GET CLOSE TO YOUR SUBJECT
Now, of course, in order to get great images of birds you’re going to need to get close. Of course using a longer lens will give you an added advantage but, in truth, no matter if you have a 500mm or a 20mm, getting close to your subject will almost always result in better images. The good news is that, with you already having a keen interest or being an experienced birdwatcher, you are equipped in advanced with one of the most important assets: knowledge. Understanding their habits, feeding traits and favourite environments will radically increase your chances of knowing where to find your subjects. Meaning, once you have found them you can concentrate on getting close for your images.
With all wildlife watching, having a solid grounding of ethics is important, and when shooting images out in the field you must always put your subject first. Often, people get carried away in pursuit of that perfect shot, putting birds at risk, so be sure to always think about your actions and how they impact on the species you are working with. Tape luring, live baiting and all kinds of bad practices go on, don’t ever feel pressured to do these, because welfare has to come first. Watching your subject as you work, look out for any signs of distress, if these are changing the natural behaviour, back off to allow your subject space to relax.
Stalking birds for images can be a huge amount of fun. The first thing you need to think about is your form. Walking straight isn’t going to work, so get yourself low on the ground to reduce your size and shape. Crawling along the ground army style often allows for much closer approaches. In addition, use natural cover, working along hedge lines and behind walls and fences you can sneak up on subjects without spooking them. Remember most birds detect danger with sight, so your appearance in the landscape is key. Personally, I find the best way to approach is directly in stages, as a gradual increase in size is far less obvious to your subject then someone flitting from side to side in a zig-zag pattern. Move slowly, stop and watch for natural behaviour before moving again. Remember, all species have a natural circle of fear; this is the limit before they will fly or flee from danger, understanding the signs you will soon be able to identify when you are nearing the edge of the circle and when to stop your progression forwards.