Photo Essay: Winter Songbirds

Photo Essay: Winter Songbirds by Josh Haas


Evening Grosbeak © Josh Haas

Evening Grosbeak:
This beauty was hanging around some feeders in Algonquin Provincial Park (Ontario, CA). Many northern species were flitting about early in the morning but I waited and waited for this beautiful songbird to hit a perch in the open before firing off some shots. This is a perfect example of patience, but also preparation. Before the shot materialized, I took several test exposures in different areas where I hoped the bird would perch. This meant that my exposure would be very close to right on, if and when the bird finally hit the spot. He did and the result was this image.

Camera Body & Lens- Canon EOS, 300mm f4 lens with a 1.4x extender
Aperture- f9
Shutter Speed- 1/400th
ISO- 400


Common Redpoll © Josh Haas

Common Redpoll:
Common Redpolls are common in the arctic and each winter, some make their way to the northern US. This particular bird was photographed during an irruption year where thousands of Redpolls were in Southwest Michigan. At a friend’s property who was banding songbirds, they were banding Redpolls by the hundreds and I was able to snag a shot before this little gem entered the feeder trap. This is another image where bird feeders were in close proximity but out of view, giving a more natural look.

Camera Body & Lens- Canon 1D Mark II, 500mm f4 lens with a 1.4x extender
Aperture- f7.1
Shutter Speed- 1/1250th
ISO- 200


Pine Grosbeak, male © Josh Haas

Pine Grosbeak:
If you’re looking for a bird with many color possibilities, this is one of them. The Pine Grosbeak can be seen in many color combinations depending on if it’s a juvenile, male or female bird. This particular image is of an adult male. I captured the image at familiar spot, Algonquin Provincial Park (Ontario, CA). This late morning, there were dozens of Pines Grosbeaks hanging around. So many, in fact, I found myself quickly panning around and shooting anything I could get. I finally took a step back and decided to just watch in hopes of learning some behaviors the birds were showing. By doing this, I narrowed in on a section of feeders and branches they hit more often. Setting up for those branches yielded an open shot of this bird. It pays to study and create images, not just point and shoot.

Camera Body & Lens- Canon 1D Mark II, 500mm f4 lens with a 1.4x extender
Aperture- f9
Shutter Speed- 1/500th
ISO- 250


White-winged Crossbill © Josh Haas

White-winged Crossbill:
This image brings back many fond memories for me. During an irruption year, my wife and I had stumbled across some White-winged Crossbills during a Christmas Bird Count. Knowing that it might be possible to find them in a couple other spots I knew of with good pines, I checked one of them out only to find about two dozen Crossbills decimating a small stand of Pines (cones). What a site it was to see. I invited my dad out and when he arrived, he was in awe of how this small group of birds was delicately attacking the cones in search of seeds. We continued to shoot and both brought back many images. This close-up image really displays the literal “cross-bill.” Better than the image above, was the excitement in my Dad that turned him on to birds. That was a good day…

Camera Body & Lens- Canon 1D Mark II, 500mm f4 lens with a 1.4x extender
Aperture- f5.6
Shutter Speed- 1/100th
ISO- 320


Black-capped Chickadee © Josh Haas

Black-capped Chickadee:
Some may not consider this a Northern bird but the range map does show a range in the Eastern US in Michigan and above. I couldn’t help but include this image because in the Midwest, it’s one of the most consistent feeder birds all winter long. Their distinctive chatter and noisy wings will always be special during winter. This simple bird just so happens to be my wife’s favorite bird. While she loves the cute little guy, I think part of it may be the fact that I whistle the birds breeding call in stores when looking for her. She always knows it’s me and we easily find each other this way. =) Hopefully this essay doesn’t prompt other couples to start doing this in Southwest Michigan or we might find ourselves confused the next time we go grocery shopping! This image was taken in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan on a winter morning. I first found the perch with some great mosses and then created a simple setup including seed just under the perch. It didn’t take long for the birds to find the seed and begin using the perch. In our house, this is a classic.

Camera Body & Lens- Canon 1D Mark III, 500mm f4 lens
Aperture- f4
Shutter Speed- 1/400th
ISO- 400

To see more of Josh’s work, get tips on photography, or to sign up for workshops and trips please visit

Josh Haas

Tags: , , , , , ,

3 Responses to “Photo Essay: Winter Songbirds”

  1. Enjoyed your entry re: Black-capped Chickadee. Love these little guys. First started showing up in my hugely over-grown Viburnum, about 6 ft out from LR window, a few yrs ago during heavy snow, joining lg family of resident Cardinals. At that time, I had not yet begun feeding birds or any other wildlife, here in my Columbus OH urban/suburban yard; but I’d always liked these little guys…called them Bishop Birds, didn’t know what they were. Since I started feeding, a couple of years ago, they come in heavily in the Fall & are now joined by Titmouse, White-breasted Tree Creepers, Finches & Warblers (many kinds of both), and a ton of other birds that keep me running to the computer to look up on the Nat’l Audubon site, as I keep adding types of food & stations. These little Chickadees started it all, especially when the blue ones started showing up. Actually, I’d always thought their (all the Chickadees’) underbellies were white, but now see they are a soft light-buff tone. BTW, your photos are excellent! Thanks for the photo-taking tips! Really appreciate that. Any tips you might have for discouraging opportunistic Cats (they’re decimating my Chipmunks & baby Birds in the nests) would be much appreciated. Don’t know why the Hawks & Falcons never take out the damn day-time cats! One can only hope for proliferation of Coyotes in my area, to handle the night-roamers. They’re the deadliest. Thanks again…oh, and I loved the story about your Dad! I’m 72 and it’s never too late to find a “new love”! ha ha!! Makes me wonder, now, “What was I doing all those years? What was I thinking? Could I have helped save some of these wonderful creatures, all along, and had all this pleasure, to boot???” Well, I’m in now, with all 4 feet! (:(:(:

  2. @admin: I must say your blog is the first I’ve come across this morning that doesn’t
    have typos every other line. Thank you for taking the time to write something that doesn’t look like a 5th grader wrote. I apologize, just had to vent.

  3. I keep receiving a javascript error popup when I try submitting a comment.

    Does this happen for anyone else? I don’t exactly have the most up to date computer so maybe that’s the issue.