WIRES AND THE WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH – Marilyn Armstrong

White-Breasted Nuthatch with wires as fall washes away 

We almost had a real Autumn. The leaves were just beginning to change for real. A bit of red was showing in the maple tree in front of the house. But tonight, the winds are coming up and the rain is coming down. It’s the end of the foliage. By tomorrow, the leaves will be red on the ground.

But meanwhile, here’s a last-minute picture of a nuthatch as the season ends.

White-Breasted Nuthatch

OUT ON THE DECK – Marilyn Armstrong

It was a busy day on the deck.

The first thing I do when I get up in the morning — even if it’s just to give a treat to the barking dogs — is to look at the feeders. At least one of the feeders usually has a tail, so I figure I’m feeding a squirrel. There’s usually a bird or three on the other feeder, one of which is a woodpecker … and these days, a Blue Jay.

I grew up in New York and Blue Jays were common birds. All garden birds were common and until I started to really look at the birds. Unless it was a hawk or a seagull, they were all “just birds.”

Our little chipmunk
A very common squirrel!
They get hungry too
Downy Woodpecker
Two birds
Wens and Titmouse

It’s funny how I’ve come to become a birdwatcher. I never intended it, but my first sister-in-law was a serious watcher. She used to drag me out of bed before dawn to hear the larks singing.

House Finch

Then, in Israel, I realized that for a week in April, every raptor in Africa flew through Jerusalem on their way to Europe or Asia. They used to come and sit on our windowsills. Some of them became quite tame … until it was time for them to fly on.

Goldfinch is back
Red-Bellied Woodpecker

It was a gradual thing. For a long time, I looked at the birds in the winter yard, yet it took years until I put up feeders. Why did it take me so long to put up those feeders?

The brightest Cardinal in our garden
Blue Jay

I don’t know. I really don’t. Maybe because I hadn’t absorbed how endangered this world was and how the beautiful birds were disappearing. I love those birds. They are beautiful, but they are also a symbol. We’ve lost 30 million birds in a decade and will lose another 30 million in five more — or less.

Big Red-bellied Woodpecker
Lady Cardinal

We all need to do the best we can to help where we can. Maybe pay a few cents more for clean energy. Buy some birdseed and feeders. Recycle. We can’t fix everything, but we can do what we can.

THE ZOO ON THE DECK – Marilyn Armstrong

They announced on the news that another 2 or 3-degree rise in temperature will cost us about 3 million birds over the next year, especially sea birds like seagulls as well as eagles and hawks.

Growing chipmunk

I don’t want to think about it. I knew from the number of birds I’m NOT seeing this year that the weather is already killing them. They are here, but in greatly reduced numbers and many birds are missing.

Chipping Sparrow
Downy or Hairy? Could be either!

We have quite a little zoo going on out there. We have the usual birds. We have a couple of nervous squirrels (they will calm down and refuse to budge) and now, every day our little (but growing fast) chipmunk.

Carolina Wren
Titmouse in the Autumn leaves

Mostly, I’m seeing Rose and White-breasted Nuthatches and several kinds of woodpeckers. Also a few wrens, titmice, and Goldfinch. None of the little red finches have come back. No doves. I saw one Blue Jay. No Robins.

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

We have lost 30 million birds over the past decade and stand to lose another 30 million during the next five if we don’t get the temperature down.

I feed them, but it’s not nearly enough. Please, if you have any room, put up feeders. The birds are not doing well and backyard feeders make a huge difference in the birds’ ability to survive, especially in colder climates!

THE GOLDFINCH CAME HOME! – Marilyn Armstrong

It’s not the big flock I had last year, but three Goldfinch showed up today and hung around long enough for me to get their pictures. They were the stars of last winter’s bird portraits. They are so awfully cute.

Welcome home American Goldfinch

We also had a visitor I haven’t seen in years. It was a baby Chipmunk! We used to have hordes of Chipmunks chittering at us as they tried to take over the driveway. Then the bobcat showed up and he ate them. All of them. This is the first Chipmunk I’ve seen in at least five years. He was so little!

What a cute pair!
A Titmouse and his little pal

Hunting, I guess, for seeds left on the deck. For some reason, I didn’t take his pictures. I was so bedazzled just seeing him on the deck. I even had time to call Garry over to see him too, so I certainly could have taken his picture, but I was having so much fun watching her skitter around the deck looking for seeds.

A better version of a flying … wren?

The birds are coming back. Slowly. The Mourning Doves are still missing, but maybe they are just being shy. They are also a bit big for these feeders. They liked picking seeds from the deck. They are flat feeders.

On a positive note, we have lots of joyously singing Carolina Wrens.

Fair Lady Cardinal

Also, I saw, but he was gone before I could get the picture, a full red-headed woodpecker. Not the big one who looks like Woody. This one looks just like the Red-Bellied Woodpecker, but his entire head is completely red. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen one outside a bird book.

Sometimes, it’s good to live in the woods.

A PHOTO A WEEK: CHANGING SEASONS – Marilyn Armstrong

We haven’t gotten much in the way of autumn foliage. Hardly any. Little patches of yellow and occasionally a hint of red. It’s not much, especially considering how glorious our foliage can be. We were blah last year and the year before. So this will be the third year without “real” autumn.

Mumford River Dam in downtown Uxbridge

Garry’s got an ugly abscess in a tooth, so we had to be at the dentist early this morning. As it happens, the dentist’s office is next to the Mumford River dam. I took a few pictures. They aren’t great. I did intensify the colors a bit because they were so pale. It hardly looks like autumn.

But oddly, our woods is very bright with yellow leaves this year. No red or orange — we don’t have any maple trees back there. But the aspen and the vines are very bright and you can see them behind the bird feeders. So I guess it’s not a complete loss!

 

IT’S COOL BEING SQUARE – DAY 1 and 2 – Marilyn Armstrong

Chickadee on a line
Woodpecker on the line of the feeder

Making up two for one! Happy squares and lines!

RAW OR JPG? WHAT’S YOUR FORMAT? Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Raw

All of my cameras, including my pocket-sized cameras, are designed to shoot either jpg, which is the standard publication format for graphics on the Internet — or RAW, which is strictly data, but can capture subtleties of detail, color, and texture of which jpg is not capable.

I have always been advised to use RAW because it produces finer detail and gives you more room for advanced processing.

I don’t use it.

I did try it in the beginning when I got a camera that could handle it, my first Olympus. I was underwhelmed. Sure, you could process for those fine details, but since I wasn’t printing my pictures or publishing them in a book, the difference between RAW and jpg was invisible to most viewers and RAW files take up a staggering amount of room on ones hard-drive.

Red-bellied Woodpecker with a very pointy beak (jpg)

I finally asked a few people I knew well what they did with all that RAW data? Surely they didn’t try to store it on their computer — or even back it onto a hard-drive. Each raw image was at least triple the data quality for an equivalent jpg. The answer was the same, often a slightly ashamed and embarrassed “I don’t use RAW … there’s no point when you are using a computer and not printing.” Or, alternatively, “I transfer it into jpg then dump the RAW files.”

It turns out I was far from the only shooter who just couldn’t see substantive advantages to using that much memory. Memory may be cheap at the moment, but they will make changes to it and suddenly — again — we will all have to buy entirely new external back-up devices because the industry changes constantly.

Worse, RAW data is always changing. For me, that additional step of having to transfer the RAW into a processible image was one step beyond my time constraints. If I was doing this professionally, maybe.  But maybe not. I rarely — if ever — have images that profoundly out of normal range to work with and since I overshoot everything anyway, I always have another, a nearly identical image with which to work.


All these are jpg images.


For those of you who have grappled with this RAW versus jpg issue for years, there are tons of articles about it all over the internet. But consider how much time you already spend processing and ask yourself if you have the time to do that much more processing on top of what you already do. Get back to me on that. I’m genuinely interested. I doubt I will change how I work, but I’d like to know how other people feel about it.

So I don’t shoot RAW. Sometimes, I have a guilt reaction about it. Maybe I should be using the format. “Everyone says so.”

Except that everyone doesn’t say so. Everyone thinks everyone else is saying so.