I’m still trying to figure out if my interest in bird photography is born out of a real appreciation for birds or mere laziness, or more likely, some combination thereof. Of all the time I spend shooting, at least half of it is spent in my own backyard, photographing birds. If you’ve been to our house, specifically out back, you’ve already begun to suspect that Teri might have an unhealthy obsession with feeding birds. But I won’t deny my role as enabler. Indeed, I did build her the biggest bird feeder I’ve ever seen or heard of. It’s nearly eight feet tall and has four separate platforms, as well as hooks and other implements for additional hanging feeders. I call it our bird hotel. It is also completely squirrel- and raccoon-proof, but that’s beside the point.
On clear mornings, just as the sun peeks over our neighbors’ house, the top of the bird hotel is completely illuminated, while the rest of our densely wooded backyard remains in darkness. Birds in the spotlight of the morning sun with only blackness behind them make for some interesting shots. I sometimes spend hours at a time under our deck's gazebo, working on my laptop or reading, camera by my side, raising it every now and then when I notice potentially interesting bird activity on one of the feeders. My favorites are the bluejays, who attack the peanuts in the top platform of the bird hotel, sometimes fitting as many as three in their gullet before returning to the branches above to crack them open.
So if my interest in shooting birds can be described as passive (or circumstantial, or convenient) at home, it’s much more active while traveling with my camera, particularly near the ocean. Serious bird photography is an expensive hobby, usually requiring long, fast, heavy lenses that can cost several thousand dollars. But coastal birds are typically much bigger than nuthatches and red-bellied woodpeckers, so my budget-telephoto-of-choice (Tamron 70-300 VC) does well enough for pelicans and egrets in decent light.
As I’ve said before, my favorite bird subjects are pelicans; luckily for me, they are nearly everywhere in the Keys, and they were beyond cooperative during our visit to Garden Key (Dry Tortugas and Fort Jefferson). We spent at least an hour watching them fish, and in the process, I nearly filled an 8 GB card.
And no discussion about birds in the Florida Keys could possibly be complete without mentioning the chickens in Key West. They’re all over the place, especially near the south shore. I made sure to include a shot of a Key West rooster below. Enjoy.