Sunday, December 15, 2013

Crushing Birds w/ Cam Traps

As I've learned from following the wry rantings of Seagull Steve at BB&B, in the world of full-contact MOA - aka, Mixed Ornithological Arts - "crushing" a bird means your photos of it have to be both captivating, and show the field marks of the species well enough for proper ID.

Which is no small task, since many species never stay still. Or let you get near.

Hence the Kids-esque metaphor, I assume: "you tried to dodge me bird, but I CRUSHED YOU!"

Of course, most pro bird "crushers" pack zoom lenses that are bigger & faster than a hawk.

So, with a touch of throwing-down-the-gauntlet, here are some shots my cam traps have caught in the Santa Cruz Mountains over the last few seasons (including several featured here before).

Most may be commoners, but given the sub $200 zoom-free point-and-shoot optics, I'd say all are pretty well crushed. What do you folks think?

hermit thrush
Sweet, shy and seasonal, the hermit thrush is always an nice crush on my winter cams

male varied thrush
A male varied thrush checks out the cam - they're also seasonal (and a bit more showy)

female varied thrush
Female varied thrush a few days later - note the fast growth of the deer-cropped soap plant

band-tailed pigeon
A beauty band-tailed pigeon hunkers down to make friends with the cam

fox sparrow
Fox sparrows can sometimes look like hermit thrushes until you see that fat beak

scrub jay
Scrub jay showing its smarts

cal thrasher
California thrasher roto-tilling in the rain

steller's jay
Steller's jay checking out the cam - "if only I had hands..."

lady flicker
Female northern flicker foraging through the woods

And a female (?) western meadowlark on coastal grasslands

With a lemony male meadowlark too

Our good ole American robin proving it's definitely an early bird

white-crowned sparrow
But seasonal white-crowned sparrows are also early birds

And finally, one I'm not positive about, and could easily be wrong. Is this a 1st winter golden-crowned sparrow, or one of those darn confusing Pacific white-crowneds that is almost identical? Based on beak color, it might be white-crowned. That eye-stripe is kinda bold, too.

golden-crowned sparrow
Golden-crowned sparrow? Or tricksy Pacific white-crowned?



  1. Mud splatters on that thrasher tail are fantastic. You would never see that on a 400mm-lens photo because they don't go out in the rain.

  2. I'm wondering how you get those birds to center....are you baiting? Or just tons of pictures and trial and error? The pictures are BEAUTIFUL the Varied Thrush and Thrasher are my faves. Such great images!

    1. I should have put that in Alyssa - all the photos are cropped and cleaned up (I pretty much always do that), and that includes the centering/composition. All are from larger images from various cam traps that ranged from 6MP to 16MP when original. But the birds weren't the target of any of these sets - all were either from general surveys, or from studies of woodrat stick houses. And only 4 of the above - the 2 jays, the thrasher and the fox sparrow - had a few sunflower seeds scattered for the woodrats when I placed the cams (but the seeds may not have been there when the birds showed up). So, generally the birds were pure serendipity.

    2. Nice! I'm envious- I'm in the midst of a cam trap slump right now. I've had a camera out for 2+ weeks, and apparently it was just taking pictures of nothing the whole time and ran the battery down. Disappointed, but I'll blame the shift in temps.

  3. Young White-crowned is correct. Young Golden-crowned are often (not always) indistinctly patterned on the head, and will often sport less boldly-marked rufous markings. They almost always show some sign of the "golden crown" though.

    Some impressive photos. You have several species here that you have trap-crushed better than I have zoom-crushed. That thrasher image is enviable.

    1. Thanks for the expertise Steve. Always much appreciated. Definitely expect more in 2014.

  4. I think I've said so before, but I'm *still* envious of the image quality you are getting! I take it you build your own camera traps, but even your lowliest shots smoke my Moultrie's best stuff.

    1. Yep, that's why I hack 'em John. Because trail cameras have a fixed focus, they really can't get good shots of anything small.

  5. Oh, man, spectacular captures. WHY are hermit thrushes so appealing? I ALWAYS want to hug them. So charming. If that jay had hands, you'd no longer have that camera. =) Smarty McSmart birds.

  6. Ye, they are terrific. Wonderful nostalgia for me. I recall seeing my first Varied Thrushes in GG Park around 25th Ave, SF in the 50's!!

  7. Fuck, dude. These captures are sick. Well done. Especially the thrasher and Varied Trush.


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