Rich Ditch's Photography Blog

March 5, 2012

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Nikon D300, 300/2.8 AF-S Nikkor plus TC20E III (2x), ISO 800, 1/640th second at f/8, full frame, 2/29/2012, Gilbert Water Ranch

A common and widely distributed species that presents many challenges to photographers is the Ruby-crowned Kinglet, a 4.25″ dynamo that acts as if it has way too much caffeine in its diet.

The Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula) is closely related to the Golden-crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa) in North America, and to the Goldcrest (Regulua regula) and Firecrest (Regula ignicapillus) of Europe.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Nikon D300, 300/2.8 AF-S Nikkor plus TC20E III (2x), ISO 800, 1/640th second at f/8, full frame, 2/29/2012, Gilbert Water Ranch

Kinglets are fearless little birds and they often come very close to birders and photographers, so you’d think they’d be easy to photograph. But their frenzied behavior means they almost never pause in their constant search for insects and other food. Getting good images of kinglets is mostly the result of spending a lot of time following them around and tripping the shutter release any time one is within the viewfinder and hoping that focus and exposure are correct.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Nikon D200, 300/2.8 AF-S Nikkor plus TC20E (2x), ISO 400, 1/80th second at f/8, 12/4/2007, Gilbert Water Ranch

A subject as small as a kinglet is difficult to capture large in the frame, and personally I don’t think there’s a need to make them fill more than half the composition. I think this is a perfect subject to show at a smaller scale and use the habitat of the setting to complete the composition.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Nikon D200, 300/2.8 AF-S Nikkor plus TC20E (2x), ISO 400, 1/100th second at f/5.6, fill flash, 12/21/2009, Gilbert Water Ranch

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Nikon D200, 300/2.8 AF-S Nikkor plus TC20E (2x), ISO 400, 1/750th second at f/11, fill flash, 1/9/2011, Kearny Lake

It takes “extra luck” to capture the red feathers on the head that gives this species its name. The ruby crown is usually hidden by other feathers and used to display against other kinglets and even other species (a Say’s Phoebe in this case).

Hutton's Vireo

Hutton's Vireo

Nikon D70, 300/2.8 AF-S Nikkor plus TC20E (2x), ISO 400, 1/320th second at f/5.6, fill flash, 2/16/2008, Boyce Thompson Arboretum

A surprise for birders in the western U.S. is how much the Hutton’s Vireo looks like a Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

All these images were made with my trusty 300/2.8 lens and a 2x converter. I get the same magnification as a 600mm lens but the close focus ability of the 300, and that is valuable when working such small subjects that require close viewing. The downside of this set up is that I really need to work from a tripod and that cuts down on my mobility a lot. If Nikon made an auto focus version of the wonderful 400/5.6 manual focus lens I used to have it would be a good handheld lens for these birds (Canon users have had such a lens for a long time and it is the one optic I envy from their system).

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4 Comments »

  1. Very nice photos! What lens length do you use?

    Comment by contraryme — March 5, 2012 @ 11:54 am

  2. Never mind…I asked before I read the small print… Great photos nonetheless!

    Comment by contraryme — March 5, 2012 @ 11:57 am

  3. Yes, the fine print!

    All my bird photography since 1998, including all these kinglet and vireo shots) has been done with a Nikkor 300mm f/2.8 AF-S lens and a Nikon TC20E 2x converter. The 2x makes the lens into an effective 600mm f/5.6 lens that still focuses as close as the 300 alone. Although far from cheap this is still the least expensive way to get that much optical power in Nikon glass. It is also much more compact and lighter than the massive 600/4 Nikkor lens, and a bit smaller and lighter than the 500/4 with the TC14E 1.4x converter (700/5.6 equivalent).

    Neither the 500/4 nor the 600/4 focus as close as the 300 plus 2x, so there’s a different problem to overcome with the truly big Nikon glass. Nikon’s extension tubes all pre-date the age of auto focus, so although the PN-11 (52.5mm) and PK-13 (27.5mm) tubes will mount on the AF-S lenses the auto focus function is lost. There are sets of extension tubes sold under the Kenko brand available in Nikon mount that provide auto focus they are not anywhere near the quality of Nikon hardware and are reported by some people as not working consistently.

    Comment by richditch — March 5, 2012 @ 1:51 pm

  4. thank you very much! My 35mm is a Canon EOS and I just picked up a long lens and am loving it already! I will have to look and see if Canon has a similar adapter. Alot of my bird shots are taken through the screen of my kitchen window which the tends to throw off the auto focus feature.. so I do most by manual anyways

    Comment by contraryme — March 6, 2012 @ 5:07 am


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