BIRDS OF SPRING WHO WAITED FOR A PHOTOGRAPH – Marilyn Armstrong

A medley of spring birds

These are as many birds as I could photograph before they decided to fly into the trees. I think it’s personal. They see me and they hide — or fly. In addition to what you can see here, we’ve seen Robins and dozens of Mourning Doves, The House Finches seem to have moved north, but we’ll see them again in the fall. We saw an Audubon Oriole (they used to be Baltimore Orioles, but they live in a lot of other places). Orioles are migrants. They stop for a meal, then continue on their flight to Maine and Canada.

Surely by now they know I feed them … or Owen does. Since we switched to the big feeders, he has to hoist them. They are too heavy for me to lift. Still and all, this has been a pretty safe place for them. Good food and lots of it, right?

Yesterday just before dark, Owen filled both 10-pound feeders. That’s 20 pounds of feed and it was supposed to last. We also put up the camera which we haven’t taken down yet, but will before the night is over.

One Mourning Dove

Meanwhile, there was a tweet from someone who said that it was lucky Obama isn’t president because he isn’t a billionaire and couldn’t have afforded to send everyone money. How do these people find their way home at night?

These are all squares and high up on the feeders.

So do you know why they are called Brown-Headed Cowbirds? And why they don’t make their own nests but instead. leave their eggs in the nests of other birds?

First, they are called Cowbirds because they followed buffalo herds who were called cows. They couldn’t nest because they were always on the move. They laid eggs and moved on.

Goldfish

Sometimes the baby birds did well, but sometimes they died. They lay a lot of eggs through the seasons and though not every baby bird survives, enough survive to keep Brown-headed Cowbirds alive and well.

Here’s the bigger question. All Cowbirds are raised by other species of birds. Never their own parents. So how do they know they are Cowbirds? They do know but how without a Cowbird mom or dad? It’s a puzzle and no one has been able to answer it.

Downy Woodpecker

BIRDS AT THE TOP OF THE TREE – Marilyn Armstrong

Birds at the top of the tree

You would think with all these birds I’d take more pictures of birds in trees, but it’s hard when there are leaves. The only time in summer I see them is when they are gorging on the seeds.

So these non-feeder pictures are different. Usually, I managed to follow a bird from the feeder to where he or she landed in the branches. Winter is easier, but the birds are prettier in the summertime.

Okay, not a tree, but definitely a perch!

A winter Cardinal in a tree

Red-Bellied Woodpecker high in a tree

Dove in a tree

Cardinal in a tree

THERE’S STARLIGHT IN ALL OF US, BUT SOMETIMES NOT ENOUGH #5 – Marilyn Armstrong

There’s starlight in us all, but not enough …

My long birding lens is a 100-300mm whose lowest f stop is f4. That’s it. For my camera, there is no faster lens this long. This IS the faster lens. The other one was f4.8.

If you don’t take pictures and use lenses, you probably have no idea what an f stop is, but for the rest of you, you know that an f stop indicates how “open” the lens diaphragm is and thus, how much light will let in … and therefore, how bright the picture will be.

Are you still with me? To make this even more interesting, the bigger the opening is, the smaller the number is for that f stop. Do not ask me why. Whoever invented cameras way back when made that decision and the numbers make no sense. You just memorize them, or at least you did when I started photography …  fifty years ago.

Despite the fact that almost all cameras work well in automatic and if your eyes are like mine, probably better, some of us persist in trying to take pictures based on the lens aperture or “film speed.” There is no film, but it used to be film speed. Today, it’s ASA or something like that. I let the camera take care of that.

In the manual camera in which I began my photographic hobby, there was no battery. No electronics of any kind. There wasn’t even a light meter. We used handheld light meters. Also, there was a piece of paper inside the Kodak film box that told you what settings to use for different kinds of light. We called it “the paper meter” and it worked surprisingly well. There were only three things (other than what film to choose) you needed to learn: f stop (lens aperture), shutter speed (how long the shutter stays open), and of course, remembering what speed the film is. Because if you forgot, it messed up your pictures and in those days, you had to pay for all that blurry, unusable film. Photography was expensive.

I had to rebuild all my bird feeders today. One had been knocked to the ground so often, it was no longer round. You just couldn’t get the top or bottom to fit. The flat feeder allowed the seeds to become mush as it has been raining all the time. Or it may just seem that way. It was disgusting and I finally threw it away. We do toss a lot of seed over the fence for the ground feeders. If you peer over the deck rail, you’ll see all the ground feeding birds there. Hard to take pictures of them, though.

So this is about light. Not the light in the picture, but the light I didn’t have enough of when I took the pictures. Not to mention the nearly dead battery that I hadn’t changed before I shot. The battery marker was flashing orange — a bad sign because when the battery is nearly dead, there’s not a lot of zest to the camera — and it’s an f4 lens which I had inadvertently set on aperture — which was definitely wrong for such low light.

The light was very low. It was a few minutes past sunset. There was light, but not much. My 50mm f1.8 lens would have done fine. Even an f2.8 lens might have been okay. But that lens didn’t do it and every single picture I took of a very lovely Cardinal was blurry. Twenty shots, twenty blurs. Some so blurred I just deleted them and seventeen probably need to be dumped, too.

So there’s starlight in all of us, but not enough to take a clear shot after sundown in mid-winter with a 100-300 f4 telephoto lens. And if your camera needs a new battery? For heaven’s sake, just put one in. If the bird flies away, so be it but the pictures you take with your nearly dead battery aren’t going to be great anyway.

Four pictures here from the same chip. The photo of the two juncos was sharp, but I had to crop it a lot to make it square and then do a lot of stuff to get rid of the noise from cropping so tight.

Photography is all about light. The two pictures of Cardinals are impressionistic because they weren’t sharp enough to show otherwise. Blessings upon the creators of filters and especially Topaz. This is as good as it gets when you don’t have the light. Sometimes, you can’t take the picture, no matter how much you want to.

And now, the Juncos. They really didn’t want to be square, but I did it anyway!

Two Juncos on the deck

MORE WINTER BIRDS – Marilyn Armstrong

I see a lot more birds than I am able to photograph. I see them, but when I lift the camera up, they either hide or fly up into the tree. They obviously can see me through the glass doors. They don’t seem to mind me standing there and watching them, but as soon as I pick up the camera, about half of them disappear in a matter of seconds.

Tufted Titmouse

Junco and a Rose-Breasted Nuthatch

Nuthatch and incoming — but not sure what! Going by color, I think it’s a bluebird.

Downy Woodpecker

A Downy Woodpeckerwithout a red patch is a lady. Why does she always look like she’s got a mad on?

She really looks like she’s spent too many hours trying to talk to customer service

Titmouse

Another Titmouse

A Titmouse and a Flying Chickadee

Cardinal in full regalia

Goldfinch and Chickadee

Two bluebirds

I always wonder why some birds show up in a bunch one day, but I don’t see them again for a week or two. They are probably all there while I’m here, on the computer.

I’m finding it weird that it’s nearly Christmas. I’m not ready for another year. I have not yet recovered from this one. Or the one before this one. Actually, I haven’t been right in the head since 2016.

Meanwhile, Merry Christmas! Or whatever you celebrate or even if you don’t celebrate anything. Enjoy the days off or overtime or whatever. Hey, Garry and I got our raises from Social Security. They said it was to “keep up with inflation.”

Are you ready?

I’m getting an EXTRA $18 every month! And Garry is getting an ADDITIONAL $21 every month. Wowee zowee! I hope you’re impressed. It’s the first raise in a couple of years, so they had to make it huge!

A BIG DAY FOR BIRDS – Marilyn Armstrong

It snowed last night. We had no idea how much we’d get because one minute they’d say “just a dusting” and the next they’d say “maybe five or six inches” and finally someone would admit they didn’t know, but something was going to happen.

I sort of hoped nothing would happen, but it’s and early winter, so I was pretty sure we’d have snow. I was hoping it wasn’t going to be a HUGE amount of snow, but that’s not coming till next week.

Flying!

When I woke this morning, it had definitely snowed and every bird in the woods was diving on the feeders. It was earlier than I usually get up, but the birds were enticing. When it’s cold and snowy, they forget to hide from me. They just want food and more food. I believe they eat a great deal when it’s cold and that’s how they survive the weather.

Taking off

I took a few pictures. More than a few. I burned through a whole battery and had to insert a new one. Usually, the birds leave while I’m changing batteries. This time, though, they were too hungry to go anywhere.

A Titmouse and a Flying Chickadee

So I got some great shots of Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal, Mr. and Mrs. Downy Woodpecker, Tufted Titmice, Chickadees, Carolina Wrens and Chipping Sparrows … among others. And a squirrel who snuck in for a snack. For once, I think the overwhelming flock of birds won the day and he left pretty quickly.

Getting wings ready to fly

But Garry said the squirrels were chowing down all morning, so maybe they finally got tired and went home for a nap.

Woodpecker and Titmouse

TWO BUT NOT OF A KIND IN BLACK & WHITE – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Two of Anything


This time of year, I have a shortlist of things of which I take pictures.

  • Birds.
  • Squirrels.
  • Heaps of snow.
  • And occasionally, people.

That’s it. We don’t go to the falls or parks. We do very little traveling because there are crazy drivers out there and all the little parks and falls are blocked by snow. You can’t get there from here.

On the other hand, bird and squirrel watching is at its peak. Everything is hungry and we are the open banquet. I try not to think about how much it costs to buy all that birdseed. Yikes!

Two pink blossoms on the Christmas Cactus

Two hungry birds

Two!

A bit of red remaining on the Cardinal

Two chubby Doves

Two TV persons. Guess which one is the weather guy?

Cee's Black-White