Frustrations in Bird Photography – Belted Kingfisher with Branches in the Way

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Fall Belted Kingfisher maleFall Belted Kingfisher male – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/2500, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

Anyone who has ever tried to photograph birds knows that it can be a frustrating endeavor and I mean the hair pulling, sailor-cursing, foot stomping kind of frustration. Bird photography isn’t easy. I say that a lot and if I had a dollar for every time I said it I would be one rich bird photographer and I’d have to rent a storage unit for all the gear I would buy with that money. Most of the time I only post the “good” outtakes of my bird photography journey, today I am switching that up and writing about those frustrations by sharing these two photos that I took yesterday which frustrated me.

The first frustration occurred when I heard a familiar rattle, the call of a Belted Kingfisher flying in to a local pond where I was sitting photographing migrating Yellow-rumped Warblers. I caught sight of the kingfisher and it was flying in to a tree nearby, I raised my lens and got ready to photograph the blue belted beauty as it landed but then the bird and I both heard a sound that startled the kingfisher and made it turn sharply in flight so that it could fly to a tree that was further away to land.

That sound? One of those screamer crotch-rocket motorcycles that the driver decided to make scream at the precise moment the kingfisher was going to land.

#[email protected]#. I cursed, yes, I cursed. I despise the sounds those crotch-rockets make and yesterday I learned to despise it even more.

When the kingfisher landed on the tree that was further away I took a few images of it through some branches in the tree that was closest to me and wouldn’t you know it… there was a very frustrating, curved branch in front of its bill. The male kingfisher didn’t listen to me when I pleaded to him to move his bill either. I grumbled.

My only hope at that time was that the kingfisher would take flight and that I’d be able to photograph him out in the open while in flight.

Belted Kingfisher in flight - In Stealth ModeBelted Kingfisher in flight – In Stealth Mode – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/3200, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

The Belted Kingfisher did take flight and I fired my camera as I saw it begin to lift off, hoping that I would get some nice flight shots.

This… this is what I got. The Belted Kingfisher in a dynamic flight pose, wings fully extended, nice light, great eye contact and the kingfisher was calling… with out of focus branches in front of the bird. It was almost as if the bird was flying in stealth mode. Oh how I wish those branches had not been in the way.

I never did get any decent shots of the Belted Kingfisher yesterday but I am glad to know he is back at the pond and that I should have more opportunities with him… if nothing gets in the way. So I will say it again, bird photography isn’t easy.

Maybe “Frustrations in Bird Photography” should be a regular Saturday feature here on my blog.

Life is good.



  1. Ilze Long October 2, 2017 at 6:53 am

    Oh yes! Happens to me A LOT!

  2. David Schoen October 1, 2017 at 9:47 am

    BKs are quite clever in addition to being stealthy. I currently have three around my neighborhood and they seem to be most aware of my presence despite all my efforts to avoid detection (camo, hides, hiding below trees, etc.)
    As soon as they do notice me, they are quick to move from the closest tree to the next tree down the shoreline for a while until they realize I am not a threat. That can take a while and tests my patience. As we all know, they still find the worst place to perch with respect to the lens.

  3. Mia McPherson September 30, 2017 at 6:14 pm

    To make matters worse… they drained the pond. Overnight the pond was down by 3/4s of its volume. The kingfisher may not be back until the pond is refilled and there are fish.

  4. Marty K September 30, 2017 at 4:30 pm

    They KNOW! 😉

    I’ll bet there was some fun vocabulary, though!

  5. Doc Hansen September 30, 2017 at 4:21 pm

    So many disappointments. Yet we keep going back out because there are those wonderful times when it comes together. I would die for a capture of the flying kingfisher without the blasted branches in front. I wish you better fortune on your next outing.

  6. Chris Rohrer September 30, 2017 at 3:29 pm

    Secretly, this kingfisher is good at frustrating photographers. Not even Green or Amazon act that way!:)

  7. Elephants Child September 30, 2017 at 1:05 pm

    I feel your frustration.
    And your joy at the privilege of seeing them. And suspect the second is stronger (slightly).

  8. Jane Chesebrough September 30, 2017 at 12:53 pm

    Yup. I have lots of great shots of birds-except for the branches. Sometimes it cannot be helped. I have hundreds of photos of Chickadees that I am slowly going through culling. Today is sunny, warm enough for sandals despite the falling leaves and a good day to get outside and shoot away.Maybe I will get lucky. Enjoy!

  9. Heather September 30, 2017 at 10:17 am

    How does the saying go… I know how you feel, I felt the same way, but what I found was…
    Well, I really didn’t find anything except for the frustration you felt.
    It had been sunny in my yard yesterday all day and I spotted 2 red-breasted sapsuckers on a birch sapling. And just as I grabbed my camera, the clouds zoomed over the sun and the rain started. I got some lousy shots but 2 minutes earlier would have been perfect.
    Such is the life of a bird photographer.
    Thanks for sharing your less than perfect as well as your perfect.

  10. Patty Chadwick September 30, 2017 at 9:01 am

    I can’t even imagine getting a clear image of one of these guys as the only times I’ve seen them is flying through s tangle of branches along a rushing stream…

  11. Vic McPherson September 30, 2017 at 8:49 am

    Kingfishers are really uncooperative little devils. I often think they are laughing at me with that rattle as they fly away. Your branch image would be a keeper for me.

  12. Liz Cormack September 30, 2017 at 8:17 am

    Most of my photography frustrations involve Belted Kingfishers. I’m sure they purposely land where branches will be in the way as in your first photo. Or take off just as you are about to take a photo & give the rattle call to taunt you. Pranksters!

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