I’ve been spending quite a lot, way too much time on Google Plus lately. It has been a great deal of fun and I’ve met an incredible group of like minded photographers. We’ve been sharing photos and laughs all through the fall and winter. There is a daily theme and we have a friendly (no winners or losers) competition to see who can play the best image for the theme. The other day the theme was, top 5 images taken in 2011. It was very hard as you might imagine and while I rarely read the year in review top 2011 lists, I decided it was kind of fun and so here are my top 10 bird images from 2011.

At number 10 – Cedar Waxwing, Bombycilla cedrorum

I’ve included this one because my friend David Middleton had a waxwing image that he took from his kitchen window and was always bragging about it. I know it may be bad karma, but now he can’t brag about his anymore…

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At number 9 – Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus

This was a great story during the beginning of 2011 with the birth of a new eagle on Tierra Verde, Florida. I watched for weeks and captured a lot of images of this circle of life. This one was a particular favorite from them all. You can read about the whole encounter…HERE.

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At number 8 – American White Ibis, Eudocimus albus

I can never stress enough during my workshops how important getting low is. You really want to be at eye level to get the most impact. In this shot I am actually knee high to an Ibis and that is low!

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At number 7 – Yellow-headed Blackbird, Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus

It may seem like I am picking on David (Middleton) again, but I like to do that when I can! If you know David this is one of those he was right, but he was wrong and you might guess which way l chose to tell the story. You can read it…HERE.

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At number 6 – Cattle Egret, Bubulcus ibis

One thing that you will find if you pursue bird photography is that the hardest thing to photograph is the most common of birds. Mostly because everyone with a camera has already photographed the beast and so finding that unique look is hard to do. I am always looking for that moment and I think I found it with this one. The backlight on the feathers and in particular the bill along with a dramatic near black background made this one really stand out in my 2011 bird photographs.

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At number 5 – Coppery-headed Emerald, Elvira cupreiceps and Green-crowned Brilliant, Heliodoxa jacula

I made my first of what I hope is many trips to Costa Rica and these hummingbirds were among the many treasures that I brought home. We were setup with perches of our choosing and I liked this exotic heliconia for them to feed on. You can read more about how to setup hummingbird photography in your backyard in an article that I wrote…HERE.

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At number 4 – Blue-grey Tanager, Thraupis episcopus

This parent feeding the chick image is also from Costa Rica. August was a good time to be there as we saw this scene played out several times. Fortunately with digital you can shoot a lot of frames to get just the right moment with good separation of the interaction between the birds.

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At number 3 – Swainson’s Hawk, Buteo swainsoni

During my Birds of Prey Workshop we had this great hawk as one of our subjects. It is a falconry trained bird and we were able to free fly her and that was just awesome. This image was selected as the cover image for The Peregrine Fund. This workshop will be held again in early October of 2012. Details will be post…HERE.

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At Number 2 – Least Tern, Sterna antillarum

I’ve always said, “I would rather be lucky than good!” and this one is a perfect example. I had just focused on the tern on the ground and not yet zoomed in tight when the second tern came flying in over the top of me at just the right moment!

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And finally at Number 1 – Scintillant Hummingbird, Selasphorus scintila

Another image from Costa Rica is this hummingbird. It is rather special species bing the second smallest hummingbird in the world, behind the Bumblebee Hummingbird and endemic to Costa Rica. This bird is only about 2.5″ (6.35 cm) and to give you an idea of scale the Verbena cluster is about the size of a quarter! I only saw this one a couple of times and only took about 5 frames and that is why I’ve nominated it as my favorite bird image of 2011.

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So, what was your favorite?