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A Bird in Hand

by Bryan on February 10th, 2010

The amazing Joan Thompson strikes again. This time it’s a Red-breasted Nuthatch flying in to feed from Joan’s hand. This self portrait of Joan and the nuthatch is yet another in her illustrious career with birds. Joan, a mom, teacher, cellist, octogenarian and birder, has photographed 545 bird species during her travels near and far. What’s amazing about Joan’s portfolio is that she gets these images with her little Canon point-and-shoot camera. But Joan’s art is not limited to backyard birds. Holding her camera to the lens of her binoculars or spotting scope, she has photographed some of the rarest birds on the continent, including Aplomado Falcon, Red-necked Stint, Laysan Albatross and Bluethroat. (Yeah, you read that right – Bluethroat). She’s pioneered and mastered the skill of combining a point-and-shoot digital camera with birdwatching optics. Read on for Joan’s simple advice for getting these in-the-hand shots (and see more amazing photos):

Dress warmly, bring all nearby feeders indoors, put seeds into your left hand, have the camera ready and open the window. Stick your left hand out, brace the right hand with camera against the window frame and wait!  Pishing seems to help a little.

Joan makes it look easy. Be advised: it isn’t easy. These birds are often moving faster than our reflexes — and a camera’s shutter — can anticipate.  I’ve seen Joan at work with her camera and birding optics. It’s amazing what birders can get by placing the lens of a point-and-shoot camera up to the eyepiece of spotting scope; we call it “digi-scoping.” But Joan has extended the art to her binoculars, which allows her to get photos on the fly during routine birding. She can look through one side of her binos while holding the camera to the other. Presto! (By the way, watch for future posts from me on how to get the best from your point-and-shoot in any situation; I actually teach a class in this.)

Black-capped Chickadees are often the most willing to feed from the hand. And they don’t require optics beyond the camera. But, as you can see, Joan has had other visitors stop by for one reason or another. (There’s a photo of Joan on Monhegan Island at the bottom.) I hope to post some of Joan’s rarest photos in the future. For now, enjoy these!

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From → Birds

5 Comments
  1. What great photos. I would love to take pictures like that and have the birds eating out of my hand.

  2. Irish Nana permalink

    These are amazing shots — I’m envious. The patience of the woman is remarkable.

  3. Jackie Boegel permalink

    wonderful pictures!

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