dripping water enticing. Now set up your blind and wait. Oh yeah, add some attractive perches if you want some nice bird portraits. Try it out! More details on setting up perches in the DVD.

North Woods Journal is a perpetual weekly calendar for keeping track of your nature sightings…and step 1 in becoming a great nature photographer. If you know, for example, that the Sharp-tailed Grouse are normally dancing on their leks in mid April, then you can plan to make a photo blind reservation for that time period.

The book is a 8×8 hardcover book normally retailing for $24.95. It features seasonal photos from yours truly and my photo buddy Ryan Marshik. A sidebar on each generic week highlights what’s happening in the woods on average during that part of the year. This is based on my 25 years of nature notes.

AND it is meant to be written in! Jot down dates, sketch your finds, staple in photos…I don’t care, just so you use it. This way you can compare the phenology of your location from year to year. It’s a fun and fascinating hobby.

If you are interested in purchasing either my Get Close & Get the Shot DVD or the North Woods Journal, go to my online store— www.birdnerdz.net.

Happy Spring Shooting!

Hot off the Press! Sparky’s new DVD: Get Close & Get the Shot


Eight months in the making…and now it’s finally done…just in time for Christmas! Christmas 2012 anyway. Wouldn’t this make the perfect Groundhog’s Day gift? Wait, we missed Groundhog’s Day (or is it Groundhogs Day??) Okay, how about Father’s Day?

If you’ve ever wondered how wildlife photographers get those amazing shots you see in magazines, calendars, books and on the web, then this is the DVD for you. And we have alot of fun doing it. Check out the two clips below.

Click HERE or on sidebar icon to Purchase OR Download this 90-minute DVD (same price for each)

Want to see how these mini-adventures end? You can go to my online store: www.birdnerdz.net to purchase.

Crammed and jam-packed with helpful wildlife photography tips on getting closer to birds, mammals, reptiles and insects. In this 90-minute DVD you’ll learn tips and tricks of the pros, including…

FIRST & FOREMOST
Number 1 secret to great wildlife photography revealed!

EQUIPMENT
Why you DON’T need a 500mm f4
Teleconverters get a bad rap
“Leica” syndrome

HIDING
I once used a Blind and Now I see
Hunting Blind=Photo Blind
Grouse Blinds at Leks
The Perfect Perch: Place it and they will Come
Camouflage Clothing: Do you need it?
Camouflaging Your Equipment
The Floating Blind: Getting Mucky for Duckies
“Snow Blind”: Using Ancient Technology to get close in Winter
Canoes & Kayaks to Get Close
Floating Blind/Floating Hide
How to make your own inexpensive floating blind

ATTRACTING
Hummingbird Feeders
Backyard Bounty: Feeding our Feathered Friends
Christmas Tree Trick
Drips & Pools: Build it and they will Come
Attracting with Sound: iPod, MP3, FoxPro and your Mouth
Moose Calling
Plastic Owls: Hawk’s Worst Enemy, Photographers Best Friend

STALKING
Thinking Like a Predator
Crawling for Shorebirds: Sandy Knees equals Success
Ice-out Ducks and Otters
Get Wet to Get Close
The Stealthy Subaru: Using your car to find…and as a Blind
Bean Bags
The “Fruit Loop”: Find Fruit Trees for Fine Photos
Fence Post Friends: Roadside Routes with Fences

THE TOLERANT & THE HABITUATED
Wildlife that isn’t so Wild
Tolerant Species
Tame Individuals
Home Sweet Home: Nest Burrow and Den Photography

REMOTE SETUPS
It’s Working When You’re Not
Trail Cameras

Flight of the Goshawk and Earl the Owl

Earl the Owl did his job! I bring Earl out only on special occasions—Mainly when the winds at Duluth’s Hawk Ridge are strong and from the NW in late September through late October. So you see, Earl doesn’t get out much. But when I put him up on his dead snag in full view of migrating hawks, he draws their ire and they come in to drive him off, and I, hopefully, get a shot of these feathered rockets before they move on. Hawks really, really dislike Great Horned Owls. It may be because GHOs, on occasion, prey on roosting hawks at night or because they are competitors for the same foods (true with Redtails). Earl, you see, is a plastic decoy Great Horned Owl that I bought (i.e. “adopted”) at a hunting store. A super-glued downy feather on his side lends a touch of realism to him.

Only minutes after I put him up, and before I was even ready to shoot, a big shadow crossed over me…It was a young Red-tailed Hawk (photo above), only 30 feet overhead, making a beeline for Earl. She dropped her talons, flared her tail (not yet bright rusty-red as in adults) and made several passes at this mortal enemy before continuing her journey south—to Kansas, or Iowa, or southern Minnesota.
Raptors winging their way south from Canada and northern Minnesota are pushed by NW winds to the North Shore of Lake Superior. But hawks would rather not fly OVER the big lake—no thermals, no updraft winds, no prey. So instead they funnel down the shoreline and right over Hawk Ridge, which is located at the southwest corner of our inland sea.

My real goal for the day was to photograph the Hawk Ridge specialty…the bird that many birders from across the country come to see..the Northern Goshawk. The “Gos” is a large accipiter (raptors with relatively short, rounded wings and a long tail) that nests in mature mixed woods of large aspen, pine and spruce. The big females (in raptors females are almost always larger than the males) specialize on Snowshoe Hares and the smaller males pick off Ruffed Grouse and Red Squirrels. Of course, like most accipiters, they also will take smaller birds. Their short, rounded wings allow them to fly through dense woods in pursuit of prey, while the long tail acts as an aerial rudder, helping in changing direction quickly. The reason birders come to Hawk Ridge to see them is because during other times of the year they are rarely encountered and if seen, it is usually only a fleeting glimpse.

And then suddenly the Gos was there, harassing Earl. I didn’t even notice the big raptor coming in. I grabbed my camera and started shooting. Autofocus was set to AI Servo (focus setting that follows your subject as it gets closer or further from you) on the center focus point (the most accurate one) and I used shutter priority (1/2000 of a second to freeze motion), Auto-ISO (a feature on some cameras that allows the ISO to vary up and down automatically…works great on bright days when there is no chance of it cranking the ISO up into the noisy range above ISO 1600) and f5.6 so the background would blur nicely. In fact, I set up so that Earl would be between me and a line of Sugar Maples on the distant hillside that had turned brilliant red and yellow. You can see the color in the top photo.

This adult Sharp-shinned Hawk can be aged by its stunning blood-red eyes…a feature that only develops in adult “sharpys”—juveniles have yellowish eyes that turn orange and finally red as they mature into adulthood. They are at the opposite end of the size spectrum of accipiters from Goshawks. Sharpys are small and live almost exclusively on a diet of small birds. Earl caused this beauty conniptions, coming in and diving on him several times. My autofocus did its job and I got this very sharp Sharpy image at very close range.

Can’t wait for the next cold front and accompanying NW winds! Are you ready Earl?

From the top:
juvenile Goshawk: Canon 7D, Canon 400mm f5.6 lens, f5.6 at 1/2500 (shutter priority), ISO 1000 (auto-ISO) handheld
juvenile Red-tailed Hawk: Canon 7D, Canon 400mm f5.6 lens, f5.6 at 1/2500 (shutter priority), ISO 1250 (auto-ISO) handheld
juvenile Goshawk: Canon 7D, Canon 400mm f5.6 lens, f5.6 at 1/2500 (shutter priority), ISO 1000 (auto-ISO) handheld
bottom Sharp-shinned Hawk: Canon 7D, Canon 400mm f5.6 lens, f6.3 at 1/2000 (shutter priority), ISO 320 (auto-ISO) handheld