A little while back I noticed that critters had found a bag of sunflower seeds I had stashed in the garage. Not wanting them to set up house in there, I decided I needed to do something. I used to have a bird feeder, but stray kicks of soccer balls (by me!) seemed to have its number. So I decided to go low tech and dump the seeds about an inch deep on the big rock in the north yard.

This rock is about twelve feet by eight feet, and I guess it’s three feet high. It also has a nice bowl in it, though the bowl does drain nicely. So I figure that was a pretty good place for the seeds. It took the birds about a week to find it – chickadees and white-breasted nuthatches. So far, I’ve only had to refill the “bowl” once, but if my Dad’s experience is anything like mine will be, that may become a daily routine.

I hung out in the yard the other day and tried to take pictures of the birds, and I did manage to get a few. But none of the shots were spectacular. I have to zoom way in (40x, which is the max), and that just doesn’t make for good photos. They turn out kinda grainy. Here’s the best I could do with that technique:

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

But I also have a secret weapon: CHDK.

CHDK stands for the Canon Hacker’s Development Kit. It is software I can load onto my camera’s SD card, and then the camera can run it. When I remove the card, the camera is just like it was before, so there is no risk at all to the camera. One of the scripts I pressed into service was a motion detector. When it detects motion, it takes a picture.

But for good results, I needed to set things up ahead of time – the auto mode is not recommended. Luckily, I’m not bad at setting things up manually, so that’s what I did tonight. I only saw chickadees this evening, but that’s OK. I positioned the camera on the rock, adjusted the settings, set off the script, and then backed off 60 or 80 feet. The chickadees were wary, but those seeds were temptation aplenty for them to overcome that little obstacle. They were at it again in under five minutes. Here’s the best shot I got:

Mo-cap chickadee

Mo-cap chickadee


It was overcast all day, so the light was pretty weak today. I think if I have a sunny day soon, I can get some way better pictures. With better light, I can reduce the shutter time, bump up the f-stop, and jack down the ISO setting. That way, it won’t matter too much if the bird is twitching when the camera snaps a shot. This is but a beginning!

I’d also like to set this thing up in the woods behind the house overnight sometime – with flash – and see what I can get that way. Exciting times!