Top Ten Bird Photos of 2016


House Finch, Carpodacus mexicanus


I know; it’s just a House Finch.  But each photo has a back story.  I was alone at the Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve last week.  The first visitor to this famous southeastern Arizona site on a frosty morning.  The drinking fountain at the visitor center was frozen and the slanting dawn light was just beginning to warm this finch and a flock of Lark Sparrows along the trail.  I’m still shivering along with this bird who had just survived another frigid night by ruffling its feathers to add precious insulation.


Great Blue Heron, Ardea hernias               click on any photo to zoom

Deciding upon the “ten best” for the year is difficult.  My first run through hundreds of candidates yielded 30 nominees.  It’s the final elimination that is so tough.  I left many good shots on the cutting floor and came up with these.

In addition to the obvious factors of exposure, sharpness, color, and composition, what makes a photo special?  That Great Blue Heron shot above made the cut due to the background, or lack thereof.  That blackness, with just a hint of the green grasses showed the bird in stark contrast, all more an accident than planned.


American Goldfinch, Carduelis tristis

The American Goldfinch made the cut by being a backyard bird visiting Cone Flowers, specifically planted pool-side years ago to attract this striking bird in male breeding plumage.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus

Every portfolio needs at least one flight shot.  I can remember the time and place where most of these photos were taken, even without the GPS tool.  But I can’t quite recall how I got the lucky eye-level view of the Red-shouldered Hawk in Florida.  Either he was very low or I was in high in a tower.


Bridled Titmouse, Baeolophus wollweberi

The hiding Bridled Titmouse was included since it was a life-bird, found near Pinnacle Peak in Scottsdale, Arizona.  The partially obscured profile of this lifer with the dappled light on the eye reminds of the work needed to capture this elusive fellow on film.  Anna’s Hummingbird below was a lucky shot from the same location.


Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna

Some birds are included if they are somewhat unusual or a nemesis bird for me, but none of these are rarities.  It was many years of birding before I saw my first Red-headed Woodpecker and several more years before I got a decent picture.  This one’s from the Blackwater NWR in Maryland.


Red-headed Woodpecker, Melanerpes erythrocephalus

The eyes have it.  I don’t care how great the other factors are, if you don’t have a sharp, well-focused bird’s eye you don’t have a great shot.  That’s especially true for the White-eyed Vireo below.  I also like the cocked head and unusual pose.


White-eyed Vireo, Vireo griseus

The Golden-crowned Kinglet was a member of a large mixed feeding flock of small birds suddenly appearing and causing a great commotion in a hedgerow planted along the back edge of our property 25 years ago.  The dividends are paying off as he, Downey Woodpeckers, Titmice, Chickadees, Yellow-rumped Warblers and Ruby-crowned Kinglets all joined in the tit party.


Golden-crowned Kinglet, Regulus satrapa

The last photo of the Pied Grebe is perhaps my favorite.  The ripples on the water and the action of swallowing that large fish make for a memorable shot, despite this being a common bird.  My goal next year is to seek out more action and flight shots–I have too many posed portraits.

Thanks for your interest and comments in 2016.  It’s been fun.

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps

28 thoughts on “Top Ten Bird Photos of 2016

    1. Hi Forest. Those are my two favorites as well. When I go birding I take 300-500 shots. Getting home and downloading them to the computer is like opening presents on Christmas morning. Many are just socks or underwear but I few are real keepers. I agree, the grebe and heron are the best.


  1. You are SO right: “The eyes have it.” The more experience I have in photographing birds, the more important the eyes have become. It is surprising how expressive the eyes of a bird can be.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m always trying to get the center-spot focus on the eye, but that becomes difficult on a moving or flying bird. As you know there are other strategies for birds-in-flight, but it comes down to luck and taking a lot of shots.

      Liked by 1 person

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