Getting close to a bird in the wild is not an easy task. Long lenses and tele-extenders are helpful, but typically fall short of providing frame filling close-ups. Here are some basic techniques I use to get in position for most wildlife encounters, especially birds.
First, avoid wearing bright clothing, especially red, orange and yellow. These will tend to scare off most creatures even from a distance. Try to blend in with neutral earth tones and camouflage. Sometimes walking on your knees will be necessary, so leave your designer jeans at home. By remaining low, you are forced to slow down, and your chances of getting a great shot improve dramatically.
As soon as you arrive at your location take the camera out of the bag, and mount it on your tripod. By having the camera ready to go, you will eliminate disruptive sounds like the zipper on a bag opening. Plus, you’ll be able to shoot in an instant should the opportunity arise.
When you spot your subject, do not walk directly towards it on a straight line. This will be seen as an aggressive move, and the bird will take off immediately. Instead, approach slowly on more of an indirect angle. Avoid making direct eye contact as it can be viewed as confrontational. Instead, use your peripheral vision while pretending to scan the ground for food. If the bird is startled, stand motionless until it returns to its natural behavior. Proceed with caution, and inch forward quietly.
The next time you’re in the field, give this a try and let me know how it goes. You just may find yourself with a great catch!