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myBlog » Blog Archive » Set-up Heaven

Set-up Heaven

I just returned from scouting new locations for future workshops and boy, did I find a gem.
The owners of this property have been putting out fruit every morning for years, at about 7 am each morning like clockwork, the birds arrive.
There were over 30 Kiskadees flying in to pick up grapes, along with three Altimira Orioles fighting over orange halfs, and at least half a dozen Golden-fronted Woodpeckers.
About a dozen Orange-crowned Warblers would feed on the suet. Mockingbirds would land and grab berries, then fight for positions on my perches.
On one day, there were four Clay-colored Thrushes coming to feed on the grapes, which is a rare bird indeed.

This is my third time to shoot at this location and every time I have witnessed the same insane action!
In the blind I used my wide angle lens to try to capture the scene, but it was hard to stop shooting the action with my 600 MM.
Here is the image I took. You can see 7 Kiskadees (one behind the stump), 3 Altimira Orioles, 3 Golden-fronted Woodpeckers (one behind the log) and a Mockingbird.
For those who are in doubt, let me assure you that this is not photoshopped.

Almost as soon as I put the berry branches out, the Kiskadees and Mockingbirds were feeding on the fruit.




Here the Kiskadees are fighting over perches.


The Golden-fronted Woodpeckers also took a liking to the berries.


This is a set-up with a verticle perch and some added berries.


Waving goodbye!


Northern Mockingbirds are very particular about the berries they want.


Once the berries were gone, I worked on some flight images as the Kiskadees would fly in for the grapes and banana pieces.



It wasn’t long before the birds would land on any stable perch that I put out there.


The stunning Altimira Oriole gave me some regal poses.


Setting up a perch very colse to my blind and adding a small dab of suet in the leaves, enabled the Orange-crowned Warbler to stop and feed.


The highlight of the day, for me, was a visit by not one, but four Clay-colored Thrushes. My heart pounded when one jumped up on my perch and posed.


So many times I wanted to give someone a high five after getting a shot, but I was alone.
If you want to join me in a workshop at this location and share in some high fives, just contact me.

32 Responses to “Set-up Heaven”

  1. Rajan Desai Says:

    Holy cr@p! That is really insane. Looks like you had a blast.
    Very nicely timed shots as usual.
    Looking forward to more of your work.


  2. Antique Mommy Says:

    Oh my goodness, those are exquisite ~ the intersection of talent and skill.

  3. Jan Says:

    this is simply unbelievable :)

    Never seen such a busy set up. Clearly a birdphotographer’s dream :)

    If you show that someone in Europe they would say it’s photoshopped. For us over here this is simplay insane :)

  4. Frank Kratofil Says:

    Those are great. Should get some cover shots with those. Interesting to see you set up. Mine is similar , mostly Lesser Goldfinches coming in at the moment. Again GREAT SHOTS

  5. Gareth Says:

    All of these images are absolutely stunning. Fantastically captured.
    The Kiskadee in flight is my favourite.

  6. OpposableChums Says:

    Amazing shots. Thanks so much for posting them.

  7. Matthew Studebaker Says:

    Oh my goodness. That’s just too fantastic. What an amazing place!!!

  8. Gayla Says:

    Thanks for showing how you set up for the photos. I have been wanting to see what people do to get these beautiful shots that aren’t on a feeder.

  9. Nicki Gwynn Jones Says:

    Wonderful and inspirational stuff Alan – really hope that I can make it to a workshop before too long!

  10. David Lilly Says:

    Outstanding Alan.

    I just got to get to one of your workshops.

  11. Colton Fischer Says:

    My first thought on the set-up photo is that it’s photoshopped, but then I decided it wasn’t. I live in South Texas and I have had at least 20 different birds at my blind at once so I do believe you :-)

  12. Ed Schneider Says:

    Wow Alan, what a place, and super shots! Thanks for showing some of your techniques. Did you use playback for the quail? I’ll try to make one of your workshops one of these days :)

  13. Alan Says:

    Hi Ed, no playback for the Quail. I had a ranch owner that was feeding them with an automatic feeder every morning, so they were predictible,

  14. Luigi Says:

    Too Much !!

  15. Gyorgy Szimuly (Szimi) Says:

    Hi Alan, To be honest this blog entry just hurts :D Awesome possibilities what we will never ever get in Europe. I highly appreciate I can read more about your technics and tips. Lots of folks are hanging on this site recently. :) Congrats and thanks for ‘guiding’ us (at least me).


  16. Cindy Says:

    holy cow, what an excellent setup with so many gorgeous birds at once. I’ve never been one to use setups, but now since I have an illness and am not able to get out with my gear very well as I could in the past, I’m really interested in your ideas/techniques. I’ll be ordering your cd before the spring migrants arrive-
    love all of the images, and VERY cool on the clay-colored thrushes.. they’re gorgeous.

  17. Michael Says:

    Alan, Another awesome set of images! I must give thanks to you for all you have done to help my bird photography. We met earlier this year at the NY NWPLI presentation you did, and I purchased your book as soon as it was available. The combination have elevated my images in just a short time!


    Can you tell me what kind of berry bearing shrub is depicted in the your images 2 and 3? I have a specimen of this outside my office and want to find a few to plant on my property (the dried berries in my image are from the same plant..

    Thanks and looking forward to your next blog post!

    PS – how about a workshop on Long Island!!!

  18. Alan Says:

    Hey Michael, thanks for those nice words. I appreciate it, and I am happy to know that I have helped your photography in some way.

    I’m sorry, but I have no idea of the name of the tree/shrub that the berries come from. They look good in your image of the Chickadee. Well done.

    If there was a place in Long Island condusive to doing my style of workshop, then I would. I do have a spot open in my nice and warm South Texas Workshop April 12-15 though ;-)

  19. Michael Says:


    Thank you!!

    I’ll look into the South Texas workshop.. that venue has been on my shooting location list for some time..pair it with your expertise and it might be too good to pass up.

    There is no question that your techniques have improved my birding.. There is one location on the east end of LI where your techniques are particularly useful. E.Mortons NWR is one of the few locations where feeding the local inhabitants is not only allowed, but encouraged. Chicadees, Tufted Tit Mouse, Downy Woodpeckers and a host of other birds are all comfortable with hand feeding. But you can create just so many images of birds on your hand before they become overdone.

    That’s where your techniques become useful. Hats off to you for your help !!


    I have since switched to much smaller and more delicate perches.. this one is not only too large, but it is overdone in my portfolio at this point..

  20. Jan Says:

    Alan’s perch is a Firethorn, also called Pyracantha :) (Pyracantha ssp)

  21. Kiran Poonacha Says:

    Bhai Bhai, Bows to your great work, I got your CD and I am trying to work on the your technics, One question I had was, since most locations I visit its difficult to leave the perch for two or three days for the birds to get used too do you think I need to use calls.



  22. Alan Says:

    Hi Kiran,

    That’s a tough question without knowing the situation. I would not use tapes if it’s the nesting season. If you have a food or water source, then you will not need calls. Hope that helps.

  23. Michael Says:


    Thanks for the help.. I have a pyracantha on my property and it’s leaves are smaller than those in the images above (by a fair amount) and the berries are orange as opposed the the deep red above. I suppose the berry color could be seasonal or regional…but the above also appears to lack the thorns I expect to see on the pyracantha.. Thoughts?

  24. Michael Says:

    Google rocks…

    * Pyracantha ‘Navajo’ – This firethorn selection has orange red, vibrant berries.
    * Pyracantha ‘Waterei’ – A nearly thornless firethorn form that has bright crimson berries.
    * Pyracantha coccinea – Grown as a shrub this firethorn will grow 8-10′ in size but will spread further when trained along a wall or fence.
    * Pyracantha ‘Golden Charmer’ – A stunning firethorn with bright yellow berries.
    * Pyracantha ‘Mohave’ – Mohave is a very popular firethorn, more disease resistant than older varieties, with orange-red berries.

  25. Jan Says:

    Michael is right, there are tons of different subspecies and variations of pyracantha :)

  26. chuck Says:

    Some of the best pics I have seen. Great job.

  27. shagufta akbar Says:

    Your pictures are beautiful, i have read all the other comments and i am left with no more words to praise your excellent work ,its a great help to any photographer, and i being just an amateur, who’s passion is photography many thanks for sharing your invaluable knowledge !!

  28. James Prieto Says:

    Nice site! incredible Images, great work, and thanks for sharing.

    Kind regards, from Patagonia.

  29. Kiran Poonacha Says:

    Thanks Bhai..

  30. Nick S Says:

    Awe inspiring stuff matey. I love it ! Got your cd, its excellent and has given me many tips which was the whole point :-)
    I would love to join you on a workshop one of these days.

    Nick in Canada

  31. Nick S Says:

    PS. Those cheap tripods are harder to come by in Canada then I anticipated. I think I found something similar on Ebay that sells for only 20 bucks and has the hole in the handle.
    Our Walmarts in town only sell a 30 bucks version without the hole . Go figure !

  32. bop nam Says:

    Thanks for the help.. I have a pyracantha on my property and it’s leaves are smaller than those in the images above (by a fair amount) and the berries are orange as opposed the the deep red above. I suppose the berry color could be seasonal or regional…but the above also appears to lack the thorns I expect to see on the pyracantha.

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