Catch Me If You Can – Photographing the Tiny Birds


A lot of the images that I got last week were of those tiny, hard to find little birds that flit around in the dense shrubs and bushes.  I think you know what I am talking about.  You watch some dense foliage, see a branch or twig move unnaturally, then try to see what is in there.  I can usually, eventually see the hidden bird.  Photographing it is another challenge.

Wilson’s Warbler

I am usually photographing from my vehicle.  I have my Canon 7D and 500mm lens resting on the window.  I use it after I have had an inital location with the binocular.   I set the camera to use only the center focus point.  When I can locate the bird, I try to get that focus point on the bird and then take the shot.  If the foliage is extra dense, I sometimes have to use a bit of manual ‘help’ to keep the focus.

These images illustrate how hard some of these little birds can be to see.

Bell’s Vireo

Townsend’s Warbler

Yellow-breasted Chat

All of the images have been drastically cropped.  In a few, I didn’t know what I had until I got them into the computer and magnified them enough to ID them.  It is always nice to be able to get shots of birds that are more exposed in the open, like the two below.

Acorn Woodpecker

Clay-colored Sparrow.

So I hope you enjoy this little narrative, and the images.  Click on any of them to see enlargements.

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21 thoughts on “Catch Me If You Can – Photographing the Tiny Birds

  1. That warbler’s pose is giving me flashbacks! You’re right. Catch me if you can. You are doing an awesome job of keeping them guessing your intent. That chat is adorable, even if he gave you his business side.

  2. Those little birds in dense foliage are tough subjects and you’ve done a nice job with them Bob. Going to manual focus in such situations isn’t easy in my experience – especially since these little guys tend to be such fast movers. Generally I don’t have the patience needed to get small birds in trees and I applaud your efforts.

    • Ron, I don’t completely go to manual focus. I grab the focus ring and kinda override the auto-focus when I am trying to get that tiny bird in focus. Not easy to do but can be done. Thanks for your comments.

  3. I am happy the vireos and warblers made it south in safety.I miss their colour.Oh, I know what you mean about keeping up to them with the camera. They often fly away just as I am clicking. But that is what makes it so rewarding to get the shot.

  4. Bob, despite the difficulty you’ve managed some nice photos. I use a 400mm prime for most of my bird shots, but have trouble hand-holding such a heavy lens and following a fast-moving warbler through the trees. The tripod hasn’t made it much easier either. I’m surprised you can catch them while resting your lens on the car window frame though — great job!

    • One more thing. The car is a natural blind, believe it or not. If I get out of the car, the birds are spooked. If you can park in a “birdy” spot and be patient, you will get more shots than walking. Try it. Tthanks so much, Kim, for commenting and “Happy Shooting”.

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