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Hawaii Akepa
Photographing nectar feeding birds is easy compared to the insect feeders.  Of all the birds in Hawaii,insectivorous birds such as Creepers, Akiapolaau, and Akepa are the most difficult to photograph because of their unpredictable behavior. They rarely, if ever, return to the same tree during the day, and are usually found high in the tree canopy.  Generally speaking, without a 1,500 mm lens, forget it.  But, I have found that stalking  these birds will allow me to get closer when these species are on occasion closer to the ground.

Most of Hawaii’s birds breed January to June.  Shortly after breeding season many Akiapolaauof the insect feeding species form loose mixed feeding flocks. A number of species will gather together, singles and family groups, and join their neighbors in foraging through the forest in search of little six legged creatures.  It is suspected that this grouping behavior helps with predator avoidance, similar to schooling fish, I guess. The photographic advantage here is that these loose flocks will often come down into the under story and forage among the low branches andtrunks, providing excellent photo opportunity toMaui Alauahio shoot at eye level. Where in the forest they will appear is unpredictable.  Just setting up a camera and tripod in the forest for these birds won’t work. Expect to do a lot of walking in the forest searching for a flock.  The underbrush is usually very thick, getting in the way of long lenses and tangling in the tripod legs. Usually, by the time I get setup for the shot, the birds are gone.  Over the years I’ve learned to travel light. Instead of the “big rig”, I use a shoulder stock with tele-flash and a 300 or 400 mm lens. This rig is easier to maneuver in the thick underbrush and provides the ability to make quick movements and the flexibility that I need to photograph these fast moving little birds.

 

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