Maybe I have been using too much noise reduction and clarity for bird photos. Some people on dpReview recommend no noise reduction and now I am inclined to believe them. Recently I tried using little to no noise reduction, little to no Clarity, lots of sharpening and about 40% masking.This gives the bird good feather detail and anything with less detail has little noise and better bokeh. In low detail areas it looks to me like masking reduces the noise caused by Sharpening but it has less affect on the noise increased by Clarity. Is this true? If it is, in bird photography is Clarity best used sparingly and selectively like on there heads?
Another reason for asking all this is I once read that even a little masking degrades sharpness but now I doubt that. Maybe LR has improved that through the years.
Indeed luminance noise reduction (and to some extent color noise reduction) has a tendency to wipe out fine feather detail.
* lowered noise reduction, and if you do use it, crank the nr.detail slider way up - this will help maintain fine feather detail and is superior to sharpening detail for maintaining feather detail otherwise lost due to noise reduction.
* lowered sharpening detail, to keep noise down, and reduce the "need" for noise reduction.
* and sharpen masking to taste..
Also note: local sharpening at exactly -50 masks all global sharpening, and so can be used in conjunction with noise reduction to smooth the bokeh areas.
And of course you can add sharpening and/or clarity locally too.
I realize I didn't answer your exact question perfectly as asked, but I'm not sure what else to say, so..
Thanks for all the good information, Rob.
The NR Detail slider works great. It can be turned up high, with no disadvantage that I can see, and it substantially improves details.
Now I will feel more comfortable shooting at higher ISO's.