Lockdown made us discover new hobbies we wouldn’t normally go for—some people started drawing or knitting, others got interested in regular visitors in their gardens. If you don’t have a garden, but would love to explore local birds, don’t worry, because Lisa, who is also known as Ostdrossel on social media, has you covered and is sharing her fascination with birds with tens of thousands of people online. Her hobby, though, actually has nothing to do with COVID-19. She started feeding and observing birds in her garden before it was cool—years ago when she moved from Germany to Michigan.
We’ve previously shared Lisa’s photos on Bored Panda here, here, and here and you seemed to enjoy them. She still regularly captures various birds frequenting the feeders in her garden from up close and the photos show how interesting and unique they are. From dramatic and hilarious facial expressions and poses to accidental compositions like the classic “birds that look like they are about to drop a new album”—Ostdrossel’s gallery will make you fall in love with birds a little bit more. Often different kinds of “birds” will also find their way to feeders looking for food, so this post contains bonus snaps of critters such as squirrels and chipmunks.
There is something calming and very entertaining about birdwatching even if it’s on your screen, so try it yourself and let us know how it goes! By the end of the list, you might even start distinguishing different birds! We’ve also reached out to Ostdrossel again, so don’t miss the interview below!
Lisa has been observing and photographing birds since 2012, so we asked what still keeps her fascinated with her hobby.
"I am still infatuated with the beauty of the birds, with their feather detail, as well as entertained by their antics. It is exciting to capture scenes that I hadn't seen before by placing cameras in different spots or just getting lucky with what happens. And of course, migration time is always exciting because you never know who might come for a surprise visit," she told Bored Panda.
"I have gotten to know my chosen home country America and state Michigan a lot more, for one," Lisa shared what she's learned during the years of photographing birds." There is so much variety here, you can never stop exploring. I also learned how much impact we as humans have on nature and the balance and developments in habitats. When trees are cut down to make room for wider roads or more settlements, bird and animal populations can suffer. When we spray chemicals onto our lawns, birds and animals can suffer. It has also helped me with gardening. We are trying to make our yard bird-friendly and natural, looking for native plants and shrubs that are not just decorative but also nourishing the birds. I have also learned that the internet and social media can be a cesspool but that people who love birds are mostly very friendly folk."
Lisa started using a simple pocket camera to capture birds, and then switched to DSLR.
"My photo setup involves a lot of time, and there are so many people who are like 'I want this for my grandparents' and it just is not something like that," Lisa said. She now uses an action camera in a weatherproof box with a macro lens for photography and a Birdsy cam for video clips and live streams. You can read more about her setup on her website here.
Lisa has also built a pond in her yard where visitors can enjoy a 'spa' treatment.
"I had put a bird bath on the ground because I had seen birds bathe in puddles, and last year I put a camera there too. There was a lot going on at this bath, but I felt like it was too small and I wanted something prettier. So my husband and I set out to build a little pond. It is just a pond liner tub with a lot of rocks and pebbles and a pump for a little waterfall. I have not set it up yet this year because we still might get frost but I am excited to get it going again."
She also told us about what goes into the essential daily maintenance of feeders and baths.
"My feeders are all squirrel-proofed (either with baffles or by design—like the weight-activated ones), so I basically leave all foods out, except for my camera bowls, because I take my photo cams in at night. The smaller dishes I refill several times a day, they hold maybe 1.5 cups of seed. Other than that, I have a platform feeder and one or two hanging feeders. I think it all sounds a lot more than it is. In the summer, I have oriole and hummingbird feeders out on top of that. I refill and clean them every other day. Cleaning feeders and baths should be your regular routine as a person who does backyard feeding."
Lisa told us about the variety of birds as well as other unexpected critters that visit her backyard searching for food.
"I get the usual Midwest mix, and the variety varies from winter to warm season. There are house finches, nuthatches, woodpeckers, cardinals, mourning doves, chickadees, blue jays, bluebirds, sparrows, starlings, and juncos mostly in the winter, and then grackles, red-winged blackbirds, orioles, hummingbirds, grosbeaks, catbirds, robins, and more during the warmer season. There are regulars, and also returning birds (I notice that with grackles, for example, some have distinctive markings and have been returning for several years). We have an abundance of squirrels (fox, red, grey, as well as flying), then skunks, raccoons, opossums, sometimes deer, turkeys, once I had a fox and an owl... We had a snake by the pond and a couple of frogs last summer too. And moths have been nibbling on the grape jelly last summer."
Lisa revealed the most challenging and the most rewarding part of her hobby.
"The most challenging thing is when you witness birds in distress and you cannot help. Raptor attacks happen as well as sickness. It is all part of nature. The most rewarding, I think, are the bird babies. Seeing them all thrive. I have a camera in my bluebird nestbox, for example. I can see the eggs being laid, the momma bird incubating and the babies hatching and growing. Once it is a fledge day, I usually try to clear my schedule and camp out to watch them leave the nest. They are all quirky and different little personalities and it is always thrilling to witness their big leap. And then seeing them coming back with the parents. Summer in general is wonderful in that regard. Tiny bird babies are all around, exploring this big world in the cutest way."
Chipmunk Mr. Vacuum
Lisa currently has 41.3k Instagram followers who appreciate the daily snaps of birds' life. She said she never expected her photos to gain so much attention online and it still amazes her.
"I am just sharing what I see and like. Apart from getting asked a lot what camera I use, there are also many that appreciate seeing the birds up close and learning a bit about their behavior or peculiarities. Some say they have moved states and don't see these birds anymore and miss them, so they remind them of something, others cannot feed due to where they live or other reasons and enjoy seeing everything this way. The feedback is usually positive, but it is social media after all, and sometimes there are also reactions that are not so positive. The positives are dominating, so I am trying to not let the others get to me too much."
Lisa also noticed that some photos attract more attention than others, mostly because funny expressions and poses are very memeable and people can relate to those. With these photos going viral, people also get to learn something new about birds as Lisa tries to add interesting information to each photo.
"It is always kind of funny to me how some photos completely take off in regards to reactions while others that I loved way more do not. I always try to add a little extra information into my posts to make people aware of certain misperceptions or little details of bird life that maybe not everybody is aware of, and it is wonderful to see people react with their own special experiences or stories. Especially funny photos are often the ones where it is easy to apply human reactions or behavior to a pose or look. The critters are perfect for that, but there are also birds with particularly funny looks on their faces."
Lisa shared her experiences and expert advice with anyone who is interested in birdwatching in their own gardens: "Be patient, don't disturb the birds, think creative, and don't try to just imitate what others do. Set your own little scene, have some fun with it. And realize that we can't always get all the birds we want. Some birds will appear with certain foods but this is not applicable to all of them. Some birds prefer a certain habitat, and just putting the food out that they like might not bring them to you if the habitat is not where they roam. I would love to have a pileated woodpecker in my yard, or cedar waxwings, but this just won't happen because it is not the area for them. A bird bath can be a nice way to attract some that are just passing through, though. I had quite some surprise visitors there last year."
"I am not opposed to making this a bit more than a hobby, but so far, I also have to work a real job to make ends meet and keep the feeders filled."