LumberJocks

Mockingbird Decoy

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Project by GnarlyErik posted 08-28-2021 08:04 PM 383 views 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This summer, I became obsessed with capturing photographs of a spectacular predatory bird spotted flying around my neighborhood. Using a Trail Camera and various decoy ‘baits’ I’ve attempted to bring one of a nesting pair of Swallowtail Kites close enough to capture good photographs of one or both of them – without much success so far I’m sad to say – but there’s always next season, right?

I read up on the food prey preferences for these birds and began with small, plastic lizards and snakes which quickly attracted Mockingbirds, which I discovered, also attracted the Kites! Next step was making several 2-dimensional Mockingbird decoys which enabled me to get one blurred photo of a Kite’s butt before the bird discovered its mistake and rocketed away. These guys are unbelievably FAST!

Thus encouraged, and with my obsession now burning hotly inside me, I decided to whittle a more realistic 3-dimensional Mockingbird decoy and asked my sweet and long-suffering wife to paint it for me. This bird is the result. I went so far as to get taxidermy eyes – I said I got obsessed, right? The bird is made primarily from local juniper, has coat-hanger wire legs wrapped with cloth type electrician’s tape which is then painted. I soldered on some wire toes for realism and mounted it on a pecan tree crook.

Sadly, the local nesting pair of Swallowtail Kites has now apparently already raised its brood and departed my neighborhood. I have not seen them for a while now, but I’m ready for next year if they return.

Here is a link to further information about my (lack of) success and a further link to a Youtube video of my pictures/film of my resident birds:

https://www.lumberjocks.com/GnarlyErik/blog/132808

-- "Never let your dogma be run over by your karma!"





7 comments so far

View defrosted's profile

defrosted

32 posts in 165 days


#1 posted 08-28-2021 08:53 PM

that is, yes obsessive, pretty cool. I am mildly disappointed not to have blurry kite butt pic included…

View pottz's profile

pottz

21313 posts in 2269 days


#2 posted 08-29-2021 01:57 AM

very nice work your obsession paid off.

-- working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

View BurlyBob's profile

BurlyBob

9404 posts in 3550 days


#3 posted 08-29-2021 04:51 AM

That’s a really great looking bird. We don’t have mocking birds where I live so I can attest to accuracy. But I’m also not much of a carver, terrible in fact Nonetheless you did a real fine job on that guy.

View GnarlyErik's profile

GnarlyErik

366 posts in 3419 days


#4 posted 08-30-2021 08:11 PM



that is, yes obsessive, pretty cool. I am mildly disappointed not to have blurry kite butt pic included…

- defrosted

Thanks defrosted -

A Swallowtail Kite actually attacked one of my decoy birds which was almost directly on top of the trail camera which is why I got the ‘Butt Shots’. I think it must have been in the ‘hover mode’ and I understand they often eat on the fly. If you check the time-stamp on the pictures you’ll see the entire attack took only three seconds (sorry the images aren’t in proper sequence here).

I suspect these birds were rearing their young, and hence hunting extensively. I also managed to get some mid-distant flying shots, but these birds move so fast they are only in view for a second or two and were extremely hard for me to capture any good, or close up footage. There is one clip where one is headed directly for me as I am setting out my decoy and it noticed me when it was about a hundred yards away, but I did get a decent, though distant clip. These birds move incredibly fast, and almost must be seen to be believed. My planned clip hopefully will give some sense of that.

I plan to write up a little story and post it on my Lumberjocks blog soon, and I will provide a link to that when done. In the meantime, here are some butt shots for you!

-- "Never let your dogma be run over by your karma!"

View GnarlyErik's profile

GnarlyErik

366 posts in 3419 days


#5 posted 08-30-2021 08:16 PM



That s a really great looking bird. We don t have mocking birds where I live so I can attest to accuracy. But I m also not much of a carver, terrible in fact Nonetheless you did a real fine job on that guy.

- BurlyBob

Thanks BurlyBog -

Most of the credit for the way the decoy looks should go to my wife who spent some fussy time doing the painting for me. The actual carving time didn’t take all that long between a bandsaw, power scroll saw and a Foredom flex-shaft carving tool.

She enjoys painting up whatever projects I do which require fussy painting.

-- "Never let your dogma be run over by your karma!"

View defrosted's profile

defrosted

32 posts in 165 days


#6 posted 10-17-2021 03:21 PM

How did the decoy stand up to the attack? talon scratches? sort of like a keyed car? or more beak damage? actual wood cut or puncture damage to the decoy? decoy’s anatomy that was attacked like neck, back, soft (not so soft with a wooden version) underbelly?

I have seen lots of video of the big birds of prey and owls coming in hot with feet extended, other videos of smaller or water birds going for the snatch with the beak. I am curious about the attack mode, which would suggest how to arrange the decoy and camera for best effect, and also maybe suggest better postures of the decoy to accomodate the attack mode to get better shots, avoid damaging attacking bird with hard wood projections instead of soft target bird bits, etc.

If the attacker goes into a brief hover mode, should the camera be above the decoy?

I get curious sometimes.

View GnarlyErik's profile

GnarlyErik

366 posts in 3419 days


#7 posted 10-17-2021 03:39 PM

Thanks defrosted -

I did not notice any marks or scratches. My two-dimensional decoys are made with 4mm lightweight plywood underlayment material with a full-sized picture pasted on one surface only.

I don’t think my 3D carved decoy was ever actually attacked directly. It is made from carved juniper wood which is like light cedar, and even if a bird struck it hard with beak or claws, I think it would injure the bird.

Now that nesting season is over no birds have shown interest, so I’ve put the decoys away until next season. As for camera position, I just try for a placement to give a good view and enough space to allow for the shutter delay of about 2-3 tenths of a second. Another consideration is that I’m concerned that the shiny parts of the sensor, shutter lens and flash might cause shyness in the birds.

-- "Never let your dogma be run over by your karma!"

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