It's cold. Below freezing cold. And the snow and ice coverage not only makes it difficult for us to get around and for the kids to get to school (our summer is getting shorter already due to numerous snow days), this extreme weather is making it difficult for the birds to find food. The grasses are covered. The berries are gone. The worms are safe in the frozen soil. But we can help them out. If you already have a bird feeder, keep it full of seeds. Your local hardware and grocery stores will carry winter seed blends which have higher fat seeds that the birds are in need of to stay warm in this weather. Black sunflower seeds are especially good. Pre-made suet blocks also contains the high fat seeds that birds are in need of. I've been doing my own form of suet by putting sunflower seed butter on the branches of last years christmas tree cuttings that I've strategically placed across from our nook window and then sprinkle the surrounding area with seeds.
With all the snow, I've tossed extra seed on the snow around the cuttings. It's amazing how many birds have been visiting. Numerous dark-eyed juncos and white-crowned sparrows, and other sparrow (chipping, maybe?). And possibly a house finch. What birds are visiting your house and feeder? Let me know. It's interesting to find out which birds are wintering here.
And, naturally, this makes for a great photo op. No need to be out in the cold to get pictures of the birds at your feeder(s). Well, you'll need to go outside to put the seed out but then you can stay warm and cozy inside. Hopefully your feeders are positioned so the sun (when the clouds have cleared) will shine on them and not directly into your window and that they are within a good viewing distance from your window. It’s a good idea to not put the feeders too close to the window because that may increase the chance of a bird flying into the window and getting injured.
Set your camera on a tripod or table and books, if needed (like when you leave your tripod in the car and your husband takes that car to work). You'll want to place the camera so your lens is extended to the focal length you want and is flush with the glass. So adjust the tripod legs accordingly - the 2 front legs on my tripod were adjusted slightly lower than the third so the head was slightly forward (or pull your table in closer). If you pull the lens is away from the window or have it at an angle to the window, you may get some reflection from the glass. Try a couple of shots in several positions (close, away, angled) and see how they look. I also recommend adding a polarizer filter to cut down on glare from the snow and sun and also to protect the lens.
The camera settings ranged from ISO 800-1200 because of the changing amount of light when the birds showed up. My f/stop was at f/8 and shutter speed varied a little from 1/800 to 1/2000. Although the majority of the time my shutter speed was at 1/1250. I like that shutter speed because the action can be stopped in the image. Play with the settings and see what you like. If you drop you shutter speed a little bit, the bird will be stopped in flight but the wings will be slightly (or a lot) blurred to show the motion.
For more information on feeding birds in your area, contact my friend, Donna, at Donna@coloradonativebird.org