With the COVID pandemic widespread across the country, my wife and I have been staying at home this summer. My photography has been limited mostly to shooting in our yard. That has meant mostly shooting flowers and birds. Since we live in the upper Sonoran desert our yard doesn’t have any tall trees in it except for a couple we planted in the front garden that are still pretty short. There aren’t as many bird species in our yard as there are in many other areas. Even a few miles away as you go up into the Sandia mountains the number of species is greater.
We have eight bird feeders, a quail block and a birdbath next to the patio in the backyard. These attract several kinds of birds that I like to take pictures of. The most interesting in the summer are the hummingbirds. We get Rufous, Calliope, Broad Tailed and Black Chinned hummingbirds here in Placitas. We do have quite a few plants that flower in the summer that the hummingbirds like. The Red Yuccas are the ones that attract the most hummingbirds. Unfortunately, there are so many red yuccas in our yard the hummingbirds never seem to feed on the one I am set up next to. So almost all of my hummingbird photos have been taken around our hummingbird feeders. I either shoot the bird flying next to the feeders or sitting on branches close by. Hummingbirds are a particular challenge since it is always as trade off between high shutter speed to stop the wings from blurring which results in grainier pictures from high ISO and shallow depth of field or slower shutter speed which leaves some wing blur. I usually go with slower shutter speed and accept a little wing blur. Fortunately the hummingbirds are not very skittish and you can get pretty close to them with a camera. I have a 150mm – 600mm Sigma zoom which I use for all my bird shots except occasionally hummingbirds.
Of the other birds that come to the garden in the summer the other ones that I like photographing are the larger species. We get both Gambel’s Quail and Scaled Quail as well as Roadrunners, Mourning Doves and Rock Doves on a pretty regular basis. On rare occasions a raptor will show up but they usually just fly over and don’t land. I did have a Cooper’s Hawk land twice this summer when I was out with a camera.
Most of the other birds are fairly small, what birders refer to as LBJs – Little Brown Jobs. They are harder to get good photos of since they tend to be skittish making it hard to get close enough for a good photo. Most of the photos end up being pretty heavily cropped which reduces the image quality. They are still fun to go out and shoot.
I’m looking forward to the end of COVID so I can get out more. In the mean time the winter birds are starting to show up in the yard in the last couple weeks so I will at least have them to take photos of.