Girls – get your boots on and get in the water! This spring, try a water setup with trail cameras. With so many waterfowl migrating at this time, you can really get some amazing wildlife photos of a wide variety of ducks, geese and shorebirds – not knowing what you are going to get on camera is half the fun!
While location may seem as obvious as water, there are a few tips to help you get the best photos. First of all, scouting can be helpful so you know where to find the waterfowl and look for shoreline tracks. Then pick a spot somewhat out of the wind so there is not as much current in the water and where birds naturally hang out, whether it is a shallow shoreline, a floating log, rock pile or on a dock. Look for a unique back set that will make your photo stand out, and think about what the birds will be doing in this spot: flying, swimming or perched while cleaning feathers. If flying or swimming, set the camera quartering too or away from the area. This will allow the camera enough time to capture the photo and the full bird in the frame. Also set the camera up as low as you can, getting a unique angle that is close to eye level with the birds. However, if setting in water that may rise, such as a river or creek, take that into account as well.
Setting up your camera for waterfowl photos can take some thought as well as trial and error. Using a camera with fast trigger speeds on a burst mode taking three photos at a time can help you capture that great moment versus a setting that only takes one photo at a time. If the camera is facing the open water, set the IR on the highest setting so the camera isn’t getting set off constantly. However, waves will set your camera off more, so use larger SD cards, such as 8GB or 16GB and check more frequently. If you face the camera toward the shore, choose a medium setting so you don’t set off on the background, such as cattails or grass.
Think about when the waterfowl will migrating through your area. Here in Iowa, that time is usually early spring and early winter. During the migration, you never know what flock of birds might show up. Also think about nesting, which here, happens around April and May. Do not disturb* a mother on the nest, but get ready for some amazing photos when the babies arrive! ~JP
*If doing a nest cam – for my Canada goose nest photos below, I did not touch the nest or eggs and only checked the camera about once a week to replace batteries and switch cards, leaving as quickly as possible. This seemed to work really well and not disrupt the parents as they stayed close by, but were pretty calm. Then the mother soon got back on the nest after I left. However, the very last cam check I did before they hatched, I could tell the eggs were close because the parents wouldn’t let me near like normal.
My recent water pics: