The meteorologists said it was going to get super cold and it got super cold! I woke up early this morning. My back and I were having an unfortunate relationship. There was no point in fighting to sleep anymore.
I wasn’t going to sleep. I couldn’t find any comfortable position, so I gave up and got up.
It wasn’t all bad, though.
The early birds were up — the ones I usually miss because I’m asleep when they are around.
I finally got pictures of the Cardinal. I’ve seen him often but hadn’t gotten any recent shots of him. Cardinals seem to be early feeders and they move around a lot. He is easy to see, though — the brightest, reddest bird in New England!
There were also a bunch of lady Cardinals lurking around, but they were too shy to come to the feeder and though they settled briefly on the railing, I couldn’t get them in focus fast enough. They are, in their own way, as pretty as the scarlet males. Bright green with a red tail and other markings. Otherwise, they look identical to their more loudly dressed boyfriends.
Meanwhile, every branch in my woods was covered by a thin, shiny layer of ice. The woods were as shiny as a diamond. If I went outside to shoot it (and I’d probably wind up with frostbite as a result AND all the birds would fly away), the pictures would be better. I had to settle from shots through the glass, but I think you can see the gleaming branches.
Lots of shots of birds today. They were quite feisty about who got the feeder this morning, but they settled down after a while.
It was “fill the feeder” day. I didn’t put out the new fancy birdseed because I decided I needed to use up the older stuff first. For a long time, there were no birds.
Later in the afternoon, there was a birdie fiesta in progress. I took pictures. I would have taken more pictures, but (1) I was hungry and needed lunch, and (2) I needed to leave some time to process the photographs.
That’s what I’ve been doing most of the day. Developing pictures. And I ate a sandwich. Which the dogs wanted very much. But I wanted it too. I asked them, “Hey if I’m hungry because you ate my lunch, are you going to give ME treats?” Not one of them could give me a solid “yes” on that, so I went on eating. I actually ate the entire sandwich, but Bonnie cleaned up the crumbs. It’s her job and she’s good at it.
A good friend of mine who lives in Australia reminded me that you can’t always believe the maps in the bird books because he sees birds in his yard that supposedly live hundreds of kilometers to the north, yet there they are.
He pointed out there are trains, trucks, cars and all the other kinds of transports. Birds travel. They don’t have to fly all the way. Instead, they hitchhike. These birds live in Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma. They also, apparently, live in my woods.
I’ve learned a lot about how birds fly. That they always put down their landing gear before they touch the feeder. That they dive off the feeder with wings still folded and I think they really enjoy doing it. They really like flying. It’s not just how they get from place to place. They seem to have fun, too.
There was a lot of flying going on. It got pretty competitive. Despite the fact that I really wanted to get more flying, even with my finger ON the shudder, I can’t hold the really big lens up all the time and the moment I let it down for a minute, I miss the take, the landing, and the little in-the-air kerfuffles of bird-on-bird.
Don’t think bigger birds necessarily win these battles. As often as not, the little ones push the bigger ones away. It’s more about the aggression level of the bird than it’s inherent power.
I took more than 100 pictures today and I don’t think I processed even a quarter of them. I ran out of time before I ran out of photographs. More will come.
I actually displayed a good deal of self-control. I avoided the camera and the birds almost all day, but I was up really early so by two in the afternoon, I needed to point a lens at the birds. I was sure I’d seen a robin. Of course I know it’s a month too early for robins, but there was a flash of red on what looked like a bird’s tummy … so …
It wasn’t a robin. It was a red finch. He came with his own lady finch today.
I thought there was a squirrel waiting in the woods but it turned out to be a big Mourning Dove. My eyes are not good on long distances, so I saw big, brown, squishy creature sitting on a tree limb. It had to be a squirrel.
It wasn’t. Mourning Dove. Big, soft, brown. On a tree limb. Far enough away that I couldn’t clearly see him, but I aimed the camera. It saw him. Or her. Is there a difference between the girls and the boys?
I ordered some of the upgraded birdseed today. See if I can get some new faces around the feeder. Always the same few dozen chickadees, warblers, finches, and nuthatches.
And three or four woodpeckers. And Juncos. We need some more action around here!
Pair of finches
There really was something different on the feeder, but my battery went dead. It had been sending me little flashing orange reminders for a while, but I didn’t take the hint, so by the time I changed the battery, whatever had been there was gone.
I knew I would enjoy feeding the birds, but I had no idea how much I would enjoy having the morning display of every kind of local bird. Not to mention some very stubborn squirrels who seem to have set up a residence.
In the name of surviving this experience, I went down a level in bird food quality. There’s an ugly rumor that birdseed is cheap. Cheap for the birds who get it for free, but at the rate they are chugging it down, we’ll all be eating birdseed before long.
I wasn’t able to get some of the pictures I wanted. By the time I pressed the shutter, something had flown off or landed or disappeared into a tree or behind the feeder.
It was interesting how the squirrel in the flat feeder completely ignored the flocks of birds around the other feeder. Apparently, the squirrels and birds have established a non-military zone, otherwise known as “my back deck.” The squirrel feels that the flat feeder is his or her spot. The birds have strong feelings about the hanging feeder.
At other times, I have seen crows and squirrels go to war over a piece of roof, so a non-military zone is not a given, but apparently is working out for the time being.
There were dizzying flights of birds around the feeder today and though I tried, I was only able to capture one of the birds actually flying off the feeder. The others always seemed to land or disappear from the range of the lens before I could capture them. What is so comforting is knowing that the feeder is there and where the feeder is, so the birds will be.
It’s an ongoing piece of natural theater. Does anyone know which of the many yellow warblers was hanging about today? There are many yellow and green warblers that spend time here especially in the fall and some live here all the time.
They look so much alike, that even with a picture and the book, I cannot tell which is which. Today’s warbler was yellow — almost gold — so it fits into the category of “Confusing Yellow Warblers” in the Peterson guide.
Not to forget that other warblers are brown and speckled and I don’t know their names, either. In any case, it’s very late in the year for any warblers to be here. By now, they all should have flown south to summer in warmer places.
I have a bird feeder on the back deck. Mostly, I see birds eating, but every now and again, one of them flies. I don’t get a lot of birds in flight, but I have some herons, seagulls, and the occasional little bird when my camera gets lucky and grabs a picture … often quite unexpectedly.
Shooting wildlife. Not merely birds, but any wildlife is difficult. It requires patience. I have a friend who shoots pictures of wildcats and mountain lions. I asked him how he did it.
He said: “Lots and lots of patience and a high-quality long lens.”
Luck helps too. Sometimes, there you are and the birds just take off. You just happen to have a camera ready. You can’t plan it, but it’s great when it happens. Makes you look like a genius and all you really did was point and shoot.
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