Birds – Close to home

American Robin in spring

American Robin (Turdus migratorius) in spring –  Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, ISO 400, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 340mm, natural light

The weather here in the Salt Lake Valley has been pretty changeable lately, as it is apt to be in early spring. One day it might be in the 70’s and sunny and two days later the lows might be in the upper 20’s and snow will be falling.  Storms can come in every 24-36 hour which means clouds, rain and or snow. Often there are breaks in between the clouds we call “sucker holes”, the sucker holes can last just a few minutes or longer and on cloudy days I can take advantage of the sucker holes by photographing birds close to home when the sun breaks through the clouds.

Yesterday I did go to check out some new locations that are close to home. I live near the Jordan River Parkway Trail system which supports many species of birds. Some of the trees are leafing out now but for the most part many are still bare, there was a nip in the breeze but at least the sun was shining for awhile. There are many species of ducks on the water along with Canada Geese. I was seeing Sparrows, Starlings, a few Downy Woodpeckers high in the barren tree branches and plenty of American Robins. The one in the image above was gracious enough to pose for me for about 7 frames. On another blog post recently I said I needed to focus more on these handsome birds which I did on my walk yesterday morning.

Belted Kingfisher, small in frameBelted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/2000, ISO 400, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light

I had heard that there are several pairs of Belted Kingfishers along the Jordan River Parkway Trail and I hoped to find a pair and did! Belted Kingfishers are a nemesis bird for me, they are very wary and take flight very easily on approach plus they are extremely fast flyers. That does not make them easy to photograph but they are a challenge and I like to challenge myself. It is usually very easy to tell when kingfishers are about as they seem to chatter a lot. I can tell from long distances when a Belted Kingfisher is nearby. It wasn’t long before I heard the uneven rattling call of the kingfishers.

I only carried the light weight Nikkor 80-400mm VR with me yesterday because I was not sure how long I’d be walking and with my Nikkor 200-400mm VR  plus the matching 1.4x TC it can get mighty heavy to carry. Thus I wasn’t able to get shots of the kingfishers that had the birds large in the frame but I was quite happy with the image above despite the bird being small in the frame. I really like how the kingfisher is framed by the barren tree branches and how I was able to maneuver to a spot where there would be blue sky behind the bird.

I will be going back to that location with my 200-400mm VR with the 1.4x TC and trusty tripod to attempt to get more shots of the Belted Kingfishers when ever I get the chance. That is if the weather will cut me a break!



  1. Nicole MacP April 7, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    Lovely pics, I like those habitat type photos of the birds too, the twigs give it a neat ambience. And that Robin is beautiful!

  2. Julie Brown April 7, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    Robins are handsome, as you mentioned, and make good subjects with their strong markings and proud postures. I try never to pass up a chance to shoot a Robin when it lets me get close. As for Kingfishers-they are just spectacular! It is exciting to see them, especially when they are hunting.

  3. Birding is Fun! April 7, 2011 at 10:54 am

    I spent my lunch hour yesterday in a make-shift blind trying to get a Belted Kingfisher photo with my 150mm lens. I know its favorite perch and I was just 15 feet away. It approached its perch then bolted. I’ll need to rig up a better blind, but I have the perfect spot for a close-up if I can orchestrate it.

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