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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Lillian's Camera gear & tips

American Redstart, adult male

Here I am at our recent trip to Magee Marsh/Crane Creek, on the boardwalk photographing warblers. People often ask me what camera gear I use to get the photos. I am using my Canon 1D Mark II camera, my Canon 300 mm image stabilized lens with a 1.4 teleconverter, and the Canon 550 EX Flash with Flash extender. (There are newer models of some of this available.) This is the gear I prefer on the boardwalk because it is crowded with birders, thus harder to manuever with my other gear, the big Canon 500 mm lens and Gitzo tripod with the Whimberly head. With the 300 mm I can quickly move about and find and track the warblers.
I like the Canon Mark II camera because of it's super fast focusing abilities. I think the Canon 300 mm is the sharpest of the 'smaller' lenses. I own the Canon 100-400mm IS lens and the 400mm f 5.6 lens, so I have it compared those.

I saw many, many birders with cameras. Sometimes I think there were more cameras than binoculars. Many were using Canon cameras such as the 30D, 40D and Rebel models and often the 1-400 lens. All good equiptment and less pricey than the Mark II.
Here are some tips for getting photos of fast-moving warblers in foliage.

1. If you are using the Canon 300 mm IS lens, move the setting on the lens from 1.5 m-infinity to the 3 m-infinity setting. This will enable you to focus faster, in several seconds. Seconds count big-time when you are trying to capture warblers.

2. Use the high-speed, AI Servo setting on the camera.

3. Watch for the birds with your eyes, then, keeping your eyes on the bird, bring the camera up to your eyes. This will help you locate and focus on the bird faster. This similar to the way you spot birds using binoculars.

4. Depress the shutter button half way, activating the autofocus, and track the bird with the shutter button depressed half way as the bird moves through the foliage. This saves time.
Yes, there will be moments when the autofocus is blurry and focusing on a leaf, not the bird. But there will be moments when the autofocus locks on the bird. When it locks on the bird and the bird is sharp, take the photo. Don't be afraid to take multiple shots in a row by keeping the shutter button down. It increases your chance of getting a good photo. Plus, its digital, those usless shots, are not costing you the price of film and can be deleted.

5. Move your body Quickly! to get in the best position to photograph the bird and keep doing this as the bird moves. If the bird is hidden behind a branch, tree trunk, in the wrong light, etc. you can improve the photo just by moving your body. Many people do not do this. Photography of moving birds is like a constant dance, with you moving your body in relation to your partner, the bird.

Practice and Have fun!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Majestic dawn yesterday morning at 5:12 am, here at "Bobolink Farm" our NH property. The rosy sky brightened and we were greeted by the dawn chorus of the birds. Catbirds, Tree Swallows, Hermit Thrushes, Bobolinks, Cardinals, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, warblers and much more. Their songs were carried on the immensely still, clear air to our ears. What a heavenly way to wake up.

Birds sing more in the morning because the acoustical quality of the air then is perfect for broadcasting. Most of the song comes from males who are proclaiming their territories and some are seeking mates. Try birding by ear in your morning. To learn bird songs better see our popular Stokes Field Guide To Bird Songs CDs. They can be played on a CD player or downloaded to your ipod.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Birdathon Dudes

Blogger Phoebe here ( I'm the cute one in the photo),

On Sat. we had a visit from Rich and Scott, some nice birders who were participating in the NH Audubon's Birdathon (where you compete to see how many bird species you can see in a day.) They were participating in the "non-motorized" division so they rode their bikes here.

The number one reason they came here was to see me, of course, 'cuz I'm perfect. They also thought I lived in a great bird place and they wanted to add more species to their list for the day. Don took them around and they were happy because they got to add 6 more species to their list. They saw 26 Short-billed Dowitchers, 2 Greater Yellowlegs, 7 Spotted Sandpipers, 12 Semipalmated Plovers, a Killdeer and several Spotted Sandpipers.

After some cool drinks and goodies and admiring me, they were on their way. They wrote and said they saw 126 species for the day. Hope they win. And guys, you can come back anytime and pet me.

Blogger Phoebe

Update: Rich and Scott won the "human-powered" division of the NH Audubon Birdathon and they even beat all but one of the motorized teams! Congrats Rich and Scott!!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Happy Couple

Evening Grosbeak pair at the feeders recently (male on right, female on left.) Have a great weekend. Hope you see lots of birds. The warblers are still migrating. We saw Chestnut-sided, Yellow-Rumped, Ovenbird and American Redstart warblers on our property today.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Mourning Dove sitting on the nest, incubating, taking a snooze. Interesting fact: both male and female Mourning Doves share the incubation duties. The male Mourning Dove incubates the eggs without once leaving the nest from morning until evening. The female does the same thing from evening until morning. The changeover takes place between 8:30 and 10:30 in the morning and between 4:30 and 5:30 in the evening.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Oriole Blossom

Our crabapple trees are in full bloom. Yesterday 2 male and 1 female Baltimore Orioles were drinking nectar from their blossoms. We watched through the window with our binoculars, then I went out to take photos. We never tire of these beautiful birds.
If you want to attract orioles, plant crabapples. They also sometimes come to orange halves or oriole feeders filled with sugar water, just like hummingbirds. When orioles beging nesting they usually just eat protein in the form of insects and caterpillars, and may leave the nectar and oranges. So don't be surprised if they stop coming to your oriole feeder. They also feed protein to their babies.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Magnolia Warbler, male, looking at you.

More eye candy. I just love Magnolia Warblers. If you want to remember how to ID them, I think of them as the "everything warbler." In spring they have just about every type of field mark warblers can have — dark mask, eye-crescents, white eyebrow starting above eye, white wing-bars, yellow throat, yellow underparts with black stripes forming almost a necklace, white undertail coverts. They have white spots part way up the black tail, so when viewed from underneath, the tail has a black tip.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Eye Candy Warblers

We're just back from Crane Creek/Magee Marsh, Ohio warbler birding hotspot. Here's a photo of a beautiful, male, Cape May Warbler I photographed there. The place was dripping Cape May Warblers this time. Until now, I had not gotten a decent photo of one, so I was a happy camper. The black strips on yellow are tiger-like, hence the scientific name for Cape May Warbler is Dendroica tigrina.
There are few places in the eastern U.S. where you can see so many warblers during migration, so close. I will continue to post more "eye candy' warblers during this week.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Stokes Field Guide To The Birds of North America

Coming this Oct. 2010, The Stokes Field Guide To The Birds of North America

The biggest, most complete, national photographic field guide ever published!

The ultimate field guide birders have been waiting for, with more species, more identification text, more stunning photos of birds showing every important angle, and a cutting edge emphasis on shape that will fast forward your birding to the next level, no matter what level you're on. Size 5 1/2 by 8 1/2 inches.
Retail price, $24.99, 815 pages. Pub. Little, Brown & Co.

We are very excited to bring to you our new, national Stokes Field Guide To The Birds Of North America, that has been 6 years in the making. This will be the most comprehensive national photographic bird guide ever published, all in one portable volume. Features include:

- 854 North American bird species, including everything from beloved backyard favorites to the latest high-interest rarities birders most want to see.

- Well over 3,400 stunning color photographs (over 1000 more than any other photo field guide) from America’s top bird photographers, including many from Lillian, are clearly presented in an uncluttered, well-organized, easy-to-view format. Photos cover ALL significant plumages, including: male, female, summer, winter, immature, morphs, important subspecies, and birds in flight. Difficult species are shown from every important angle. The date and location each photo was taken are included with each photograph.

- We give more (not less) space, photos and identification information for the hard-to-identify species because that is what birders want.

- The most up-to-date, detailed and complete identification clues of any North American field guide. Finally birders will have all they need to know in one place.

- The FIRST national field guide to emphasize "quantitative shape" as a new cutting-edge method of bird identification. The comprehensive account of each species shape and proportions provides a more accurate and understandable way to use shape in identifying birds.

- The FIRST field guide to include ALL subspecies with complete information on their range, identification and common and scientific names. This will help birders understand important regional variation in a species’ appearance.

- The newest range maps available detail species winter, summer, and year-round ranges as well as migration routes and extra-limital vagrancies.

- Special help for identifying birds in flight through important clues of behavior, plumage, and shape.

- The very newest scientific and common names, splits and lumps. Yes, we have included Pacific Wren.

- Detailed descriptions of the song and calls, important behavioral information, and key habitat preferences of each species.

- Other user-friendly features that will help birders and much, much more.


Monday, May 05, 2008

Blogger Phoebe's Birding Tip

Black-capped Chickadee

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Hi there, Bloggger Phoebe here,

Usually I don't give birding advice, I leave that up to my owners, Lillian and Don Stokes, 'cuz they're the birding experts. However, here's a tip I can't pass up and best of all, it has to do with me. My owners comb me (then give me a cookie and tell me "good girl") and take my nice soft fur and put it in a suet cage holder. The little birdies just go nuts for my fur. Chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Tufted Titmice, White-breasted Nuthatches, even American Goldfinches grab big mouthfulls and take them. They fly to their little birdie nests and line them with my fur, turning them into little perfect birdie nests, 'cuz, y' know, I'm perfect.

Until later,
Blogger Phoebe, "Woof"

Friday, May 02, 2008

Visit us at Crane Creek/Magee Marsh OH Sat. May 10th

Magnolia Warbler

Golden-winged Warbler

Bay-breasted Warbler

Hi there,
Come see spectacular warblers and meet us on Sat. May 10th. At 1pm we will be at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, signing books and demonstrating our Stokes Birding Series binlocular line. Ottawa NWR is on the south shore of Lake Erie right next store to famous warbler hotspot Crane Creek/Magee Marsh where we will be all weekend when we're not signing books. The warblers are heading north and pause on the lake shore waiting for favorable winds. The trees along the Magee Marsh boardwalk next to the lake can be dripping warblers.
Hope to see you there.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Phoebe sleep

What can we say, we came back from an errand, opened the crate Phoebe was sleeping in and she just continued to lie there for a while in her upside-down, mellowed out, zen state. Owning a Corgi brings us a laugh-a-day (at least)!
Phoebe loves her crate and "asks", by sitting in front of us and staring, to go to bed in it each night at about 8 pm. Of course, it does't hurt that she get a cookie when she goes in.