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Page 2 Nate Chappell

Written By onci on Wednesday, January 13, 2010 | 4:52 PM

Tropical Bird Feeding Setups by Nate Chappell

In the tropics many bird species feed on fruit, with bananas being perhaps the most widespread food. It’s often possible to get some good photos quickly by setting up a feeding station just as you would with seed for birds in North America. In Ecuador many species will feed on bananas including tanagers, thrushes, euphonias, barbets, sparrows, doves and even woodpeckers.

I’ve used this technique successfully in Thailand but most often in Ecuador, even on the roof of my mother-in-law’s house in downtown Santo Domingo. In Ecuador some of the lodges in the western lowlands have banana feeders which attract a lot of birds. The problem is that they are not setup for photography. The birds often land directly on the feeders and the feeders are located in dark areas resulting in poor, unattractive photographs. The remedy for this is to move the bananas or other fruit (papaya is a good choice as well) off the feeders and put them close by where the birds will find them quickly but they will probably land on a nice perch on the way to the feeders.

I always bring some flexible tubing which has clamps attached at each end when I travel. If there is an attractive perch in the area I fasten the clamp at one end to part of the tree. The clamp at the other end holds a feeding cup, this end I place in a strategic location where I want the bird to land. Bill Forbes makes a complete set of tubing with clamps on each end and a feeding cup and sells them for $55-65. You can contact him through his website at www.phototrap.com . Recently at Rancho Suamox in the Ecuadorian lowlands by moving the bananas and using Bill’s equipment I was able to get good images of several species that had previously eluded me because they had landed directly on the feeder.

One other option is to bring a flash stand and a clamp which attaches to the stand. This way you can create a free standing perch and select your own perch from among dead branches which are lying around. In the tropics these are often laden with moss and make for great setups. Attach the clamp to the top of the flash stand and use it to hold your free standing perch. You can then just place the food directly on your perch. This worked well for me recently at Tinalandia lodge where I took my first good photos of Dusky-faced Tanagers. A compact Bogen flash stand and mini clip clamp can be purchased for about $80.

Nate and Angie Chappell lead bird photography tours to Ecuador, Thailand and other locations and lead photo workshops in the US. You can visit their website at www.trogontours.net .

Nate Chappell
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