Rich Ditch's Photography Blog

April 10, 2011

Long-billed Dowitcher up close

Filed under: behavior, Birds, composition, favorite places, Gilbert Water Ranch — richditch @ 8:59 pm
Long-billed Dowitcher

Long-billed Dowitcher

With a day or two of rain forecast for central Arizona I made sure I got out for a couple hours of photography on the  morning of Friday, April 8, 2011. I got to the Gilbert Water Ranch just after sunrise, and I was glad I’d worn my man pants (instead of my usual shorts) and a light jacket.

I made my way to the northeast corner of pond 5 and settled in, sitting behind my camera rig on my lowered tripod at the edge of the water. It didn’t take long for one of the Long-billed Dowitchers to come in close to feed along the edge close by, and I kept busy trying to fit the bird into the frame with my 300 and 2x converter mounted – once action starts I rarely want to risk spooking a close bird while I juggle gear trying to swap out the 2x for the 1.4x.

Long-billed Dowitcher

Long-billed Dowitcher

The dowitchers at the Water Ranch have always been bold like this, and there’s no need to set up a blind or even dress in camo – just keep low, don’t make a lot of noise, and avoid fast movements. My major problem here is selecting a good combination of aperture and shutter speed: close birds need some depth-of-field from stopping down the lens a bit, but these birds also require respectably fast shutter speeds because of their almost constant feeding motions.

Long-billed Dowitcher

Long-billed Dowitcher

For this set of shots I had my Nikon D200 set to ISO 400 (my default value as I get excellent image quality if I don’t underexpose) and the 300/2.8 plus TC20E combo at f/8 for a little more DOF than the lens/converter wide open. My resultant shutter speed (I shoot in aperture priority automatic) ranged between 1/500th and 1/750th second depending on the morning light.

These three images are full frame (or with a slight crop from one side for compositional balance). I was fortunate to get the entire dowitcher in the frame in the top shot without clipping the tail or beak or legs.

One final dowitcher shot before I close – this one taken with a 70-300 VR lens at 300mm mounted on my ancient Nikon D70. Taking it along over my shoulder while the D20 with 300 and 2x rides the tripod gives me some flexibility to shoot other birds that catch my eye. I really like the ruffled look to the feathers on this bird. I guess the dowitcher had noticed the cold as much as I did.

Long-billed Dowitcher

Long-billed Dowitcher


1 Comment »

  1. Thanks so much for showing these completely beautiful images!– how amazingly sharp, and fresh! And thanks also for the camera/lens info accompanying. If you hadn’t included it, i would have just had to write and ask and hope you would give some tips.
    Warm regards,
    Bill Evans
    Eugene OR

    Comment by Bill Evans — April 28, 2011 @ 7:48 pm

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