Competition in the Sunflower Field

We recently learned that American Goldfinches like Sunflower seeds, Thistle, and Milkweed. One of our local parks has a small Sunflower field, so we decided to stop by last Sunday morning around 8:30. Sure enough, there were several Goldfinches flitting from flower to flower. I set up the camera and tripod and waited for some good opportunities. I noticed that the birds often returned to the same plant so I focused on one of those to capture several shots. This photo is part of a three shot sequence (see: http://sfielding.photoshop.com). Here, this Goldfinch is defending its Sunflower from encroachment.
I was not close enough to get the birds to fill the frame, so I cropped this photo, thus losing some sharpness. There is a trade-off in hand-holding the camera with such a long lens. Hand-held shots give me more opportunities to get a shot of my subject, but I give-up sharpness. In contrast, when the camera is sitting on a tripod I can get sharper pictures, but the camera is less mobile so I can’t always get the bird in my view finder in time. The best way to get around this dilemma is to better know my subjects so I can anticipate where they will be, and if the best means of shooting is hand-held or tripod. (North American population 24m, 15-49% decrease over past 30 years: 1/1000, f/5.6, ISO 640, Canon EOS 60D, EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM, 400 mm)

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