BIRDS OF A FEATHER SOMETIMES FLOCK TOGETHER – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s February Expressions #11


As a very birdie lady, I have this to say about that.

Cardinal (boy)

Lady Cardinal

Some birds — like finches — flock together. The Goldfinches show up in bunches, often more than a dozen at a time and they don’t mind taking in the House and Purple Finches who also live in the woods with them. They apparently don’t care whether you are red, raspberry, or bright yellow.

Goldfinches – just beginning to change to their breeding feathers.

Goldfinch and flying Titmouse

On the other hand, while the Cardinal often shows up with his mate, he will not tolerate the presence of another male Cardinal in his “patch” of woods. If they meet, they go at it like World War 1 aces, whirling and attacking each other in the air. It’s quite a thing to see.

Two bluebirds

Two more Goldfinches

The Hairy Woodpecker doesn’t like anything or anyone but will tolerate his mate if she doesn’t get in his way. The Red-Bellied Woodpecker will tolerate other birds nearby … as long as they don’t poach on his piece of feeder. The Tufted Titmouses show up in groups, but not flocks and all the other birds are perfectly okay with them. Ditto the Nuthatches. Bluebirds only show up in groups (protection?).

In the watery world of fowl, Canada Geese and Swans hate each other. Meanwhile, Herons will eat the eggs of any other fowl if they can find the nests.

But all of these fighting birds are happy to hang around with ducks. No other bird has a problem with ducks and when the ducks hang out, they don’t care what kind of duck you are. Whatever feathers you wear are fine with all the ducks.

MORE BRIGHT BIRDS – Marilyn Armstrong

Let me start off by saying that this morning, Owen and I were treated to seeing a relatively rare Pileated Woodpecker. They are the largest of our living woodpeckers and while I knew we had one or more of them in our woods, I never saw them from close up. They would just fly by and stop far away, well beyond my camera’s ability to take a picture.

And this is exactly what he looked like. This is NOT my picture. My camera was in the other room and if I’d gone to get it, he’d have been gone by the time I got back. But at least two of us saw him!

This time, he landed on a tree right on the front of the house! I called Owen and said “Look, look! It’s that big woodpecker!” Big he was. The size of a medium-sized hawk with that unmistakable hammer-shaped scarlet head. The bird after whom Woody Woodpecker was designed.

Pileated-Woodpecker – Head shot (I didn’t take this picture, either).

It was inspiring, so I went and developed some more “artistic” pictures of birds. I don’t know why seeing that big red-headed bird was inspiring, but it was. They are becoming increasingly rare. There was an even bigger one — the Ivory Woodpecker, but they are believed to be extinct now.

These guys are disappearing too. They need deep woods in which to live and there’s precious little remaining. New England still has a lot of trees, but every day, they chop up another woods to built cheesy houses for which they are asking way too much money … and this is not a hot property area. Many of them take a long time to become occupied, but the woods is gone forever.

Pileated Woodpeckers don’t like people and cars and dogs. They like forest and I fear they will go extinct too.

Wings and a prayer? Goldfinch feeding up.

More wings and prayers – one Goldfinch in the air and a Nuthatch on the feeder.

I hope next time the big woodpecker comes by, I hope he stops to pose for me!

ARTSY GOLDFINCHES – Marilyn Armstrong

I have to admit that I have a great many Goldfinches. They show up at the feeder in flocks. Sometimes, I look outside and they are not only all over all the feeders, but they are also waiting in the branches, sitting on the railing, and on top of all the feeders.

Two Goldfinches

So, rather than yet one more detailed picture of Goldfinches, I made these two pictures as artistic I could. These really came out looking sort of like paintings. I hope I remember how I did them.

I should have saved the components. I used about eight different filters, did a lot of cropping, and went through a huge number of remix formulae before I came up with this. Reproducing the effect could be interesting. On the upside, I like them. They look as much like paintings as I could create with software and photographs.

OUT THE WINDOW TO THE LIGHT – Marilyn Armstrong

INTO THE LIGHT THOUGH THE DAY WAS GRAY


I don’t have any space pictures. I wish I did. But I do have some pictures from today and this gray day as my orchid is getting ready to bloom.

Fat buds on my purple orchids. If the sun comes out (they promised tomorrow), they may bloom

I need to admit that I’d have more pictures if I hadn’t accidentally pressed a button somewhere on my newish camera. Now, I haven’t used this camera very much, probably because I haven’t been outside much. It hasn’t been very photogenic outside. We had one small snow at the beginning of December and nothing but a dusting since then. So mostly, I’ve been taking bird pictures and for that, I used my Olympus with a long lens.

Today, though, I wanted to take pictures of the fat buds on my orchid. I decided to use this camera and I took it into the dining room. Which is when I realized the Christmas cactus was back in bloom. The flowers were hidden under the leaves of the aloe vera and since I also have a red table covering, I hadn’t realized that some of that red was flowers.

I took out my camera to take pictures, but it wouldn’t work. It wouldn’t take a simple shot. Like most new cameras, the Panasonic DC ZS-80, it has a menu system with more choices for options I will never use — and couldn’t because I’m not even sure what they do.

I eventually found what I was looking for: the button that deletes all the settings that may have been set, including those you may have set by accident. It turns out that one of the things I had done was to set it on permanent movie mode and merely pressing the movie button didn’t unset it. And there were a few more settings that needed changing involving histograms and levels and red-eye settings. I never set them because I never used the menu. I just set it to Program or iAuto and took a few pictures. I don’t think I’ve taken as many as two dozen pictures with it.

Which is probably why I decided to use it today. Guilt.

I have this problem with almost all my cameras. Each one has its own super complicated menu that includes settings no one uses. After making the menu impossible to understand, they then charge additional money for the “upgrade.”

One more Goldfinch

Complexity is not an upgrade unless it gives you something you want and can use. I think these super complicated menus have led many of us to despair. It’s why many of us gave up all but basic settings. We use iAuto and make other changes with software.

All of this reminded me why Garry so loved my Leica. It is the only camera we own that has a menu written in simple English. And, if you set it in Auto it tells you “Just point the camera. I’ll take care of the rest.” No kidding. It reassures you!

What’s the point of a camera with a menu so absurdly complicated? Why do they add so many settings you have to hold the manual (assuming you have a manual) in one hand and the camera in the other while wearing your reading glasses?

I also forgot that this camera is slower than the one I normally use and by the time I got through figuring out how to reset the camera to default, it wasn’t afternoon. It was getting dark.

ROCKPORT HARBOR AND ANOTHER SUNRISE – Marilyn Armstrong

Fishing Boats and a Scarlet Sunrise


Dawn in Rockport. If pictures look familiar, Rockport, Massachusetts is one of the most photographed locations in the U.S. Not only is it highly photogenic, but it is also an artist’s colony.

Just before daybreak

First light

It was July 4th and I set the alarm for 4 am. It was still fully dark, but luckily, the place we were staying was across the street from the harbor. No hiking was involved, Having done this before, I had my clothing, camera, and anything else I thought I might need already set out.  I dressed in just a few minutes and got moving. By now, I knew I needed long sleeves, pants, and socks. July in Massachusetts is overwhelmed by mosquitoes. The only thing that makes it bearable is a breeze of at least six or seven miles per hour.

No breeze. Not even a hint. I knew I was going to be breakfast for a lot of skeeters.

Perfect sunrise

Almost day

Homes along the shore in the reflection of the rising sun

I was not the only one awake. The fishermen were rigging their boats. They would be gone by the time “normal” people opened their eyes. They seemed immune to the biting menaces — or maybe they were counting on moving out to the Atlantic quickly and leaving the mosquitoes behind.

OGUNQUIT BEACH WITH BIRDS AND A SUNRISE – Marilyn Armstrong

Sunrise Flight


Dawn on Ogunquit beach. It was about 4:30 in the morning when I dragged my body from the bed, threw some clothing on including long sleeves, long pants, and socks. Not because it was so cold. It was a warm September, but I had already discovered that the mosquitoes are voracious in those early hours.

One gull flying over the shore on the hunt for clams and crabs

Looking for breakfast at sunrise

At first, the beach was completely empty, but gradually as it got closer to daylight, there were runners and strollers. Couples hand-in-hand … but apparently only one photographer. Everyone else stayed close to the incoming tide and many walked in the water.

Plovers and a lone gull

I was looking for a wider view, so I stayed back. The farther you are from the water, the worse the mosquitoes become. I think I may have been the only “live one” on the scene.

 

OUT MY BACK DOOR – Marilyn Armstrong

Ragtag Daily Prompt: Out My Backdoor


I look out my backdoor a lot. It’s a small deck leading to a rather small lawned area that when we were younger and more socially active, was the scene of many summertime barbecues, the building of a tepee, and just handing out. The tepee is gone. The idea of feeding a hoard of people — assuming we knew enough people to create a hoard — is exhausting. Nonetheless, our deck is a big piece of the territory to which we pay most attention.

The birds and squirrels believe it belongs to them and resent our presence, so we tread gently when we are out there.

A winter Goldfinch at the finch feeder

Junco keeping company with our stone Toad

The three birdfeeders which have replaced the hanging fuchsia that used to grace the hooks have greatly changed the deck from a human place to a wildlife feeding station. I believe it’s far more socially useful feeding squirrels, the occasional chipmunk, and wild birds than it was as a place for morning coffee.

Cardinal on board

Times change. Since the arrival of mosquitoes carrying diseases previously unknown in this region, it’s hard to get really thrilled about being that close to where they breed.

One of our most frequent visitors, a Tufted Titmouse

Two feeders on a very cold morning

Even though the woods have been sprayed, the spraying reduces the mosquito population. It doesn’t remove it. I’m pretty sure it also killed a few hundred birds and other small critters too. Whenever humans decide to fix something, some creature pays the price.

Mist in a January woods

ANGRY BIRDS, WINTRY LIGHT – Marilyn Armstrong

Angry birds, wintry light

Hairy Woodpeckers are the larger of two similar-looking woodpeckers. They aren’t actually related, but somehow, the Downy has copied the feathering and coloration of the Hairy Woodpecker, probably because the Hairy has a notoriously bad temper. The Downy has an equally bad temper, but he’s much smaller. By copying the bigger bird, on a quick look, they look the same.

It’s hard to see the difference unless they are near enough to one another to see the size difference which, despite them often sharing the same piece of forest, they rarely do.

Angry bird 1

Angry bird 2

Angry bird 3

Angry bird 4

Angry bird 5

Angry bird 6

Today I got lucky and for a few seconds (I didn’t get a picture, but I almost got a picture)  they shared the opposite sides of the big feeder. Suddenly, it was easy to tell the difference. The Hairy is obviously bigger. Bigger body, longer beak. They only shared space for a few seconds, then the Downy decided it was time to move on. The Hairy hung around long enough for me to get some pictures and for once, I was sure I knew which bird I was photographing.

Is it me or does this look like one of the original angry birds? Hairy Woodpeckers have a notoriously bad temper. They are permanently in a bad mood. I think it’s because they spend their entire lives banging their head against hardwood trees.

WINTERLIGHT IS WHITE, BUT BIRDS ARE NOT – Marilyn Armstrong

White winter light and birds of color

These were taken yesterday when it was even colder than today. Considering that early this morning it was several degrees below zero, “even colder” means something.

How do the poor little birds keep their tiny feet from freezing? You’d think they would grow feather stockings or little feathery boots on their tiny feet. I want to take them all in and warm them up!

Flapping wings and changing feathers. One of these Goldfinches looks like he has a black eye, but it’s just a black feather that’s a little out of place.

A Black-eyed Goldfinch and the feathery other …

I look at their tiny little feet and I feel immediately cold. How do they keep from freezing in this deep winter weather?

Junco and stone toad

Two Goldfinches on the finch feeder

Are these little birds ever warm during the winter months? And finally, one special photograph …

Chipper Sparrow in a graphic style

WINTER GOLDFINCHES IN THE LIGHT OF RECENT SNOW – Marilyn Armstrong

WINTERING WITH THE GOLDFINCHES

Snow was supposedly on the way, but our forecasts have more like guesswork than science lately. I no longer trust them. But I do trust our birds. They always know when snow is coming. The day before, they had barely bothered to show up at the feeders. Today, there was a flock of Goldfinches and at least one of every bird we normally see.

Two little Goldfinches sitting on a feeder …

Two (of many) Goldfinches on their feeder

Today, again, we also had lots of birds. Whenever they did something interesting, I had my camera pointed in the other direction. Talk about Murphy’s Law!

Goldfinches all over the big feeder, too.

Close up!

This is a classic. Point your camera left and all the action is to the right. Take a picture and half a second later, they are airborne and I missed it again. Moreover, the best shots will always be exactly when my battery goes flat.

 

WINTER SCENES – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Winter Scenes


It certainly is winter here and today, it was actually cold. The earlier parts of the month were springlike, sometimes downright summery. Today, cold. Tomorrow? Snow? Sleet? Rain? Cold? Warm? All of the preceding?

NOW you’re talking. our precipitous winter days have mostly been a bit of everything, usually in about 12-hours. Although we have rapidly changing weather, it doesn’t usually all happen in a single day between dawn and the late news.

Junco in a bird’s winter

Waiting to a place at the feeder

Home in the snow – Photo: Garry Armstrong

A bench on the Common with snow – Photo: Garry Armstrong

MORE RED FINCH AND FRIENDS – Marilyn Armstrong

Since I couldn’t square up most of these pictures, I thought I’d just post them because I like them. Red birds always get a lot more attention than other birds. They are so striking. We had a Cardinal visit the other day. It must be the same Cardinal because they are so territorial, we can’t have two living in the same area. He was a much duller red a couple of weeks ago. Now, he is brilliantly red. I wish he had held still and let me take his picture, but he was in a shy mood and flew off.

The red finches are surprisingly friendly. You can see where you might think of them as potential pets. They are all kinds of adorable.

Three feathered friends on a feeder

Fine day on a feeder

When the food is good, the birds like to hang around

Three birds and it is lunchtime

Today, all three feeders were occupied by Goldfinches. They simply took possession of and held onto it. They come in flocks and I swear they sleep on the feeders to keep other birds away.

 

ALL ABOUT A DOWNY WOODPECKER AND HER NUTHATCH LUNCHMATE – Marilyn Armstrong

I had a really big set of photos from last week. I’d processed maybe 10 of them, then I took some more and worked on them. But I knew there were a bunch of pictures in there with which I’d not done anything. I’d shot these pictures quickly and taken a long sequence of a lovely lady Downy Woodpecker sharing the feeder alone or with a Nuthatch.

Last night, I put a bunch of them together. This is a lady Downy because she doesn’t have a red patch on her head.

Downy and Nuthatch

Just hanging out

Seedeaters!

Very plump or full of eggs?

It’s good to keep them al so well-fed.

BIRDS DU JOUR AGAIN – Marilyn Armstrong

I have good days and bad ones for bird photography. Some days, the birds decide I’m okay, so I get pictures. Other days, they decide my camera is a gun and I’m going to shoot them. The last couple of days have been pretty good. Also, I improved the food. The same food I used to feed them. There is no high-quality cheap birdseed. Sometimes you get lucky (there’s a sale somewhere), but usually, it costs a lot more than seems reasonable.

Nuthatch and Frog

This picture of the Nuthatch and the Frog was a bit dark, but not out of focus. I thought it would look good in monochrome. Then I added a bit of graphic treatment to brighten it up. I really like the way it came out!

Vertical Goldfinch

Goldfinch in the air and another on the feeder

Nuthatch and Downy Woodpecker sharing a bit of lunch

Freefall for a Goldfinch. These little birds like to play and do some exciting, fun flying

Fluttering Goldfinches and a Rose-breasted Titmouse

Of all of the birds, the most fun to watch are the little birds: the Chickadees and various finches. They don’t take off from the feeder. They fall off, only opening their wings just before they hit the ground. They also fall out of the trees and are inches from crashing when they finally open their wings. Owen says they used to roll off his barn roof and fall until right before they hit the ground.

Nuthatch and Downy Woodpecker

It can’t be accidental, either. They obviously have fun flying, so when they aren’t raiding a feeder, they like freefalling from trees and railings. Do they have to dare each other? Are there prizes for those who get closest to the ground?

Photobombing woodpecker?

The previous picture was funny. There were two Goldfinches on the finch feeder, but this nosy Downy Woodpecker wanted to see if maybe there was something delicious for her to eat. Mind you the holes in this feeder are too small for a bird of her size. I’m pretty sure it’s a girl because she has no red patch on her head and she also looks like she’s carrying around a few eggs.

Portrait of a hungry Goldfinch

SPRING IN THE VALLEY – CEE’S FUN FOTO CHALLENGE – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Spring Scenes and flowers of the day

We don’t have much of a spring season here. It tends to stay cold until suddenly in May, the leaves pop out of the trees and everything blooms during one, sunny midday. The process takes just a few hours. It’s amazing. One year, it was winter when we went into the grocery and summer when we came out.

Autumn to winter can be like that too. Garry and I went out for lunch in Boston wearing tee-shirts and shorts,. Two hours later, we came out and it was near freezing, We ran home — which, fortunately, wasn’t very far.

We do get spring flowers, though. And birds. I hope that will count because otherwise, I’m just out of luck!

Harbinger of spring – our purple crocuses

Columbine

More yellow daffodils

The Goldfinch turning bright yellow for mating season.

Spring along the river

Our last Tulip.

More bright Goldfinch

Baby oak leaves and a very blue sky

Along the fence, Forsythia flowers

And the House Finch turns brighter too

Spring on the Mumford River

Solomon’s Seal

Springtime on the Commons

FOTD – January 14, 2020 – Daffodils in Bloom

SUNNY MIDDAY, A RED FINCH AND FRIENDS #13 – Marilyn Armstrong

RED FINCH AND FRIENDS

The finches have been conspicuous in their absence. I suspected it was because they didn’t like the food — or couldn’t eat it — so I changed food. And suddenly, we’ve had lots of Goldfinch and today, for the first time (well, second really), a red one came and hung around long enough for me to get some pictures.

I could not make all the pictures square. Many of them were too wide and short. But there were a couple that I could nicely square up.

Red Finch, Tufted Titmouse and Rose-breasted Nuthatch sharing a feeder

I admit it. I can’t tell the difference between a Purple Finch (who is red) and a House Finch (also red). They are the same size and basically the same color and on top of that, they hang out together.

Red Finch and a Rose-breasted Nuthatch

There is a difference in the beaks and the Purple Finch is supposed to be more raspberry than true red, but they look pretty much identical. Even comparing pictures I’ve taken of both, I still can’t see a real difference.

Red Finch all by himself