Wildlife on a Maine Pond: Micro Four Thirds Makes Photographing Baby Birds Safer and Easier

A pair of Canada geese (Branta canadensis) with their goslings

May is a time of significant change across much of the northeast. There are newborn baby animals, unusual visitors, and much growth.

There are no baby loons yet — it’s too early for them to have been born — but the adults have built a nest and laid eggs. And no, there will be no photographic evidence of the nest or eggs, but I assure you, they exist.

There are plenty of other baby birds on the pond, though, including mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) ducklings and Canada goose (Branta canadensis) goslings.

A mother duck leads a line of ducklings across a calm body of water. The water reflects the ducks' images, and the background is a blurry mix of green hues, indicating lush vegetation. The ducklings follow closely behind the mother in a single-file line.
Mallard duck (Anas platyrhynchos mother and her large cohort of ducklings.
A close-up image of a goose and its three goslings swimming in a pond surrounded by tall green reeds. The adult goose is in the foreground, slightly out of focus, while the fluffy yellow goslings are in the background, more prominently visible.
Goslings grow up fast

There’s also a lot of other activity, including the appearance of lesser yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes). This sandpiper-like bird can stop at smaller ponds in Maine while migrating, although this marks the first year we’ve seen it at this particular pond. These are delightful birds to photograph, and while not incredibly skittish, the remarkable reach of a telephoto lens on a Micro Four Thirds camera always comes in handy.

A shorebird with a speckled brown and white body, black beak, and yellow legs stands in shallow water among green grass and reeds. The bird's long, slender legs and slightly curved beak are reflected in the water.
Lesser yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes)

A group of six spotted sandpipers standing in a line on the edge of a grassy, reflective wetland. The background has soft focus greenery and reeds. The sandpipers have long beaks and are attentively looking towards the right.

I’ve briefly touched on this topic in a prior article, but it is well worth repeating the advantages of crop sensor cameras when it comes to wildlife photography.

Close-up of a branch with small, white, bell-shaped flowers and green leaves. The background is blurred, with hints of brown and gray, suggesting a natural outdoor setting. The flowers hang delicately from the thin, curving branch.
Not a bird, but a pretty wildflower. I believe this is a lily of the valley bush, also known as Pieris ‘forest flame’

So much of the discourse surrounding Micro Four Thirds and even APS-C cameras focuses on their disadvantages, especially regarding image quality. There’s no denying that there is some image quality cost with a Micro Four Thirds camera like the OM System OM-1 II, at least when compared to a full-frame camera, but photographers get a lot in return for this tradeoff.

A small, bright yellow bird with olive-green wings perches on a tree branch. The background is blurry, consisting of out-of-focus branches and soft, natural light.
Another infrequent visitor, a yellow warbler (Setophaga petechia). This tiny bird is hard to photograph, so the OM-1 II’s fast autofocus and two times crop factor are hugely beneficial.

The culprit for the “lesser” image quality, the small image sensor, is precisely what makes a camera like the OM-1 II such a fantastic tool for nature and wildlife photography. The two times crop factor turns the OM System 150-600mm lens into a full-frame equivalent 300-1200mm zoom, which is an incredible boon for wildlife photography.

A small bird with brown and white speckled feathers perches on a thin, red branch with fresh green buds. The bird is facing to the right, and the background is a soft, blurred mix of earthy tones.
Female red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)

Not only is it difficult to get close to many animals, but it is typically unwise to do so, especially when dealing with newborn animals like the chicks and goslings featured in this article.

Close-up image of a green and yellow frog partially submerged in water. The frog's eyes are prominently visible above the water's surface, reflecting light. The background is blurred, focusing attention on the frog's face.
American bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus)

I have shot on full-frame cameras a lot over the years, and they are amazing tools in many situations. However, the biggest drawback is that to get close to a small, distant animal, you must use huge, heavy glass and be physically close to the subject.

Micro Four Thirds cameras bypass this situation with aplomb. While the 150-600mm lens is a full-frame lens repurposed for Micro Four Thirds, making it rather heavy, good luck getting a native 1200mm focal length that weighs less than its somewhat hefty 4.55 pounds (2.1 kilograms). Another great choice is the OM System M.Zuiko 150-400mm f/4.5 TC 1.25 IS PRO, one of the best lenses for wildlife photography ever made. However, at $7,500, it’s a bit out of my price range.

A common loon with striking black and white plumage takes off from a calm lake, creating ripples and splashes on the water surface. The background is a blurred mix of green vegetation. The bird's wings are outstretched, showcasing its distinct markings.
Common loon (Gavia immer) taking off
A common loon with a black head, white necklace, and intricate black-and-white pattern on its back is swimming in calm water. The background features tall, blurred green reeds, creating a serene and natural setting.
Common loon

The primary point here is that the anti-crop sensor slander gets tiresome, and I wish more people would appreciate the upside of a small sensor. It’s not all doom and gloom concerning a small sensor. In fact, a crop camera is hugely helpful for a long-term wildlife project like this because it makes getting the shot much less complicated.

A black bird with a red and yellow patch on its wing perches on a thin reed, with its beak open as if singing. The background is blurred, consisting of green foliage.
Red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) declaring, “MIcro Four Thirds cameras are actually pretty awesome.” Well said, bird.

Some animals only briefly pass through the area; other moments happen once or twice. When the opportunity arises to get a wildlife photo, the OM-1 II has thus far proven more than up to the task of capturing it. There’s not much higher praise for a camera than that.

Image credits: All the photos in this article were captured by Bruce Gray using an OM-1 Mark II and OM 150-600mm M.Zuiko Digital ED 150-600mm f/5-6.3 IS lens. In my next journal entry, I’ll be back in Maine and, fingers crossed, the loon chicks will have just hatched.

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