Living Snowflakes!

One of my favorite mid-winter scenes is a large flock of small, mostly white songbirds flying in tight formation over a weedy, snow-covered field. Their undulating, swirling flight, highlighted with a sprinkling of sunlight, is an amazing and beautiful sight.

SnowBuntings14Jan15#068E2c3x5

These are Snow Buntings on the southern portion of their winter range. Like Snowy Owls, they summer and breed in the Arctic and occupy open fields in the northern U.S. and Canada in winter. Weed seeds and waste grain sustain them at this time of year.

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All photos were cropped from a flock of nearly 100 birds; 14Jan2015

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

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11 thoughts on “Living Snowflakes!

    • Thanks Jane! Yes, I was using the AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED. This Snow Bunting shoot is an excellent example of the strengths – and weaknesses – of my camera and lens. The AF, continuous tracking, auto white balance, dynamic range, color accuracy, etc. are all very satisfactory. However, the 70-300mm is not enough lens for high quality, portrait-style images of sparrow-size songbirds unless they are quite close. I took many photos of small groups of buntings on the ground doing all sorts of cool things. But, I had to crop substantially and, in most cases, could not achieve satisfactory sharpness. If I want high quality portraits of these little guys I’ll have to figure out how to get a little closer (snow cammo!). One other point worth noting: image quality with the Nikkor 70-300 tails off a bit when the lens is pushed to 300 (beyond the sweet spot). Thanks again, and good luck!

      • This is very helpful, Nick. We are both shooting with a D7100 with nature photography goals in mind. I have the 55-300 and struggle with the tack-sharp issues on the long reach as well. Near shots are sharper, but that lens won’t let me get any closer that about 5 feet… not good when backing up is not an option.
        I’ve been thinking about the Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Lens because any of the lenses with 400 reach would just be too heavy for extended use without the tripod…and the cost so much money.

        I appreciate your thoughts on these technical issues 🙂
        Jane

      • I bought the 70-300 in 2012 and at the time felt that it was the best compromise of size, weight, quality and cost for a serious hobbyist. I have several other Nikon lenses (an expensive macro lens and 2 cheap plastic ones). All perform very well for me. The 55-200 mm is a great all-purpose, lightweight lens – an easy carry in my fishing vest for example. I don’t plan to invest more in lenses if I can avoid it, but am researching stabilization – everything from “sand bags” to quality tripods and monopods – in an effort to upgrade what I’m currently using and squeeze a little more quality out of my system. That seems like a logical next step. Still have much to learn too! Let me know how things work out. Feel free to email as well.

  1. When I saw how well the colors of the birds matched your landscape this word came to mind:
    serendipity |ˌserənˈdipitē|
    noun
    the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way

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