Backyard set up - the field report.
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Old 06-02-2012   #1
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Default Backyard set up - the field report.

Following my last post earlier in the week I decided to write a little description of my experiment, along with some images of the results.

Background:
Some time ago I read Alan Murphy's ebook for back yard photography. It is amazing how he manages to adopt some very simple principles to his set ups... and for him they seem to produce some fantastic photo opportunities. However, with my first attempt I discovered that things are not always so simple and there are still many lessons to be learned.

I recently moved into a new house in a new neighborhood and was immediately aware of the different birdsong I could hear in the area. I decided to set up a blind/hide and use some of Alan Murphy's techniques to bring the birds into my backyard. So, earlier in the week I installed a 'pop-up' tent blind and placed an outdoor 'studio' so that I could make best use of the morning light.

The attached image is the view from the hide/blind.

In the image you can see some key features to the studio:

1) a backdrop frame to hang feeders from
2) a selection of 'natural' perches strategically placed infront of some natural-looking coloured boards.
3) A number of dishes on the floor, directly below the branches, that hold feed and water. On the taller of these you can see a water drip system to top up the dish and provide the sound of running water.

I left this apparatus in place for 4 days, changing the branches, the feed and the water regularly. One issue I had was that the wind caught the 'background boards' causing them to topple - often bringing down the other items in the area. To overcome this I used some guy-lines to secure everything to the ground.

On the 4th day I dropped the hanging feeders so that they were at the same level as the branches and before sunrise I was positioned and ready in the blind.

The first thing I noticed was that in a four day period I had encouraged a large variety of common birds into a very focused area. Within the first hour I saw:

White-winged Doves
Mourning Doves
Inca Doves
House Finches
Abert's Towhee
Gambel's Quail
Curve-billed Thrasher
Anna's Hummingbird
House Sparrow
Peach-faced Lovebird (not so common)

However, I also noticed that the more sophisticated the set-up, the more chance there is for system failure. In this case the number of branches, the guy-lines and the number of dishes increases the number of alternate perches that the birds can use.

Another drawback to this method is the weather in Phoenix... I measured the morning temperature at 85F (at 8am), but inside the blind I measured 100F - increasing to 112F by 9.30am - not very comfortable at all!

Future plans:

I need to adopt the KISS model (Keep It Simple Stupid) - a simple design is very possible and I have a number of ideas to implement that would eradicate 90% of the alternate perches.

I need to monitor the migrations through the area - I don't want to go through all this effort just to take images of House Finches!

I need to install a cooler box in the blind/hide. One that is small enough that I don't trip over it when moving around!

I need to make sure I am not at the minimum focusing distance of my lens. Some of the shots had my AF right at the very egde of its limits.


Please note: I have no affiliation to Alan Murphy, but have included the link to his ebook to show full credit for his work.

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Old 06-02-2012   #2
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Default Re: Backyard set up - the field report.

Here is a selection of the images I managed to capture. Please note, I have included some images from the 'false' perches as well as the intended ones.

White-winged Dove


Mourning Dove


Inca Dove


Abert's Towhee


Gambel's Quail


Curve-billed Thrasher


Peach-faced Lovebird


House Finch








Comments welcomed as always.
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Old 06-02-2012   #3
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Default Re: Backyard set up - the field report.

Very professional set and great series Alex!! Congrats
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Old 06-02-2012   #4
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Default Re: Backyard set up - the field report.

Beautiful! I love the last one!!
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Old 06-02-2012   #5
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Default Re: Backyard set up - the field report.

Great set-up and nice captures Alex
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Old 06-02-2012   #6
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Cheater, cheater. Who says you can't control light in nature? Great trick.
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Old 06-02-2012   #7
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Default Re: Backyard set up - the field report.

Very nice series! I love the threads like this where the photographer shows his/her setup and discusses tactics to get within close range of the subjects, what kind of blind/hide was used and so on.

Thanks.
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Old 06-02-2012   #8
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Default Re: Backyard set up - the field report.

Alex these are great
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Old 06-02-2012   #9
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Default Re: Backyard set up - the field report.

Thanks for the explaination and the photo showing the setup Alex, very impressive and your results speak for themselves.
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Old 06-02-2012   #10
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Default Re: Backyard set up - the field report.

Hi Alex, thanks so much for sharing your set-up, the fantastic results speak for themselves. It will be very interesting to see how many species you will get from your home back garden. I look forward to seeeing more posts. Hey sounds like you need to wear just your underware and sweat it out at 100degF+ but a good way to maybe loose weight LOL
I trust others agree with me and I have given your post a 5 star rating


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