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Working a Nest

Nests can be a lot of fun to work because they provide a very unique window into the life of birds. Each one is different, each bird has a different way of protecting their own nest and the amount of time you can spend at each site varies. While watching nesting birds can be a lot of fun for the photographer, it can cause great stress on the subject and can lead to the abandonment of the nest. This is the ONE thing that every photographer needs to avoid. Respect must be given during nesting season or next season we might not have as many birds.

When it comes to a nest start big. Use the longest glass you have and a teleconverter if you have it. I use the D5, 600 f/4,
and TC-17EII. Yes I do have a TC-20EIII but with the amount of wind at this Killdeer nest, nothing would’ve been sharp. Long glass helps you keep further away while still able to get a good shot. Next, scout ahead of time. Look around for the nest and determine what species is nesting there. Then go home and research that bird so you know how much time you have with it if the bird gets off the eggs. Each species varies between minutes to an hour. Knowing this info is critical. Next, while at a nest watch very closely to what the bird is doing. Is their head moving up and down, did they flatten out, did they get up? All signs they are uncomfortable and you either have to approach slowly or not at all. You must approach slowly or the subject will flush. Lastly, remember the photograph is just a photograph. It’s not worth endangering the subject. If all the signs say walk away then do so.

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