READYING THE DECK – Marilyn Armstrong

No way around it. I miss the birds! They were always there and all I had to do was get the camera ready and wait … and voila! They would appear in full and glorious color.

Until the squirrels took over. But then I got a lot of cool squirrel pictures. From a photographic point of view, it was a win-win.

Wet and very clean!

Even though I understand this is the right time to take them down, I didn’t think I’d miss them so much. I’d gotten so used to looking out the window to see what birds — or squirrels — were hanging on the feeders. It was the first thing I did in the morning. And the first think Garry did, too.

The deck looks a lot better than I expected

The day after we took down the feeders, there were birds and squirrels wandering around looking forlorn. Even the next day, we had a few cowbirds hanging around. But now, four days later, there are no birds in sight. I had no idea how many birds we had until those feeders went up and you’d never know today that the birds ever existed.

Goldfinches

It’s pouring today, so the clean deck is shiny with water, but now we need another 48 hours of dry weather before we can paint it.

A FLOCK OF FINCHES, A DOVE, AND A BROWN-HEADED COWBIRD – Marilyn Armstrong

It was a super busy day at the feeder and for once, they didn’t all fly off as soon as I picked up the camera. It was a day for Cowbirds sharing the feeder with a little red House Finch.

It was also a day when a big Mourning Dove came to the deck and sat peacefully on the deck railing. He waited politely until the Cowbirds moved on.

After that, he settled down into the flat feeder.

Goldfinches
Goldfinch flock

The Mourning Dove was still in the flat feeder almost two hours later. He doesn’t seem to worry about all the hawks who are hunting for big fat doves … or for that matter, squirrels.

Cowbird and House Finch or maybe it’s a Purple Finch … I can’t tell the difference
Cowbirds and House Finch

I worry about my birds and squirrels. I understand the hawks and the fishers and the coyotes and the Bobcats need their dinner too. Not every animal eats seeds.

Dove on the deck rail

BIRDS DU JOUR – Marilyn Armstrong

Garry decided the poor birds must be starving, so he filled the feeders. Then we stood at the window and watched the tree fill up with all kinds of birds.

Molting Goldfinch

Which was followed by birdly jostling and bonking as various birds tried to knock the other competing birds off the feeder.

The Cowbirds are big and solid and don’t move, though they did at least look up when three finches whacked them at the same time.

A trio

The little squirrel was on the rail looking at the free-for-all, birds and more birds … and finally, he left. He didn’t feel like taking on the Cowbird either.

Watching me, watching you …

So there we are, looking at the feeders. On the flat feeder, there are three Brown-headed Cowbirds. They are about the size of a Robin. On the hanging feeder are a few Goldfinches and several Nuthatches with a mashup of chickadees, Carolina Wrens, and three woodpeckers.

It’s not like he didn’t get his turn, mind you …

I find, these days, that I spend less time shooting pictures and more time just watching the birds and squirrels and their interactions. Also wondering how every bird and squirrel in the woods know within a few minutes that Garry has filled the feeders. Is this what they call “Twitter”?

The feeders are full! Come and get it!

FEATHERY PHOTO BOMBING – Marilyn Armstrong

I always know there’s a bird on the other side of the feeder by the way it swings in the air. A lot of the ladderback woodpeckers like to stay where they can’t see me … and I can’t take pictures. I also know they are there because sometimes I see a feather sticking out of somewhere or suddenly a beak — or even the bird’s head appears, then vanishes.

Goldfinch

I sometimes stand for half an hour with the camera aimed and focused … and there’s nothing. I give up, put the camera down, turn around and there are half-a-dozen birds. Cardinals, woodpeckers, and a whole flock of goldfinches. And more.

Today, there were a lot of birds when I got to the kitchen and almost none after that. It was a warm but drippy day. It wasn’t exactly raining, but it wasn’t exactly not raining. We had to put the dogs out for more than three hours. It was just drizzling and 55-degrees. Yesterday it was closer to 10 — but sunny — so we’ve been having some rather sizable shifts in temperature.

Getting more yellow as the season progresses …

I gather it’s going to snow on Monday. A long, slow accumulating storm.

Not one of those blizzards where we get two inches an hour. No, this is going to be one of those slow, lazy snowstorms. I have to assume it’ll be colder than today but I don’t know how much colder. Since they are forecasting only snow (minus the usual sleet and freezing rain), I’m assuming it’ll be freezing or below.

Unless it stays warm or the storm blows out to sea. You never know.

I don’t know what bird is sticking his head in the picture, but he’s a lot bigger than the Goldfinch! I think it’s one of the Ladderback woodpeckers. The Goldfinch looks better.

I took some pictures of a very determined Goldfinch. Note the head poking out from behind the feeder in the last picture. Photo-bombed again!

THE BIRDS MADE ME DO IT! THE WEEKLY SMILE – Marilyn Armstrong

So there I was. I had poured our coffee. Put the lids on. Set out the little breakfast cookies in their dishes and I was getting ready to deliver it to Garry and settle down to check comments on the posts.

That was when I swiveled my head and there, hanging on to the recently (yesterday) filled bird feeder was either a big downy or small hairy woodpecker.

I love woodpeckers.

I said “Oh, ooh, ah … ” and totally lost the coffee and the cookies and pretty much everything. Garry sighed and came to collect it himself. It was obvious I had lost it.

I have four cameras lined up in the dining room on the end of the table. That’s where the windows are. I almost always use the Panasonic FZ1000 with the 450 mm lens because it’s a smart camera, long enough for the purpose (usually) and it’s designed so one lens does it all.

When you are shooting birds, you don’t have time to change lenses. By the time you have the lens half-changed, the birds are gone, or the one you most wanted has flown. One way or the other, the name of the game with birds is simple.


SHOOT FIRST. SORT AND PROCESS LATER.


I’m getting better about it, too. I used to spend so much time framing everything to perfection, I mostly got lovely shots of naked branches. I could point to where the bird had been, but there was no bird in the picture. Not very satisfying.

I finally got it through my head that I can straighten and format after I shoot. If you don’t take the shots, you may never get another opportunity. In wildlife shooting, there are rarely second chances.

I do love the woodpeckers. They have class.

Finch and Chickadee

It’s pretty hard to tell a Downy from a Hairy Woodpecker. They are essentially identical except that the Hairy is a bigger and sometimes (but not always) has a bit of red on his head (but if it’s a she, no red anywhere). The main difference is that the Hairy has a longer beak.

This is a hard differentiation to make unless the two happen to be standing side by side for your inspection — something which has never happened in all my years of bird watching.

That’s why we have books.

Bet on it. It’s a Nuthatch.

Speaking of which, I ordered a new bird book. I keep seeing birds that either “officially” don’t live here or have supposedly migrated southward —  months ago. I looked at the imprint on the book and realized it was 1979. I ordered the most recent Peterson (second-hand, but supposedly in new condition) which is from 2010. While not exactly written yesterday, it should fill some of the blanks for me. Especially about the Goldfinches that aren’t supposed to still be hanging around my deck in December, but obviously are.

I have seen some birds of which I couldn’t get a decent shot. A really big (REALLY big) Red-headed Woodpecker too far back in the woods for my camera to focus on him, so I got a little flash of him — not worth processing, but at least I know I wasn’t delusional — and a very good look at a huge Pileated Woodpecker. I’d like to assume it was the Ivory-billed (almost extinct?) Woodpecker, but in bird-watching, if you think you are seeing the rarest species, you aren’t. It’s the next one down on the list. Which could be quite rare enough.

A goldfinch and a chickadee. No, I don’t know which Goldfinch. There are a lot of them.

This is the bird watcher’s “Murphy’s Law.” Actually, it holds for all wildlife viewing. If you think you are seeing something that’s pretty much gone, you are seeing something similar, but it ain’t that. Unless you work for National Geographics and that’s your job.

So the woodpecker got me this morning. I was going to write something smartly political, maybe about declining stocks and Brexit. Something intelligently timely, but instead, there was a Downy Woodpecker and a camera.

Nuts to politics. Show me the birds … and I’ll show them to you!

THE WEEKLY SMILE