Eastern Phoebe | Time-Lapse Exposure

We have enjoyed watching our new neighbors, a pair of Eastern Phoebes who took up residence under our deck. Previous posts about the nest location, tail wags, and 3 eggs are here and here.

We are happy to say the eggs have hatched. Mom and Dad are busy gathering insects to feed the babies. They fly to a perch not far above ground. There they scan the grass and bushes nearby for movement of insects. They must have excellent vision.

Upon spotting something, they quickly fly to it,  grab it with their beak, and fly back to the perch. After a few quick tail wags, they thrash the insect left and right on the perch a few times and fly to the nest to put it into a wide mouth.

I wondered if I could capture an image of Phoebe trips to-and-from the nest by using a time exposure. I’ve written before about an app I use on my iPad called NightCap Camera. It is designed to take low-light exposures, time-lapse, star trails, ISS passes, and more. I highly recommend it for iPad or iPhone.

I placed the iPad on a small table 10 ft from the post under our deck where the nest sits. The camera was pointed up about 45˚at the rafters below the deck. The volume button on the bluetooth keyboard let me trip the shutter to begin the time-lapse exposure from a distance. I walked away to be out of view for the next 5 minutes so the Phoebes would return to feeding.

During the 297 sec exposure, rapid-fire exposures were made at 1/121 sec. The app software superimposed any changes in the scene on top of the long exposure. I returned with the keyboard and stopped the exposure. I noticed a Phoebe quickly flew away as I rounded the corner of the house. Here is what NightCap recorded. Click any image for a more detailed view.

Taken with NightCap. Light Trails mode, 297.05 second exposure, 1/121s shutter speed.

A cropped close-up of the lower left corner shows a Phoebe flying to the nest diagonally up to the left. It also shows one diving down from the nest which is above the cross beam over the post. The diving speed is slower and the images are closer together.

Taken with NightCap. Light Trails mode, 297.05 second exposure, 1/121s shutter speed.

Do you notice curving dotted lines of various size and lengths in the images? Those are flying insects. There are a lot of them. This next image gives a better view of them. Plenty of food for the Phoebe family.

Taken with NightCap. Light Trails mode, 297.05 second exposure, 1/121s shutter speed.

The next challenge is to get an image of the young ones. The nest is not well placed for taking pictures from above. I put a 3″ wide flat mirror at a 45˚angle on a long stick. I could barely see them. Maybe I will find a way.


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