Chickadees have to be the easiest birds to photograph. As Brent is fond of saying, they’ll fly right up your lens. Something else they’ll do is get fearlessly close in either natural or not-so-natural settings.

Here is an example; we have numerous chickadees in our backyard, usually jockeying for position at our feeders. I recently acquired a Nikon SB-600 flash and have begun experimenting with using a flash extender to get better highlights on feathers and that sometimes-elusive eye glint. The following shots were taken over three consecutive days about 10 days ago.

Checking Out That Seed

This first shot is the chickadee in a relatively wild-looking setting, although he’s just perched in one of the branches of the rhododendron bush that adorns our screened-in porch. (A little more about that screened-in porch in a bit). Combining the chickadee’s fearlessness with the Sigma 300mm OS meant being able to get a full-frame shot. He seems to be contemplating just how to get that seed open — but they almost always succeed. I was thinking about clonning out that out-of-focus branch fragment visible at his shoulder, but decided to leave it in for now.

The next image seen below is a somewhat more artificial environment – grabbing a seed from one of our feeders that sits out by itself on a shepherd’s crook. In trying to test the flash extender, I had set up a bit of distance from our main feeders and was focused on them, figuring no bird would come to this particular feeder while I was sitting practically next to it. Wrong! Here comes the chickadee, dropping by for a morsel and seemingly not caring a bit that I was there. I almost couldn’t get him with the 300 mm because I was so close. I need to get a little more separation of the top of his head from the darker background and will repost this shot once that’s done. Again, this is full frame.

Almost Too Close

And then the final day in this Chickadee Trilogy. I was working on a new section of plantings near the front of the house when this fellow decides to perch right on the old metal tub I had next to my plantings to hold soil. I probably didn’t refill the feeders that day, because his look seems to say, “Hey! How about a little food for a hungry bird?” Since I was outside the porch, I left my camera on a bench nearby in case I wanted to head down the hill to the feeders. I didn’t have to.  My Little Chickadee plopped himself nose-to-nose, leading to another full-frame shot. While the surroundings are certainly not “natural,” this guy didn’t care.

Where’s My Lunch?

Of all the birds in my backyard inventory, the chickadees are the only ones that will get this close. That feeder in Shot #2 illustrates this perfectly. While I’m stationed nearby, trying to catch some birds on the main feeders, the chickadee is the only bird that will slip in and grab a bite. As soon as I move to the cover of the screened in porch, the sparrows, tufted titmouses, grackles and an occasional cardinal join the party. The positioning of the screen serves as a blind for me to observe behavior; unfortunately, I can’t go poking holes in it for a lens. That would lead to one very unhappy wife!! So I’ll just have to observe from the inside and look to see if I can’t build a blind outside.

Staff Writer Paul Sevensky is a communications specialist and amateur photographer.  When he isn’t shooting, he covers advertising and PR on his own blog, at View all of Paul Sevensky’s posts on The Roving Photographer.

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