Photographer Sets Up Camera to Reveal the Big Little World Beneath Her Bird Feeder

Backyard Bird Photography

Northern cardinal

Wildlife conservation photographer Carla Rhodes loves to feed the birds. Every winter in the Catskill Mountains of New York, she hangs a feeder outside her home and watches as birds and mammals of all kinds come to feast on her offerings. Being a photographer, she turned the arrival of her feathered and furry friends into a spectacular series of images called Beneath the Bird Feeder.

Offering a new perspective on a beloved pastime, Rhodes set her sights just below the feeder in the winter months of late 2020 and early 2021. Using a camera trap, she discovered repeat visitors including a dark-eyed Junco “with an overgrown beak” and red-breasted nuthatches. Rhodes also saw the patterns and the routines of the creatures, observing the early birds and noticing those that arrived just as dusk was settling.

“The most exciting discovery was witnessing the ecosystem the bird feeder created beyond the bird feeder,” Rhodes shares with My Modern Met. “For example, I soon learned a deer mouse was caching discarded seeds into a nearby bluestone wall. The sheer act of the mouse’s industrious cache created a treasure trove of other creatures visiting what I dubbed ‘the rock den.’”

What followed was a cast of characters that descended upon her backyard. “I captured photographs of an American red squirrel raiding the den, a black-capped chickadee sassily taking the bounty, and the most exciting discovery was photographically capturing a Northern short-tailed shrew, which is one of the world’s few venomous mammals,” she recalls.

“[The mammals] are voracious insectivores (who occasionally eat salamanders and mice) and consume up to three times their weight in food daily. The shrew’s various prey is cached in a comatose state, ultimately sustaining a living hoard! Until this project, I didn’t realize northern short-tailed shrews were even in my vicinity. This is a perfect example of why I will always consider myself a beginner—I am continually humbled by nature teaching me new things daily!”

Scroll down to see scenes from Beneath the Bird Feeder. Rhodes and her friends even wrote a song about the project with an accompanying video, which you can also watch below.

Photographer Carla Rhodes set up a camera trap to document all of the creatures that feast on the bird feeder outside her home.

Backyard Bird Photography

Northern cardinal

The images are part of a project called Beneath the Bird Feeder.

Backyard Bird Photography

Blue jay

Backyard Bird Photography

Black-capped chickadee

Backyard Bird Photography

Mourning dove

Backyard Bird Photography

Mourning dove

Backyard Bird Photography

Northern cardinal

Mouse Photographed by Camera Trap

Deer mouse

Shrew Photographed by Camera Trap

Northern short-tailed shrew

Squirrel Photographed by Camera Trap

American red squirrel

Squirrel Photographed by Camera Trap

Eastern gray squirrel

Backyard Bird Photography

Dark-eyed Junco

Backyard Bird Photography

Tufted titmouse

Backyard Bird Photography

Tufted titmouse

Backyard Bird Photography

Dark-eyed Junco

Backyard Bird Photography

Dark-eyed Junco

Rhodes and her friends even wrote a song about the series. Listen to the tune below.

Carla Rhodes: Website | Instagram | Facebook

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Carla Rhodes.

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Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met, Manager of My Modern Met Store, and co-host of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.
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