Thursday, January 31, 2013

Thrashing About.

I apologize for the poor quality of these photos, but they were they best that I could capture in such a short time and I have not posted about this bird.

This brown thrasher, sometimes incorrectly called the brown thrush, is fairly common throughout the eastern part of the U.S. and is the state bird of Georgia and the official name of Atlanta’s former National Hockey League team, the Atlanta Thrashers.   I sometimes confuse him with the wood thrush as they are similar in behavior, size and color.  But my brown thrasher has yellow eyes which is the primary clue.  My thrasher's bill is larger and curved.  He is sometimes referred to as the mockingbird of the south and they do belong to the mockingbird family.  They usually build their nests high in evergreen trees but also nest in hedgerows when available.  

He thrashes about in the woods and sounds like a squirrel tossing leaves. These birds are usually seen in the woods throwing up leaves and detritus in search of insects and berries...not usually seen on feeders as mine is in the photo above!  I must say that I have not heard him sing or perhaps recognized his song in my woods, but poems have been written about his many songs.  According to Wikipedia "The male Brown Thrasher has the largest song repertoire of any North American bird, which has been documented at least over 1,100."

These photos are rare as I see him only once or twice a year.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

New Day

The morning began
With sharp shards of light
Slicing cleanly through gray trees
And skidding across the crust of snow.

The sounds of
A white padded room
Filled the air. 

Two red shouldered guardians
Stood watch
On mid-high branches
Patiently waiting
For any opportunity.

Red male cardinals,
Also waiting,
Glowed imperially
Against the gray sky,
Ruby pear-shaped ornaments
tucked in Vs. 

Small brown birds
Remained stiff
As if stuffed with cotton
Hidden under prickly 
Holly leaves

It is a frozen wait,
With icy patience,
For a new day.

Of course 
The Sun 
Had to have 
The last laugh

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Thought I would share a few winter bird photos.  The cold weather has finally arrived forcing the birds closer to the bird feeders and you will see some below all fluffed up.  This is for those of you too busy to put out feeders or too far from nature as you head out to work.  Enjoy!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Raiding the Larder

Berries are a wonderful sustenance during the cold winter months for man and bird. We have frozen strawberries which we have made into a syrup for our pancakes.   It is a sweet, brief reminder that spring is just around the corner and spring berries will be ripening and waiting for picking by man and bird soon.

We also have frozen pyracantha berries in the front yard.  There is a mockingbird in the front yard that has been hanging out over the 10 foot long pyracantha hedge that separates the vegetable garden from the lawn.  He struts and snaps his tail with territorial courage balancing on the garden fence.  The healthy hedge is full of red berries and nasty thorns. The frost has finally come to the yard and the bright fire-engine-red berries are turning a deeper blood red. The colder weather softens and sweetens these ruby orbs.  The mockingbird has been chasing away every cardinal and titmouse in his effort to claim the harvest, but there is enough to share and he will have to admit that truth eventually when his belly is too full or the titmouse below wearies him.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Stand-up Comedy

I have spent a fortune on bird seed...more than you  have spent this year on shoes or beer.  I am sure.  But I still get no respect around here.

"The sun has been up for 15 minutes and the feeders are still empty!!??  What in the heck are you doing in there?"

"I am still waiting!  Get off the couch you slug.  It is  NOT that cold out here, and I am not moving."

"What is this stuff?  You expect me to eat cheap cracked corn?  Do I look like a crow?"

"You do realize these are stale, right?"

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Parsley (Holly), Sage(Birch), Rosemary and Thyme

Those of us who are photographers know that what is shown in a photograph is not always what was seen by the photographer.  Some purist photographers feel that any tweaking, other than the kind of light adjustment that was made in a darkroom many years ago, is invalid in the world of photography.  I tend to be liberal (as I am in everything else) regarding hard and fast rules in any kind of art, and digital photography opens up lots of opportunity for tweaking.  My rule is that you need to be honest in your work.  Therefore, I am going to give you a few clues that may help you if you are trying to get backyard bird photos or if you wonder about some of mine.

1.  You do need a good camera and a telephoto is almost a necessity unless your birds are very tame with your presence and not afraid of the clicking sound.
2.  You can shoot in automatic.  But if you have a nicer camera you should set your camera on aperture priority.  If it is too close to dusk you will need to up your ISO.
3.  If the auto mode is what you are most comfortable with, you can try to use the "sports" mode that many cameras have.

OK enough technical stuff for those of us who do not make our living at this.

The next thing to do is set up the scenery.  Use a stool or backyard table and get it as close to your blind (where you hide and shoot) as you can.  Decorate this table with natural stuff.  The photo below is where my blog post title came from:

We lost a lovely birch tree last winter and I love the bark texture on this tree.  I picked some rosemary and some thyme and cut a holly branch for a quick set-up.  We have not talked about light which is the MOST important aspect of photography for me, and as you can see, I try to set this so that light came across giving interesting shadows in the early morning.

You can select berries or parts of plants.  Whatever works.  Then you add some bird food.  In the photo above you can see the wren has found the sunflower seed and scattered it all over as he opened the shells.

Then the object becomes the need to hide all the unnatural stuff.  I will have to camouflage the deck fence in back and make sure the clip on the table cloth in the lower right hand corner of this photo above does not show.  Of course, it is not all that easy because you do not have control over the most important aspect...the moving animal.

I caught the bird, but her head is buried in the seeds that I tucked away.

Above I caught her head but the framing is way off.  Not sure what the subject of this photo above is supposed to be.

Getting the back of the bird is certainly not interesting but having him blurred as well means this photo is a delete.

Much of the time, no matter how much coffee you have, you will miss the bird entirely.  Chickadees are notorious for fleeing from the scene just as my shutter comes open.

But eventually you get a bird in the shot, in focus, and with reasonable light.  If you crop closely it looks as though he is in the woods.  None of this information is news to photographers and most of it can be found on the internet in far greater detail in photography blogs.  But I thought I would share my process for any reader who would be interested.  (Click on the photo for a close-up.)

Monday, January 07, 2013

No Pain No Gain

Once again it is proving to be a very mild winter.  The temperature broke 50F yesterday and that compelled us to talk a walk in the nearby park and stretch our lazy limbs.

We have not had significant moisture for a while so there were only three places that required some acrobatic balancing acts as we skirted large muddied areas of the path.  We hung on to tree limbs and ducked beneath thorny branches leaving the well worn trail and making sure that our hiking boots did not get too caked with the muddy clay.

The local beaver plays havoc with the part of the hiking trail that skirts the marsh.  The maintenance folks dumped a dozen boards across the path, but eventually they will have to build another boardwalk for the area.  There was a delicate screen of ice on the top of the water in the more open areas giving witness to the colder night before.  Local titmice, chickadees, woodpeckers and white-throated sparrows showed no fear in scolding us as we made our way.  They also were enjoying the warm sun on their backs as they flew from tree-top to scrub brush.

It was nice to see that the park staff have a good sense of humor after all the downed trees the past two years.  I do not know if it is global warming or just the age of the forest, but we are losing that climax forest look.  We have none of the rare century trees that make one's mouth fall open.  I regret that.

It is 1.8 miles and ends at the beach.  But we decided to rest just a short bit shy of that and enjoy the swamp instead, while families with dogs and children headed toward the more popular destination.

Friday, January 04, 2013

They All Came from Long Island

I find it hard to capture these little finch with their lovely color unless the light is early morning or late evening. They eat at my feeders but do not come close to the house unless it is very, very cold and I have sprinkled seeds near the water bowl. They do come more often for water.  Having a water heater for birds is not very expensive and does bring the pleasure watching the birds more closely.  This finch did have a problem in the northern U.S. with an eye disease and so I watch closely to see if any of mine seem to have that.  I do wash my feeders in bleach in the fall before I put them up.

It is easy to confuse the house finch and the purple finch as their colors and size are almost identical  If you can see them side by side you will notice that the purple finch is not actually purple but really more purplish than red. Its color is closer to raspberry and its neck seems smoother to me.  These here are definitively the house finch with their bright red colors.  The female is a dull gray and not nearly so lovely.  Notice the shape of the bill which means they eat seeds rather than bugs.  They are very shy among the other birds and wait until most of the other species are finished eating.  They do rush at each other, though.  I did not do much to these photos as the lighting came out nicely, but they are not sharp because they were taken through a window.

This photo immediately above was photo-shopped and the two others were not.  I sharpened the bird, adjusted the lighting and I added the Pyracantha berry in his mouth.  He had a sunflower seed this is not a good scientific photo and could confuse bird watchers if I did not admit this.  (This does NOT mean that they do not eat berries, because some of them do.  I know that the cardinal eats these berries.)

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Quick Shots

I spent the days immediately after Christmas babysitting three grandchildren, two, five and seven.  Hubby and I were in continuous checking mode although the children could pretty much entertain themselves with all the new gifts.  On the day we loaded the car to leave I noticed movement in the crepe myrtle tree in the front yard.  The birds did not seem to mind hubby carrying bags back and forth nearby, so I grabbed my camera and caught a few quick shots to enlarge and see exactly what birds they were.  There are two hidden in the seed heads above.

They were goldfinch with their subdued winter colors.

In the summer they are bright yellow with bold black bars.

Above at the top of the photo you can also see a house finch with a touch of red.

Yes, the shots are grainy and blurry.  It was hard to get a good shot while listening to the children in the room behind me.  I could use a better lens.  I can also blame the stiff breeze that would kick up now and again.