The Trouble with Cardinals

This was the winter I was going to get the perfect cardinal photo. The problem is that they tend to visit the birdfeeder just before dusk. The light changes quickly, so there is only about 20 minutes to 1/2 an hour to get the perfect shot before it gets too dark.

They are notoriously shy birds. Where chickadees will continue to fly up to the bird feeder to get seed, even while standing within 3 feet of them, cardinals won’t come to the feeder at all if you are outside, and when inside, as soon as you move to the window to get a shot, they get skittish and keep their distance.

Their favorite landing spot is in an ornamental pear tree near the birdfeeder. They can land, scope out the territory for predators, then swoop in to grab some seed. It’s also my favorite spot to try to get a picture. However, they refuse to sit still and pose for me. It’s as if they purposely turn their back or make sure a branch obscures my sight line or hop to another branch just as I’m clicking the shutter.

I’m also finding that the windows, double-paned to keep the cold north winds out, can create blurry shots as the light fades and neutralizes the bright red color.

So far, I have good number of really bad shots, several okay shots and one really good one of a female cardinal. I figure I’ve still got another month and a half to get it right.

Some of the better photos:

The first three pictures have problems with a lack of sharpness, branches in the way and the birds simply refusing to sit still.

I’ve done a whole series of the birds at the feeders. When they eat, they tend to have an angry look about them, like, “don’t mess with me”.

My favorite of the feeder shots. See now, the chickadee is posing nicely. The cardinals could take a lesson.

Finally, a lovely pose. Still slightly out-of-focus. I blame the window and the dusk coming in fast, which forced me to keep my lens open longer to let in more light.

How did this happen? The best shot of the bunch, looking like a picture postcard.

Bonus picture: This last Sunday we were surprised by a small flock of cedar waxwings and robins (they seemed to be traveling together). They flew in, filled up on berries from the Hawthorne tree, drank some water and moved on. I do occasionally see robins in winter but never waxwings. I was able to get 4 quick photos. This was the only good one of those I took. What a beauty!


About Jill-O

a girl who likes lakes, trees and critters; making an attempt at living the artistic life.
This entry was posted in birds, nature, photos, winter and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to The Trouble with Cardinals

  1. Fabulous images – I do love your cardinals.

  2. When I saw the headline, I thought of another sort of cardinal trouble — one summer, a dim-witted female cardinal built a nest near the house, and decided that her reflection in the window must be another carinal in her territory! So she spend a good chunk of the summer at the window, chirping away and pecking at her reflection trying to scare herself off. And NOTHING we did could get her to stop, until finally the eggs hatched and she was too busy with the babies to do anything else. Crazy bird!

    • jellyfishbay says:

      We’ve had that same problem as well. When we put a toy cat at the window the attacking stopped. Whether it really worked or not, I don’t know.

  3. Randy says:

    Cardinals can be easy on really cold days with lots of snow and good bird seed. Cedar Waxwings on the other hand can be difficult at best. KUDOS.

  4. Catherine says:

    I think you got great pictures! The Cedar Waxwing is beautiful, I’ve never seen one in person. Those Chickadees are very friendly, but like you it seems the most colorful or unusual birds seem to be shy or come at inconvenient picture taking times for me.

  5. Love cardinals, though we don’t get them here at our garden. We do however have waxwings visit, and they make me almost as happy. Glad you got some good photos!

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