My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Essential bird grooming tips, and how to capture them

On the same day as I caught the two mallards fighting, I also was able to get these photos of a cardinal bathing. There are 33 photos in all, I know that’s a lot, but I keep weeding some out, and I think the ones that remain are too good to not post.

I spotted one cardinal bathing in a creek, but some distance away.

Northern cardinal taking a bath

The cardinal may be fairly easy to spot in the photo, because I centered it and was zoomed all the way to 300mm. I was 50 to 60 feet from the bird at this point. Getting closer was also fairly easy, using the weeds you see to the left of center to hide behind as I made my approach.

I am sure I look foolish, crawling around the apartment complex on my hands and knees, but that’s what it takes some times. When I got to the edge of the weeds, the first bird was out of the water, and back in the brush across the creek. I was about to give up, but I noticed other cardinals in the brush, both male and female, and decided to sit there for a few minutes to see if any came out into the open enough for a good photo. Imagine my surprise as another male came to the creek to spruce up a bit.

Northern cardinal taking a bath

You can see that I was in the weeds at this point, and I had to move around some in order to keep the bird in between the branches between us.

Northern cardinal taking a bath

The wind wasn’t helping, it kept blowing the weeds around in front of my camera, so I continued to slide forward to the edge of the weeds.

Now, for some shooting information. I was using my Nikon D50, with the ISO set to 400. That was a pleasant mistake on my part, as bright as the day was, I would have normally set the ISO to 200, but I forgot to do that when I started the day. It worked well set at 400 to capture the movement, of both the ducks in the earlier post, and the cardinal in this post.

I have found that setting the Nikon to the spot metering mode works much better for me, but that’s for my particular camera, and I have found out that various cameras may perform differently. My Canon is set to the center weighted mode, and I have never changed it, not once. When using the Nikon for landscape photography, I switch it to center weighted, but for critters, spot metering works much better with it. You have to learn your equipment and its foibles.

I shot these in the program mode, as the program for the Nikon is heavily weighed towards high shutter speeds. Even with the ISO at 400 and the bright sun, the exposure for that one was 1/500 at f 5.6.

OK, back to the bird. It perched on the small branch, and it looked as if it was checking out its reflection in the water.

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Then, it dove face first into the creek!

Northern cardinal taking a bath

And started taking a bath.

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

I thought that the jig was up at that point, I was sure the bird had spotted me and would be on its way to cover, but that didn’t happen.

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

It was if the bird was looking at me to see if I was ready, and then go back to bathing again.

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

He had to check himself out again, then back into the water.

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

More splashing about.

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Checking to see if I was set….

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Then more splashing..

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Then he hopped up on a branch and shook himself off.

Northern cardinal taking a bath

And he was gone.

Well, that’s it for this one. My plan is to make every one tired of seeing cardinals, leaving them for me. 😉

Thanks for stopping by!

7 responses

  1. I’ll never get tired of seeing Cardinals. I’m not real familiar with digital cameras. (All the shots on my blog were taken with a cell phone camera) I’m going to be buying one this summer though. Your Nikon must be a quiet one? Are all digital SLRs relatively quiet, I wonder? One shot with my old film SLR with motordrive and this bird would have flown the coop!

    December 27, 2011 at 4:34 am

    • Gee, I had a long discussion about digital photography in that post, but removed since I assumed that I was the last person on Earth to make the switch from film. Good thing I copied and saved it and didn’t just delete it. I’ll tweak that and post it tomorrow.

      December 27, 2011 at 8:36 am

  2. Again, a great series of photos. I enjoyed your narrative, too. 🙂

    December 27, 2011 at 6:06 am

  3. Wonderful! The cardinal is so deliberate in its movements. What a great opportunity to have caught this!

    December 27, 2011 at 10:40 am

    • Thank you!

      December 28, 2011 at 10:13 am

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