Archive for the 'Birds' Category

Speaking of Owls

150323_016Dusk is always a challenge to photograph.  You are working with low light.  There is a change of shift in the bird world.  Day birds slowly disappear and night birds start showing up.  This barred owl, came out to investigate me.  There actually were two for a few moments.  Barred owls are easy to find if you listen for them.  They sound like, “who cooks, who cooks for you all”.    You may be able to hear them call, but they silent when the fly.  This gives them an advantage when hunting.  Great eyesight and stealth flights, give them a great advantage at night.

Great Horned Owl Chicks

With Spring working its way in, baby birds and animals will start making themselves known.  Sometimes you are lucky to find photo opportunities on your own and other times people will share those great places with you.  A co-worker and birder told me he had a nest of owls in his neighborhood.  He said it was a couple of houses down from where he lived.  He and his girlfriend had been enjoying them for a few weeks and had enjoyed hearing the parents all winter.

Not having opportunities often to photograph owl chicks, I headed out.  It is a 25 minute drive to the nest site from my house.  People ask, why would you drive 25 minutes to see a bird’s nest?  Because when the opportunity presents itself, it can be a real hoot…  I know, I could have chosen my words better there.

150327_070_n1_p_wpIt was fun watching the owls.  One of the parents was watching me too.  It was a nice evening and I was even able to talk with one of the neighbors who was excited to have them nesting nearby.

Hopefully I will have more of these kids as they grow up and leave the nest.

The Little Chickadee

Spring is closing in.  It was nice late this afternoon.  Maybe a little chilly, but great to be outdoors.  I went down to the river to do a little photography.  There were plenty of birds around.  In the 40 minutes or so that I was down there, I saw chickadees, hairy woodpeckers, titmice, red-bellied woodpeckers, cardinals, turkey vultures, and canadian geese.  As you can tell it is slowly starting to green up out there.

150403_041_n1_p_wpSoon the little ones will start showing up.  Time to start looking for nests.

Great Photography and Backyard Habitat Workshop Today

Red Wing Blackbird

Red Wing Blackbird Along Roadside

Today was a fun day.  Some friends, Richard and Susan Day of “Daybreak Imagery”   http://www.DaybreakImagery.com   were in town today giving a presentation.  The Decatur Camera Club  http://www.DecaturCameraClub.net and Macon County Conservation District  http://www.MaconCountyConservation.org organized the workshop.  Richard started off talking about taking pictures of birds in your backyard.  He shard some of the equipment, blinds and patience it takes to get the photographs.  He shared some tips such as backgrounds, placement of seeds, use of water and many other things.

Then Susan took over and talked about planting for wildlife.  She talked about the flowers, plants, trees and shrubs needed to attract birds, butterflies and hummingbirds.  She is an expert in the field and has written books and many articles on the subjects.

Richard ended the program talking about photographing butterflies, dragonflies and humming birds.  He talked about the equipment needed from the most basic to the elaborate to accomplish the task.

Richard and Susan have been published by National Geographic, Audubon, and many other magazines.  Their photography and writings have been used in many calendars, cards and articles.  They give presentations throughout Illinois and surrounding area on their crafts.

Thanks for  a great day, and the encouragement you always give after seeing your presentations.  I went out afterwards and took a few minutes along a roadside to photograph the Red Wing Blackbird above.  Some of the tips they shared helped in capturing the image.  I imagine everyone attending walked away with some new knowledge in attracting and photographing wildlife.  Thanks again…

Cool but Sunny, and Time for the Birds

Today, it was a little cooler than a few days ago, but the sun was shinning.  I have had my photo blind up all winter, but have not been able to use it.  Today, I spent some time in it, so I will have been able to use it at least once before taking it down in the next few weeks.  A swing goes in the same spot for the summer.

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There was not much variety today for the birds.  We ran out of seed, so it was just what ever came in to pick up leftovers.  The cardinals stopped by for brief visit, but not where I could get a camera on them.  Dark-eyed Juncos were everywhere.  They are such a soft colored bird.  Not a lot of excitement, but still one I enjoy seeing.

New Year for Heron Rookery

Heron Rookery View

Heron Rookery View

Every Spring I look forward to getting out to see nature coming to life.  There are several Heron Rookeries that I visit.  This rookery is a large on with over 160 nests.  It has maintained a constant size for the last few years.  Even though the rookery is a beautiful site, imagine the mess that over 300 birds can make.  Imagine when the chicks come along.  I am looking forward to the noise the chicks make when they are active.  Visit this page at “All about Birds”   http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/great_blue_heron/sounds   and listen to the sound clip called “Begging Young at Nest”.  Now imagine over 300 of them squawking at the same time.  It is a sound you never forget.

Great Blue Herons Pairing Up at Nests

Great Blue Herons Pairing Up at Nests

Here is closer view of the herons at the nests.  They are paring up and soon will start mating.

Getting out there now allows the nests to be counted, as the leaves make it impossible to view all the nests.  Soon leaves will fill in the holes you see and only a few nests will be visible to the eyes.  The young will be born, and the parents will have their “Beaks” full taking care of the little ones.

Great Blue Heron Sitting in Tree

Great Blue Heron Sitting in Tree

For now it is the adults that I share in my blog.  Soon I will return, and a new generation will reveal itself.  I hope you come back to see more of my adventures with camera.

A Season of Contrast

Sitting in my office tonight I reminisce of the week gone by.  The windows are open and all is quite except the faint lone dog barking in the distance.  The sound of a train whistle breaks the air.  The sound of the keys on the keyboard, producing letters to be explored by those who come upon this imagery of contrast in weather and life from one weekend with life the weekend that followed.

Last weekend there was snow.  There was lots of snow.  There was more snow than we’ve had in few years.  Being the adventurous person I am, I did a little camping in my backyard, sorta.  Using a hunting blind as a tent, to protect me and my equipment I hid from the scurry of life in my backyard.  Hiding is of importance here, wanting to photography the wildlife, I must hide, so they can live, eat and play.  Wanting to be amongst them, but not changing their behavior is the goal.  I set up my camera equipment inside, and then moved outside for a few minutes.  I set up a few props also, hoping to bring the birds in close and have some control of the setting.

Hungry and cautious is part of survival.

Hungry and cautious is part of survival.

Soon a bird or two appeared.  Starting in the back of the bushes they slowly worked closer to the feeder.  Just a few hours before, there was food available on the ground everywhere, easy pickins.  Now, all that is covered with snow.  White snow is everywhere, and it may be a long night.  All the food is covered, so the birds seek out the feeders to eat and gain energy for warmth to carry them though the night.

I sit inside the blind on an old cooler, with gloves, hat and coat on, watching, waiting, watching.  Birds come and spend some time, moving from branch to  branch, taking their turn at the feeder.  Waiting their turn while keeping an eye in the sky.  Danger not only comes from the cold and not having food to warm them through the night, but other birds (bigger birds) fly over.  They feed at the bird feeders also.  Only they don’t eat bird seed.

A brilliant cardnal's contrast with the snow.

A brilliant cardinal’s contrast with the snow.

Something flew over.  Something moved.  I am not sure what it was, but the birds are alarmed.  They all fly for cover.  Some head for the bushes, and some for places unknown.  The rush of wings is fast and furious, then silence fills the air once more.

Sitting there watching and seeing nothing out the window of my hide, I think of the photo ops I missed.  I look back at some of the ones I captures on the back of my camera.  Looking out, nothing, nothing at all is in sight.  I pick up my soda and take a drink.  Then another drink, put the cap back on and set it back on the ground.  Patience pays off in this game of hunting with a camera.

Soon, I hear the chirp of another bird.  Ten seconds of its voice fills the air.  Then quite again.  Soon another bird voices up, and another joins in.  I hear the flutter of wings fly over my tent, and stop in the bush next to me.  The window on that side is not open, so I am not able to see what landed there.  Then the game of waiting it out starts again.  A bird lands in the bush twelve feet away.  It is joined by another.  They hop and flutter from one resting area to another in front of me.  But they are deep inside the bush, so taking the picture is out of the question.  Still watching is fun.  The anticipation is greater.

Bird landing on snow in front of my hide

Bird landing on snow in front of my hide

Fantastic.  Just six feet in front of me it lands.  I slowly swing my lens around, focus, and soon the sound of the camera joins in the chorus.  The camera shutter sings as image after image are taken.  I take one, then another, then a burst of images and then one more.  One of those has to be the one.  The contrast of sounds, both are music to my ears.

A week later contrast shows again.  It was cold, wet and unforgiving when I took the images above.  Today, things are different, or are they?

Again, I find myself hiding in the blind, sitting on my cooler and drinking another soda.  Life can be so fun.  It is warm with a little breeze.  It is very comfortable sitting on my roost, with short sleeves on.  Again, a game of patience.  Sitting there and listening.  I think about the pictures I had taken last week.  I think about the pictures I would like to capture today.  Contrast again, it is much easier today.  I am warm and so are the birds.  Last week there was little food for the birds, so they came in numbers to the feeding station in my backyard.

Today things would be different.  I sat in my hide for ninety minutes.  I listened to the slow breeze.  I could hear a dog bark in the distance.  Sometimes there would be two of them.  I could hear neighbors out talking and moving things around.  Contrast is here again.  Much different from last week, sitting in the blind, watching survival playing itself in front of me.

I can hear birds singing their songs around me.  But today would be different.  A contrast of life again.  I am not seeing many birds.  Few are landing in the bush before me.  There is food everywhere.  Survival is not as difficult.  A change in my backyard.  A playground for some other adventurous visitors today.

A squirrel overlooking backyard

A squirrel overlooking backyard

Today a squirrel dominated the feeder.  It sat there and ate and ate and ate.  None of the birds dared to join in.  They would sit and watch, then finally leave.  Things are different this week.  It is a feast for one today.

Feasting Squirrel

Feasting Squirrel

This squirrel was taking its time.  I never filled it mouth full, it just ate one seed at a time.  It would reach down for seed, then pop back up and keep its eyes open for trouble, and eat and eat and eat.  Trouble could have been a big bird, like the little birds were on alert for last week.  But, mainly this squirrel was on guard to defend it cache of food.  Another squirrel friend would show up.  It sat on the fringe area watching, pondering if it should make its move to the feed.  Moving and stopping, moving again it would get too close.  The one on the feeder would take off and chase it away.  Then back to feast again, all to itself.

Then came along the bravest and most successful critter of them all.  The squirrel was annoyed, but somewhat put up with a chipmunk that joined in to feast.

Chipmunk with cheeks buldging with seed.

Chipmunk with cheeks bulging with seed.

Cautiously the chipmunk would make its way close.  It would move under the feeder to pick up feed on the ground.  The squirrel would move some and off the chipmunk would run.  Soon it appeared again, and repeat the scene again and again.

Then the little one became a little bolder.  It would climb on the feeder with the squirrel.  It would come up on the blind side of the feeder with a log laying between it and the squirrel.  It would fill its mouth with seed and take off to empty it.  Back it would come.  Cautious, but daring it would climb up to the table.  It would gather more seed, then jump up behind the log for a short time looking with anticipation, and figuring its next move.  Again down into the feeder it would go.  Filling its mouth with food to go hide for days to come, it was cautious watching the squirrels every move.

Slowly the squirrel became more accepting of the little one and the chipmunk became more bold and a little less nervous.  It still had its guard up, but they shared, as there was plenty for each of them.

There was contrast from last weekend to this weekend.  Both times I set out to photograph birds.  One a cold, snowy,wintry day, I was lucky.  Birds were everywhere, sharing and feeding at ease with each other.  Today, a king of the feeder dominated it.  No birds allowed, and no squirrels either.  Then as its belly filled up, it welcomed a nervous little chipmunk.  Both had all the food they needed, and life was much easier too.

Both days were enjoyable.  Both days were different.  I hoped for one thing, but quickly adapted to what I was given.  Both were relaxing and fulfilling.  Both produced some pictures and both took me far away from the grind of day-to-day living.

What a contrast.  Great contrast happened in only a weeks time.  Both are rewarding.  I sitting here writing and thinking about another contrast I mentioned.  The sights and sounds of this afternoon are on my mind, as I listen out an open window to the darkness and I pound keys on my keyboard to share the feast of life experienced in a little hide in my backyard.

New Years Eve Day in the Snow

Happy New Years Eve to everyone.  Today I spent more time in the blind photographing birds.  I have been hoping for snow, and it came today.  Bundled up, I sat on a cooler (really) and waited for the action to happen.  After a few minutes the sparrows came in.  There are plenty of them around.  They can eat you out of house and home.  I took a few pictures of them while waiting for the birds I wanted to photograph.  I could hear them around me, but could not see them.  Cardinals were chirping and putting out their call.  It is a pretty sound they make.  Some people would not enjoy sitting in a blind, with the only comforts, a cooler to sit on and a soda pop to drink on a cold day.  For me, that is a whole lotta fun.  Soon the cardinals came in.  There were five at one time.  Everyone thinks of the bright red male cardinal, but the female is just as pretty.  She has softer colors.  They work really well with the snow as a background.  She is a soft, but eye-catching sight.

Female Cardinal and Snow

Female Cardinal and Snow

Soon, I could hear the Blue Jays.  Three or four would come in at a time.  The cardinals came in for the oiled sunflower seeds.  Blue Jays enjoy peanuts in the shell.  You don’t want to feed them the kind you buy at the grocery store that you enjoy eating.  You want raw and not roasted peanuts.  It was fun to see them land on the feeder and pick up a shell.  They would peck a hole in it most of the time.  I guess to see if it is full or empty.  Sometimes they would peck at it several times and it would sound similar to a woodpecker rapping on a tree.  Then they would put the whole peanut shell in their mouth and fly away.

Blue Jay in Snowy Bush

Blue Jay in Snowy Bush

As you can see the cardinals came back for more.  Thy would land in the bush next to the feeder and look around a little before hopping on down to the ground feeder.  The sound or the birds chirping and the sounds of their wings as the fly by are a great way to drift away from the schedule that fills my day.  Soon I hear what sounds like a hawk, but none of the birds scatter.  It must be a blue jay.  They will mimic a hawk.  Soon they are back with the sparrows, cardinals, chickadees, wrens and others fueling themselves with energy to stay warm tonight.

Female Cardinal Sitting in Bush with Snow

Female Cardinal Sitting in Bush with Snow

After spending a couple of hours in the blind, I headed to Rock Springs Nature Center  www.maconcountyconservation.org   It was beautiful.  The snow blanketed the ground.  It would crunch as I walked the trails.  The sound of the woods in snow is quiet.  You will hear a bird once in a while, but silence is what snow brings.  First I headed to the old homestead.  During the warmer months they have people who give tours and talk about how people lived here.  There is no heat other than a couple of wood stoves.  I would guess they could keep it toasty in there.  A snowy day in a warm cabin sounds like fun.

Old Homestead on Snowy Day - Rock Springs Conservation Area

Old Homestead on Snowy Day – Rock Springs Conservation Area

Then I walked to the pine tree forest.  Seven deer ran across the path ahead of me.  I imagine they are the same ones I saw when at the homestead.  They were across the way at the pond.  They ran up the hill in the prairie.  Two of them stopped to watch me for a little while, and I watched them.  There was someone else with a couple of kids who enjoyed watching them also.  A minute or two went by and I was back on my way to the forest.

Survival Hut - Rock Springs Conservation Area

Survival Hut – Rock Springs Conservation Area

It was getting dark.  The sun had just went down.  There was this shelter in the middle of the forest.  Many times these are built by school children when they take group tours of Rock Springs  www.maconcountyconservation.org  It is a teaching tool and the kids have fun.  I would be thankful to have a shelter like this if stranded somewhere, but I am really thankful for my nice warm home.

Playing in the snow is the best way to spend New Years Eve.  It made my day, and I had fun with the camera.  Have a Great and Blessed New Year.

Another Morning In The Blind

Today I was able to set up and photograph from a new blind.  Someone I work with enjoys bird photography, but has had hit and miss luck with it.  I let him borrow a blind today and we set it up in his backyard.

It was really cool, as there were all kinds of birds, but no sparrows.  We set up regular feed and some suet to attract the birds.

It is amazing how different habitat to work with can make a difference in your pictures.  As mentioned before, I have a small space and a lot of habitat surrounding the area to work in.  Most of my pictures will be more environmental photography of the birds.  He has more open area with a lot of feeders.  We are able to work with the background more and give the pictures a different feel.

As he experiments with setups and backgrounds it should be fun to see the images that will come from the property.  Hopefully you will see images from both settings on the blog over the next year.

Nature is fun to watch and be in, whether it is walking in the woods, sitting in a wetland, along a mountain stream or sitting in your own backyard in a photo blind.  Take some time yourself and enjoy the natural environment around you.

Turkey Day Bird

Not quite a turkey, but a good bird for the day.  The area I photograph is in the shade during the good light of day.  So I welcomed the light cloud cover this morning.  It produced the diffused light later in the day that made photography work.

I have a very small area to work with, so there is not a lot of variety of setups yet.  As I learn, I hope to change things up a bit.

 

For right now I will be shooting a lot of sparrows.  That is what the seed we are using is bringing in.  I will add some new seed in the near future to hopefully draw more types of birds.  I still have some cardinals come in.  I had two male and one female at one time today.

Thanksgiving is a time with family and friends.  It is a time to reflect on what God has done for us.  We see the diversity and complexity of nature.  It amazes me how it all fits together.

I am thankful for His Son and the Salvation He brings.

I Hope Everyone has a Happy and Wonderful Thanksgiving, and Great Days to Come.