Monday, May 31, 2010

Amazing Finch!

I was glancing out my window and saw this valiant little finch.
Its leg is stiff - unusable.
I was amazed that it has thrived -
looks healthy
and can perch with one leg!
But, amazing still.... this act
(and I have a couple of othershots like it!)
It looks like she can fly with ONE WING!
That's just doesn't seem possible...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sparrow House Activity Update

Remember the Sparrow couple I posted on May 7th?
Well, they must have liked the house because now...
 ...this mother sparrow is back and forth
carrying flying insects, two at a time!
Because I was so close to the house, she was very cautious.
First, she would fly along the hedge watching me.
Then she would land on the top of the swingset
and watch some more.
Finally, she would land on the house....

...pop in...
...and pop out, again! 
She did this, over and over, 
until sunset...
(Photos taken 05/22/2010 - Canon Rebel Xsi; 250mm lens, f 8,0, ISO 400 and 800)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Welcome Back!

This is one of the little house finches
that was happy to be back at the feeders this evening.
It seemed like he was heaving a sigh of relief when he arrived!
Poor thing!

And this handsome guy is one of those house finches
that is more orange than red -
I love the color!
So nice to have you back, boys!

The Birds and the Wasp?

A quick update on the Grackles -
Jayne suggested putting out safflower seed, so I went to Walmart and picked up a bag. I also got a new tube feeder that is a better quality than the ones I used to have; with that I bought a bag of "Songbird Seed" by Scott - mostly niger thistle and a few little tiny seeds, all of which fit through the small finch port on the tube feeder.
I loaded the tube feeder; put fresh blackoil sunflower seeds in the tray feeder; filled one of the house style feeders with safflower seeds (took the other one down for now); filled the water dish and took down the suet cake. And then I waited.
It didn't take long for the Grackles to appear. The feeders had been empty since the day before. They jumped from here to there and back again - even looked on the ground for seed. They returned about six times, aftere which I didn't see them the rest of the day. Then, they came only once this morning. I get the idea they don't like safflower seed  very well? ;)
In the meanwhile, the finches have come back strong, and, of course, that makes me extra happy! One pretty little female is pulling cotton like crazy for a nest that is up about 50 ft in the tree! 
Later this afternoon, when I was going to sit down and look at my camera book, I saw a wasp on the outside of my window and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to try some close-up photography.
The downside is that the photos are through a double-paned window that isn't very clean :(  The upside, however, is that I got some really interesting shots!
He was grooming himself, so in this photo he is reaching for his antenna while scratching under his leg.
 Look at those pinchers! Scary equipment!
 When Mr. Kitty heard the beep and the shutter of the camera, he had to come investigate for himself. I wonder what they are thinking as they look at each other through a glass barrier?
(All photos were taken with the Canon Rebel Xsi, 18-55mm lens, f 8.0, ISO 1600 - edited for cropping and sharpening - click on each photo for enlarged view - ;)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Hummingbird Nest

My son works for landscape company and yesterday he brought home a hummingbird's nest. The owner of the property wanted his trees trimmed. When the crew went to the job a while ago, they found the nest and it was occupied. They "flagged" it, and waited until it was no more activity. Yesterday, when they checked it, there was a broken egg and a dead baby, which they removed before trimming the branch.
I am truly fascinated with it. It is remarkably small and masterfully crafted. I cannot imagine a little hummingbird constructing such a sturdy piece of work, nor can I imagine how two little birds could reside in the small cavity until it was time to fly. They must be so tiny when they leave the nest!
depth along the branch - 2 in.; 
circumference outside edge to outside edge - 11/2 in.; 
circumference inside edge to inside edge - 1 in;
I have no idea how the nest is attached to the branch! The above  photo is the back and there is nothing there that has substantial holding power.
It seems that the main component of the nest is the light green stringy moss woven to form the cup shape. On the outside of the stringy moss is a layer of "chips" - used like shingles - I imagine to keep it dry? The inside is lined with tightly woven cotton - similar to the cotton I have at the feeder stations - finches love it for nesting.
The next photo shows the bottom of the nest. Nothing can penetrate the walls of the nest - and if I were a hummingbird baby, I think I would be pretty comfortable as long as I fit!
I never tire of the wonders of the world around me. No matter how I may be feeling or what is going on in my life, the created world always intrigues me, amazes me, and speaks of the peace, joy and love of the Creator to me.

(Photos taken 05/19/2010; Canon Rebel Xsi, 1.4 lens, f5.6, ISO 400)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Eurasian Collared Doves

This spring, I've seen dove-like birds a couple of miles from my house, when I've been taking my daughter to school. It is common to see pigeons here, but not doves and certainly not in my yard. I recall seeing birds of this family in my yard only twice in the 7 years I've lived in this house.
Today, when I'd finished eating lunch, I looked out my window and saw two birds in the oak tree. At first glance, I thought they were Mourning Doves - regardless, they looked lovely in my tree. I got the camera and got a couple of shots from the open window and decided to try to get closer by going outside. I got a decent photo or two in spite of the rain, and then, came in to crop and identify.
I was looking under "Mourning Doves," (no crescent under the eyes); "Turtle Doves," (no speckled wings), and finally, by describing the bird to a friend, found out that they were "Eurasian Collared Doves" - duh! You'd think the collar should have helped me guess ;)
They were introduced to the United States through the Bahamas and then Florida. They quickly spread to the west coast and in northern regions of Canada. They've even been seen in Nova Scotia, where I am from! They eat grain from the ground and can be tamed enough to eat out of your hand. Some are kept as pets.
If you are not familiar with the bird, and would like to read more about them, here are a couple of links.
As I sit here, I can hear their coo-COOO -coo in the backyard, and I'm smiling hugely at the sound of it, even though no one is here to see it ;)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Bee Greetings

Seemed like she was on one of her first outings after the long winter. The sun was warming and waking up all living things it touched - including me! 
I was out taking photos of blossoms when I heard the sound of her wings buzzing. I'm not afraid of that sound. It came closer and closer, and then, it stopped. My ears told me to look down. There she was - nibbling on my laces. 
She wasn't very fast or energetic; instead, she had a dreamy look about her. I knew she meant no harm so I spent a moment watching her - enjoying the close-up view of the bee on my shoe. ;)
Then, not wanting to pass up a photo opportunity, I took her picture, wished her well, and soon, she floated up into the air again.

Friday, May 14, 2010

An Example of Perfect Design

I was taking a random test shot yesterday - checking exposure, etc. - getting ready for an action shot between two male house finches at the feeders. This gold finch was just sitting there - so he was Mr. Random. I never did get pictures of the house finches, but when I checked my memory card this evening, I was struck by this photo.
The perfect designs in nature never cease to grab my attention and Mr. Random looks like he is posing to make the most of the opportunity to show me, once again, the handsome design of the cloak he wears everyday.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Grackles and Black Birds

This guy has been coming around the feeders for the last couple of days. Then his lighter, more brownish colored lady friend was with him and, as I was afraid of, another couple have arrived today. This is what they've done to an almost full feeder in two days - It's deceiving looking, but this feeder holds a lot of seed. Any ideas of what I might do to get rid of the Grackles?

This very distinctive brown bird has been coming by the last week or so, also. I looked her up thinking she was a sparrow of some kind - turns out she's a female blackbird? Never would have guessed!

This is a test...

I don't usually do much editing of photos, but, I was unhappy with the presentation of the photos from yesterday. So, I edited a few of them and am posting them to see if I improved their look or not. Drum roll please?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Morning Rituals

This morning, the yard was a flurry of bird activity - flying around from tree to tree, feeding at the feeders, getting cotton for nests...
(this isn't the sharpest photo, but I liked the light on the front of the male and how he watched "over" her while she got cotton for their nest.)
 The chestnut-backed chickadee was in the plum tree again - and he was busy grooming himself for the day.
He could stretch and scratch - at the same time!
When he was satisfied with his handsome-self, he finally noticed that I was taking pictures of his morning ritual, and he looked down at me and scowled for my impropriety!
However, his appetite got the best of him and off he flew into the cherry tree for breakfast.
Once he landed, his attitude changed. He looked back to see if I was getting his good-side!
  ...and then I was soon ignored for whatever tasty bits he found among the leaves.
Thank you, Mr. Chickadee! It was delightful watching you this morning!

(Canon Rebel Xsi 250mm - cropping, and adjustment for exposure)
I'm having trouble with this new version of blogger editor - things don't see to line up correctly :(

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

These three little birds came into my yard today. The gold finch sang his heart out. The swallow posed, let me get to within 8 feet of his fence perch, and nodded in conversation while I took his picture. The chickadee came up behind me in the plum tree and, he too, let me get within 4-5 feet away. Then he began flitting from branch to branch like he was playing hide-and-seek. Each time he landed, he made his little chickadee "veeet  -veeet" sound. My heart was fairly dancing inside - it was like I was surrounded by these little creatures and they were coming close to sing to me. It was a wonderful way to start Mother's Day! 
Hope you all have a wonderful day too! 

(click for an enlarged view)
(Canon Rebel Xsi 250mm lens, f7.1, ISO 400 - cropped)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Sweet Sparrows in the Swiss Chalet

A quick shot from this morning.
You can bet I'll be watching this pair!
(you can click for an enlarged view - Canon Rebel Xsi, 250mm lens - hand held)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Practicing and Relaxing

I came home early from class today and found some gold finches at the feeders - eating sunflower seeds and pulling the cotton ball. I thought I would get my camera and just sit by the window for a while (opened, of course) and "practice shooting."
Well....I waited and I waited for almost an hour! The gold finches didn't return, but, in the meantime, a robin came close and could hear the "beep" of the camera focusing and he looked at me with such a scowl! I didn't realize robins had such great eyebrows!

The the house finches flew in and out - they were curious about the sound too.
I thought this was an interesting shot. It hasn't been edited to look like this. The background is the gravel in my driveway. The gray color really fit well with color of the feeder, etc., creating the monochromatic look which makes the red in this little guy really stand out!

Even though I didn't get shots of the gold finches, I did get some practice in and it was a very relaxing way to spend an hour at the end of the day.

I'm trying the "updated" blog editor. It seems to have reformatted my photos to fit - :( 
However, you can choose larger sizes for the photos now. If you'd like, you can click on them to get an enlarged view - Canon Rebel Xsi, 250mm lens F7.1, ISO 400.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

New Snow in May

One foot of new snow yesterday on the mountains - another 8 inches forecast for tonight.
Morning minutes are a valuable commodity these days. I looked at the mountains and could not resist getting the camera in spite of my time frame. Two shots was all I had time for this morning - and thankfully, when I checked them this evening, I found they came out ok.
I am registered in the CNA Training Program at Peninsula college -8 intensive weeks and employment almost guaranteed after graduation.

(photo taken 5-4-2010: Canon Rebel Xsi 250mm lens, ISO 400, F 5.6)

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Droplets on Dandelion Seeds

(05-01-2010: Canon Rebel Xsi, 1.4 lens, edit in Photoshop)
click to enlarge

Mountains and Goals

(04-30-2010: Canon Rebel Xsi, 1.4 lens, cropped and edited in Photoshop)
click on image for enlarged view
I've been challenged by other blogger photographers. They advocate a rather "easy" formula for improving your photography.
1. Take your camera everywhere and shoot some photos everyday.
2. Read some part of your camera manual everyday.
3. Study the works and writings of the master photographers - past and present.
I am feeling more and more comfortable carrying my camera around - not literally around my neck - but taking it with me whenever I get in the van, such as when I take my daughter to school in the mornings or to functions such as the play my daughter was in the other night. If you don't have your camera with you, you not only miss the shot, you miss "taking the shot." You miss the practice.
Someone said that really good photographers get the shots they want because they know their camera inside and out - like the back of their hand - they don't even have to look at their camera to know what settings they are changing, etc. There's a big difference in performance between someone who types everyday without looking at the keys and someone who types rarely and has to look at the keyboard for every stroke.
Personally, I always enjoy studying the work of masters - music, writing, painting, and now, photography. It is inspiring to see their personality, style, creativity, and even their experiments that have become classics! I've also noticed, across the board in the arts, that the person who "owns" what they do - (the art is really theirs from the inside of their gut) - are the ones who blow everyone, standing around them. out of the water when they present their work.
Can you tell I'm jazzed? I am, and, now, I pass the challenge on to you!