The winter influx of Fieldfare from the north seemed to be late this winter. I checked the usual sites in November and the rowans were laden with berries but empty of birds. However, they did eventually arrive in big numbers providing some photography fun during December. These birds are one of my favourite thrushes, such smart and attractive looking birds and typically show quite a bit of variation in the intensity of their colour and markings.
Photographing birds feeding in trees on berries requires some patience to get the birds in a good setting otherwise you end up with images of birds in a 'jungle' of sticks.
My usual approach is to look carefully at the tree and trying to select the end of branches or the lower branches where a bird can be photographed against a clean background. Whilst waiting I always concentrate on particular branches hoping the birds will land there. Sometimes they do, often they don't. The ideal point to visit a rowan tree is when the birds have reduced the berries down to the lower branches, as they tend to eat their way down from the top, which generally provides some better opportunities and also the chance for some more interesting backgrounds. A couple of examples of this are shown below. Having found an interesting background these two photographs show a bird on the same branch, the first with a bird closer to the tree trunk and second photograph was taken by waiting for one to land on the end of the branch.
Another example, in my view the first has a few too many distracting elements in the image whereas the second is more the type of image I hope to photograph.
Of course this is not always possible, and so when the sky forms the background it is important to choose a day of good weather, which can be infrequent in the winter, to provide a blue sky for the backdrop. In my view a bird in a rowan in dull light against a white sky is a non-starter and on these days its time to look for birds on the ground. Fortunately in December we have had a couple of periods of high pressure providing good conditions for photographing the birds and of course such days are accompanied by that wonderful golden soft low winter light.
A further advantage of the ends of branches or those hanging down from the tree is that they also provide some more interesting photos as the they are thin and unstable and usually requires some balancing by the bird to stay on them. The four images below are from a rowan where the remaining berries were on long thin branches hanging down. The birds needing to use their tails and wings to balance.
The constant mantra while photographing the birds is setting and background....setting and background.... and small changes in position can make a big difference to the resulting photographs.
After the birds have been on the rowans for a few days you tend to start finding them on the ground below feeding on fallen berries.
I will finish off this post with a day I went out and the sky wasn't really suitable for photographing birds in the trees so I was looking for birds on the ground. Eating berries tends to make the birds thirsty and so they will often visit puddles to drink and bathe. I managed to find a group using a long puddle in the middle of a quiet cul-de-sac and immediately spotted an opportunity for some images.
Interestingly after the birds left the puddle, I went to look at it from the other side and found it would have created images with dark water and been back-lit which could have produced some interesting photographs. Maybe something for another day.