SOMETHING OF THE RED SQUIRREL KIND?

Something like a red squirrel?

This is a mama red squirrel. I can tell because she has teats full of milk, so I guess these cute red squirrels are also breeding. They don’t come out as often as the big gray ones, but they do come when they are hungry. She’s a very pretty one!

THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I live in the woods so I’m no stranger to the little woodland creatures I share real estate with. So when I entered my bedroom the other night, I wasn’t totally surprised to see that something was off. A vase that is usually on a lamp table in the corner, was now on the floor. And next to it were two, fresh, green acorns. Something, or someone, was clearly afoot.

We’ve found squirrels scampering around other parts of the house before. It presents a problem because we don’t want to hurt the cute little guys but we definitely want them out of the house. Once my husband chased a baby squirrel out of our powder room and straight out the front door. Another time he caught one hiding in the fireplace in a large Tupperware container and deposited him outside, away from the house.

So we assumed we were looking for another squirrel. We searched the bedroom and hallway as well as the second floor laundry room. We found nothing. So we went to sleep.

Around 2:30 AM, we were startled awake by the two dogs leaping off the bed and charging down the hallway, shrieking at top volume. The dogs were in an unusual frenzy and we were on immediate squirrel alert. We turned on the lights and searched the whole second floor but again, found nothing out of the ordinary. So we got back into bed.

Remy

A few minutes later, we clearly heard scratching and scurrying and the dogs went crazy again. We got up and went through the squirrel search routine yet again to find the source of the animal noises we had heard. Nothing. By the third time this happened, we decided to stay in bed and leave the police work to the dogs. This went on for a solid hour. Just as we would start drifting off to sleep, we’d hear scratching and/or stereo dog hysteria in our ears.

Lexi

I wish I had a satisfying ending for this story. But the next night, and every night since then, have been quiet, so maybe the dogs scared our nocturnal guest away and he’ll find another house in which to store acorns. I hope so, because I’m not looking forward to another episode of nighttime drama!

Our two dogs in a quiet moment together.

THE BIRDS ARE EATING LIKE CRAZY

I’ve been feeding birds for a few years now and I’m pretty used to their feeding habits. Generally, they come in groups. Flocks of Goldfinches, a couple of Cardinals — orange or red and some orange babies, too. Lots of Nuthatches. The odd Blue Jay. Catbirds. Bluebirds. The other kind of Nuthatch. A few wandering Warblers of the green variety. Some miscellaneous birds I don’t always recognize and of course, a fair number of woodpeckers. Sparrows. Carolina Wrens. These days, a few Robins have come back. They were hit by a virus and went missing for a while. As did the Blue Jays.

Big Woodpecker

This year, we haven’t had the huge number Brown-Headed Cowbirds we had last year. We had a few at the beginning of the season, but none since. We also haven’t had as many squirrels — regular Gray Eastern Squirrels — but we’ve had quite a few Red Squirrels and a few Least Chipmunks. No full-size chipmunks.

Putting water out on the deck has helped too. With all the small wet areas dried up during this drought, the birds and the squirrels all come a drink from the bowl. I fill it every other day, washing it out in between fillings. And now, every morning when I look out the window, I see dozens of birds. All different kinds. Instead of the flocks and sets, they come dashing in, hitting the feeders as if they’ve never seen food before. Many of them have gotten quite fat, so roly-poly that you wonder how they can sit on the edge of the feeder and actually get their beaks in there for the food. They look like brightly feathered tennis balls. Especially the Cardinals are hefty eaters!

I know the Goldfinches are eating a lot because in October they will fly to Toronto (or nearby) to breed, then, in December, come back here again. I sometimes think we are the last safe patch for the birds, saving this last little bit of greenery. It makes me sad because I know when I am not here to feed them, no one will feed them and they will die as so many others have already done. That’s why I urge as many of you as I can to feed them. Feed the birds and feed the squirrels. If we are lucky enough to restore this world, it would be very nice to have some living things in it from these times.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I was reading a book called “A Boy And His Dog At the End of the World,” by C. A. Fletcher who is also the narrator. I couldn’t finish it. It was beautifully written and very well read, but it was painful to hear. I am already brooding over the destruction of our planet and there’s only so much sadness I can deal with. Twenty-twenty has not been a good year.

IT’S A FINE LENS BUT MY EYES WILL HAVE TO GO!

Not being at all ready to accept camera failure as my focusing problem, I redid the pictures of yesterday since my friendly red squirrel was back. A lot of photos later, I knew my eyes aren’t sharp enough closeup on the LCD screen to be sure when shooting tight, that I’m in exactly in focus. I’m shooting with a 300mm lens across a 12-foot deck — which is a bit close for very tight shots unless you can clearly see the focus in the screen. Which I can’t. So what to do?

Back up or zoom down a bit. I zoomed down the lens to increase the depth of field, and voila!

Every picture came out sharp — and ALL of these pictures are unprocessed except for a bit of cropping and reducing their size they will fit my blog.

You might think autofocus would fix the fuzzy bits, but lenses are not electronic. They are optical. Ground from glass to specifications about which I know absolutely nothing, but those of you who are engineers — or opticians — would know. Although there are some electronic features attached to many lenses such as autofocus and electronic meter readings, but ultimately, it’s an expensive piece of glass. Difficult to repair and once broken, it’s gone. For many of us, the camera is the lesser investment. Cameras  are relatively cheap compared to their lenses.

Optics have limits and a lens can only do what the science attached to it allows — and, as I said, I know nothing about that sciece. Like a cell phone, I can use it, but exactly how it really works? Sorry, I missed that part of my education.

I do know what depth of field means, however. A lot of young photographers don’t even know what it is because they bought a camera, always use it on automatic.  As long as the picture comes out okay — why learn more? I can understand how they feel. There are things about which I have little interest, optical engineering being one of them. But I also think anyone who is serious about photography needs to know at a minimum, what an f-stop and ASA (which used to be”film speed”) does and how it translates to CD cards and other electronic recording media. Also, everyone should know what shutter speed does and how these things work together to produce a photograph that will make you say “ooh, aah.” If you are using a “non-DSLR camera” like my Olympus cameras you need to know how the lenses on my camera translate (more or less) to what you can see in your bigger lenses.

Sometimes, one just slips away …

I have three long zoom lenses. One is 12mm to 200mm which gives you a viewing that approximates 24mm to 400mm in a DSLR. I have two longer lenses: a Panasonic 100mm to 300mm zoom (approximates 200mm to 600mm per DSLR) and an Olympus 75mm to 300mm zoom (approximating 150mm to 600mm per DSLR). They really are not the same as a real 150 to 500 lens on a DSLR. They give you a similar “close up view,” but the lens is still whatever it says it is. This is confusing for me. I accept it as true even though all those number flutter past my brain without denting it. Nonetheless, I know the optical thing is true (and my eyes are fooling me) is the pictures comes out differently on each lens. And that includes when you are shooting at the same distance. Your lenses are in charge.

You frame it to get the best of the visual. Next, if you process it, you probably twiddle with the image. It’s okay. Really. Even the revered Ansel Adams twiddled with his photographs. He just did it in a dark room rather than on a computer. I used to know how to do that too, but it was so many years ago, I’ve forgotten it all.

Despite what I’ve forgotten, I recognize I get different results using my 12mm to 200mm lens then when I use either of the longer lenses. The way the lens focuses is different. One of these days, I’ll have the patience to set all the different lenses up and try to take the same shot using each, but not until we are out of what seems to be permanent quarantine and I have something to shoot that isn’t a bird feeder. Maybe a bridge or a dam and I’ll use my newly refurbished tripod. I got a new (much better) ball head and what a difference. Next, all I have to do is go somewhere and take pictures.

Tripod or not, If you shoot too tightly, your photos will be blurry. No amount of autofocus will help. Fixing the problem is easy. Back up or shorten up the zoom to get a longer depth of field, or as the Japanese so elegantly put it, “bokeh.” I’m sure glad it’s just my eyes which need new glasses. Glasses are a lot cheaper than pretty much any lens. Oh, and by the way, all these pictures are straight off the CD card without any processing except cropping and size reduction for publication.

I THINK I NEED NEW GLASSES

I think I need new glasses. I figured this out when after taking a lot of pictures of birds and squirrels, I realized they were all blurry. I could just be having a bad day, but the odds are pretty good that I’m not seeing well. Or maybe my lens needs cleaning. Or the filter.

I’m pretty sure I have an eye test coming up soon. This month, or maybe next month. Maybe I can afford new lenses if I can put them in my existing frames?

 

THE CHANGING SEASON – AUGUST 2020

The Changing Seasons, August 2020

So here we are with summer about to end. It’s Labor Day next weekend. Time to start school. Oh, wait, there is no school. Well, maybe there will be so crunchy leaves underfoot, if only we would get some rain. Everything is so terribly dry.

Personally, I’m a total nervous wreck. This whole refinance business is driving me crazy. My family seems to have the utmost confidence that we are going to be fine. They are sure I’ll manage to make this work while I’m in mortal terror that there will be a last minute glitch and we’ll be left with a complete disaste. I’m absolutely terrified. And apparently, the only one who is. How did THAT happen?

I haven’t taken a lot of pictures. Birds, mostly. Squirrels and red squirrels now. We seem to have more red ones than big gray ones which is very unusual since the red ones are being pushed out by the bigger grays. I put out dishes of water for the birds and squirrels these days because the rivers are running dry and it’s a long fly to the nearest water. It’s also apple season. This area is full of apple orchards, but there has been so little rain. Hard to know if we are going to get much of a crop without water.

I have a lot of trouble understanding people who don’t see the changes in the climate. Warm winters, bone-dry summers, no snow in winter, autumn vanishing almost entirely. We never did get much in the way of spring, but we used to get at least a few weeks of autumn and we always got a real winter. Now? We get sharks. Lots of sharks. Those warm coastal water attract seals and the seals attract sharks. Speaking of sharks, we got a new boiler. Now, all we need is a refinance to finish paying for it. If we run out of money, will they take the boiler back?

New boiler

And of course, no one goes anywhere. We don’t. We are the people the virus for whom the virus searches. We are ready-to-go victims. It’s a horrible way to feel. Sometimes I swear I can hear this unseen plague stalking us. It’s just a stupid virus. Not even a living thing, so how can it stalk us? Yet we feel stalked. I wonder if there will ever be a normal world again.

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About The Changing Seasons

The Changing Seasons is a monthly challenge where bloggers around the world share what’s been happening in their month.

If you would like to join in, here are the guidelines:

The Changing Seasons Version One (photographic):

Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery that you feel represent your month
Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.
Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so that others can find them.

The Changing Seasons Version Two (you choose the format):

Each month, post a photo, recipe, painting, drawing, video, whatever that you feel says something about your month

Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material! Note that this may be harder for those of us who are still quarantined! If it weren’t for birds, I wouldn’t have anything to take pictures of!

Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so others can find them.

If you do a ping-back to Su Leslie’s post, she can update it with links to all of your links.

BIRDS AND A RED SQUIRREL IN LATE AUGUST

I have recently gotten a new lens, an Olympus 12-200mm (24-400 in SLR terms). It overlaps the 100-300 long lens I have. Although I have always known that each lens and each optical design has its own characteristics, this is the first time I’ve so clearly seen the difference. Both lenses can clearly focus on the birds and on the 12-200 lens, the sweet spot is perfect for the location of the birds on the feeder. But there’s a huge visible difference between the two lenses both in the way they capture the birds and in how bright and sharp the background is compared to the birds.

Relaxed red squirrel

If you look, I bet you can tell which pictures were taken with which lens. I like the results from both lenses, but I have to make decisions on what “look” I want the pictures to have when I am taking them.

MAKING WELCOME THE RED SQUIRRELS

I didn’t know there were any red squirrels around here. They usually hang out in fir trees rather than oaks. This feeding cycle, I added fruit to the mix and apparently they just love fruit. Still, I didn’t realize they weren’t the same species until today.

Introducing the red squirrel

I noticed they were smaller, but that could have been youth. But hey, wait a minute. That squirrel is red, not gray. I took some pictures and realized these are not our typical gray squirrels.

For one thing, they are red. Not quite as red as foxes, but not gray. They have a white border around their eyes and a black stripe between their red overcoat and their white stomach. Apparently, according the the National Wildlife Foundation, they live just about everywhere including Alaska — as long as it is north of Georgia. They had never dropped by out house before.

HANGING OUT WITH THE SQUIRRELS

Orange Cardinals? Blue Jays with white crests? How about some normal squirrels just hanging on the feeder. They have a definite and very specific fondness for black sunflower seeds. So do the flying squirrels. As do the raccoons. Not surprisingly, I have to fill that feeder twice as often as the other one.

Just hanging out

He’s flirting with me

Peek-a-boo?

More munching

SO MANY BIRDS AND SOME IN STRANGE COLORS

Yesterday, I saw a bright orange bird flutter by one of our feeders. My camera had just gone to flashing red. My battery was dead. And the bird wasn’t around long enough for me to get a photograph of him. Of course. A little later, Owen was standing at the door and he saw the same bird.

“He looks exactly like a Cardinal … but he’s orange.”

Hanging out on the feeder

I looked up Orioles — the only really orange bird I know — and he had the right color, but everything else was wrong. Black wing bars, no crest. This was making me crazy, so I went online. Cornell University has a huge bird identification site. I finally typed in “orange cardinal” and discovered … there are orange cardinals. Not a lot of them, but it turns out that birds don’t always turn out to be the colors they are supposed to be. It’s called leucism or leukism and all it means is that this bird is the wrong color. if it’s all white with pink eyes, that an albino bird. It’s rare, but it happens. But there are all kind of other strange combination and that had pictures to prove it. I also saw what I swear was a black “Blue Jay” with a white crest. I looked through all my bird books and the only bird that lives anywhere near us with a white crest is an egret. This was no kind of water bird.

Look at the size of that Tufted Titmouse! He looks as big as a dove.

Black & white drawing – two tufted titmouses

There is a special section on the Cornell website that has pictures of birds in all kinds of strange colors. One of them was a Blue Jay with a big white crest. Just like the one I saw. I had been wondering about the huge differences in color I saw among the Goldfinches. Some of the males not only have black caps, but have patches of black all over the  place. Some others are so close to white they are nearly albino. These color changes seem to be particularly common among finches and we have many finches. I was also wondering if these color oddities are inheritable. Our Goldfinches live here year-round except for a two month flyaway to Canada in November for breeding. Why they fly north to breed? Ask the birds, but they do. Then they come back here and lay their eggs. Our Goldfinch population has been growing by leaps and bounds. This year, we have dozens of them. And the House Finches — the red finches — have also gone from a couple of them to flocks. in fact, we have a lot of birds.

Chickadee in the air and a Goldfinch

This morning, I got up to go to the bathroom, but I wound up spending more than an hour watching through the window as the birds gathered in the tree nearest the deck. All different types of birds. Then they started flying to the feeders, grabbing seeds, then flying off. Sometimes, they fly to a branch and break the seed on the branch, then go back again for another seed. The bigger birds don’t have to do that. They can crack the seeds with their bigger beaks. That’s why so many of the bigger birds seem to be, well, kind of fat. Take a look at the Tufted Titmouse. He is the size of two less well-fed Titmouses.

Nuthatch on a tree trunk going down

Instead of going for the coffee, I took bird pictures. I missed all the fancy birds and got lots of Goldfinches, Chipping Sparrows, some kind of brown wren. Maybe a Carolina Wren … they live here in the summer and go south in the winter. Cardinals dropped by, but I didn’t get any shots. Blue Jays were around, and there were some interesting woodpeckers … but they didn’t hang around either.

Three Chipping Sparrows and a Chickadee

What I did notice is that because we feed them, there are birds everywhere. Every tree has two or three kinds of birds on the branches, or like the Nuthatches, climbing up or down the trunk. Squirrels are never far away either. I got one truly obscene pictures of a squirrel’s butt and maybe I’ll find the right venue to display it, but not today. I took too many pictures and deleted about half of them. Some came out well, but others were either to close, too far, or missing their heads. I decided not to do the missing head and stay with birds that were all there.

ALL THE REST OF THE SQUARES

ALL THE REST OF MY SQUARE PERSPECTIVES


It’s the end of the month, so here are square pictures of all the various things I’ve taken square pictures of through the years and months. I’ll be back for the next square month … and that would be my favorite month, October! Enjoy your summer as much as you can. Life may be strange, but it’s the only one we’ve got.

CRAZY ABOUT SQUIRRELS – GOING TIGHTLY SQUARE

The Smaller Picture – Going Tight

It was early in the morning. I’d gotten up to get something more to drink. I looked out the window and there were squirrels. One per feeder. So, I gave the Duke a treat, picked up my camera and took a bunch of pictures. Then I went back to bed for another few hours. Not all of them squared up well, but quite a few of them did.