Showing posts with label bird photography. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bird photography. Show all posts

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Review of Woodpecker Facts and Photography

                                                                         Downy Woodpecker

I have been fascinated by woodpeckers for a long time, but I didn't realize there were so many different types of woodpeckers.  This year I purchased a peanut feeder for my backyard.  When I started to see different types of woodpeckers using the feeder I checked out information about woodpeckers  both online and in my Backyard Birds guide.  In this post I will show you photos and facts about the four types of woodpeckers that have visited my backyard.


Northern Flicker

The Northern Flicker is a very handsome bird.  It has a brown back with black bars and a very distinct crescent of black on the chest. In flight the white rump is very conspicuous.  

These woodpeckers usually forage on the ground for food, but I have also seen them at my suet feeders.

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpeckers are the most common ones that I see in my backyard.  They visit year round and are fairly small birds.  These small tubular looking woodpeckers are very delicate looking.  They have crisp black and white plumage and the males have a red patch toward the back of the head.  They have a larger look-alike cousin the Hairy Woodpecker.

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

The Red-Bellied Woodpecker is a large bird with zebra type stripes across the back.  The red belly is really just a pink tinge across the white chest.  The really red part is on the head.  The male has a bright red cap that extends from the bill all the way down the nape.  The female is similar to the male except that the red cap is only in the  nape area.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

I have only seen this bird one day in my yard.  I was able to capture photos from several angles and posted it on birding sites.  The consensus was that it is a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.  My bird book says that I probably caught it on its' migration south.

These birds are rather large woodpeckers with a striped face pattern and a long white slash on the wing.  The male has a red throat and forecrown.  The female has white throat and red fore crown, so I would say the photo above is a male Yellow-bellied woodpecker.


Feeders for  Woodpeckers

I have two types of feeders that I use to attract woodpeckers.  The first is a cage like feeder that I fill with suet cakes.  You can see a Northern Flicker enjoying a suet cake in the photo below.
This type of feeder is also visited by several other types of birds.

This year I purchased a peanut feeder and it has been very popular with both woodpeckers and nuthatches.  This feeder is filled with unshelled peanuts and it is fun to watch the birds peck away till they get the nut out of the shell.  This keeps them at the feeder longer and helps me to capture them with my camera.  Below is a Red Breasted Nuthatch that visited the peanut feeder.

I purchased my peanut feeder on Amazon.  You can get your own by following the link below.
                                                           




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Thursday, February 14, 2019

Review of Bluebird Facts and Photography


I have long been a fan of Bluebirds but until this year I have not been able to  capture any photographs that I really liked.  During a very cold spell in January a group of Bluebirds visited our backyard and I was able to capture some nice photos.  I had a camera set up on a tripod in front of our glass doors and I snapped away as the Bluebirds checked out our feeding spots.  For those interested I am using a Sony A57 with a Tamron150-600 lens.  My camera is set to A (aperture mode) and I'm using a 6.5 aperture in most of these photos.



Eastern Bluebird Identification

These birds are small thrush type birds with a round head and big belly.

Male Bluebirds

The male Bluebirds are particularly bright in color as you can see in the photo above.  They have a bright blue colored head and back along with their tail feathers.  Their throat and chest are a bright rusty color.

Female Bluebirds

Female Bluebird

The female bluebirds have the same color pattern as the males and they are a similar size, however their coloring is much more subdued.  Their head appears an almost grayish color as you can see in the photo above.

Juvenile Bluebirds

The juvenile Bluebirds have spotting on their backs and chests and some blue
beginning in their wings and chests.

Feeding Behavior and Diet


From spring to early fall the Bluebirds diets consist of mainly insects.  In the winter they rely mainly on fruits.  As you can see in the photo above they will also resort to seeds in the winter.

I have found that if I do not clean out my flower containers after blooming season the Bluebirds and other birds like to rummage through the dead plants.


Nesting

Although Bluebirds will use a nest box they also like holes in old trees, particularly old woodpecker nests.  They fill their nests with grass and other plant material.  A Bluebird usually lays 4-5 eggs and they are inculpated by the female for 11-19 days.  The fledgling birds leave the nest in about 19 days.

References

I gathered my information from several online sources as well as from my book Backyard Guide to the Birds.  Here are my references.
  • allaboutbirds.org/guide
  • Audubon.org
  • wild-bird-watching.com

                                              



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Monday, October 8, 2018

The Robin Revue: Watching Our Baby Robins Hatch

Oh what a show I enjoyed this Spring! I enjoyed an up close and personal seat to a family of baby robins being born. As a nature and animal lover I was in awe of two industrious robins persevering in a city neighborhood to expand their family on my front porch. I usually write reviews on Review This!, but thought this was a revue all could enjoy.


Day 1 What Is On The Porch Light?


As I drove into the driveway I noticed something hanging on the front porch light. Hmmm. The something looked like straw. Upon further investigation I determined the something was dried lawn clippings and a few pieces of string. Hmmm. The light bulb had not quite shown brightly yet.

The light bulb began to glow a wee bit brighter when hours later I drove down the driveway and noticed quite a bit of activity on the porch light; I saw a bird flying to the porch light with a mouthful of string. When I returned hours later I discovered a nicely built nest on top of the porch light. (It took awhile for the light bulb to burn brightly, some days are like that!)


I wasn't sure this would be the best place for a nest - but what do I know. I love all animals, but admit I know little about birds. At this point I wasn't sure what type of birds had built the nest as I had not gotten a good look at the nest. Although the nest looks lopsided and perhaps flimsy the nest was actually anchored around the point of the top of the porch light.

 Mom And Dad Robin Continue Nest Building


The nest became a very popular hangout for Mom and Dad Robin. I had identified the birds as robins and they must have been doing a little internal nest housekeeping with the amount of activity to and from the nest from the trees nearby. I was still questioning if this was a great place for a nest. I tried to look at the location from the robins' point of view. Yes, the nest was high off the ground and well, that was about all I could come up with ...  I thought about not turning the light on at night or what would happen if the light was accidentally turned on? I thought about the UPS deliveries, the dog walkers, the dog who lives in the home of the nest! The porch light did not seem like a great location, but of course I was vested in keeping this nest safe.

As the robins did housekeeping in the nest I found both robins quite nonchalant about the location and the bustling activity in and out the door. I was warned robins could dive bomb you if you are too close to the nest, but these two robins were pretty laid back. Until.... the eggs were laid.

We've Got Robin Eggs


Disclaimer: The photos are not always are not always the best quality as the porch light is 8 feet high and I had to get on a step ladder and then blindly hold out the camera over the top of the nest while trying not to fall off the ladder! 

One egg and Two Newborn Robins


And then there were 3 baby robins. Okay, not exactly the cutest little fuzzballs!



But growing fast!


Starting to get feathers!


Dad Robin Is An Excellent Guard


As Mom robin tended to her duties on the nest it was clear Dad Robin was not going to allow anyone near the nests. He was either in a tree about 50 feet away chirping or on this bush 10 feet away standing guard. If you opened the front door or he saw you approach the front door from the interior through the storm glass he would start shrieking and start dive bombing the door. (Dive bombing bird = not good photos!) I was so curious to see the robins, but did not want to disturb their newborn family or stress the birds. 



Taking photos of the bird nest became a two person challenge. If both birds were gone I would very very quickly try to take a photo.

The Family Of Three Robins Grows


Since I could not see what image I was taking it was always a surprise when I checked the photos.


I can't believe how quick the baby robins grew. The average baby robin takes two weeks to reach the size of their parents. The nest was quickly becoming a tight fit for the three babies.


The babies would hold their heads up and cheep cheep waiting for mom to return.


By ten days old the feathers had grown and it was difficult to find the babies in the nest with all the feathers.



I don't know if there is a runt of the litter in the bird world, but one little robin always seemed to be buried in the nest while two of the babies were adept at sticking their heads up above the nest.


Day 12 brought a nest full of what appeared to be very mature robins. By this time the family had become very territorial of the robins and anxiously checked all day to make sure they were safe. However due to their size it was clear leaving the nest was in the imminent future.

Time To Say Goodbye!


Right on schedule Day 13 brought the departure of the baby robins. I did not want to disturb the robins as we anxiously awaited lift off so did not take any photos. My family kept their distance to nervously watch the departure. It was more of a kerplunk then lift off. Thankfully the exit was a safe kerplunk into the fluffy tree and then the babies and parents flew to the tree about 50 feet away.

Whew! I was definitely vested in this little ole family and was relieved it was a successful journey from egg to exit.
Collage of the birth of baby robins.


All that was left was the nest as a reminder of our time together! As if on cue after the babies exit the nest fell off the porch light on Day 14. 






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Thursday, April 26, 2018

Photographing Birds in Flight


Review of Tips on Photographing Birds in Flight

  1. Patience-  This is #1
  2. Long lens- I used 70-300mm for most of my photos
  3. Find the right location--birds seem to congregate near water to find food so that is a good place to start
  4. Understand bird behavior-Observation is key here.  The more you observe the better your chances of catching birds in flight.
  5. Using right settings on your camera.  A shutter speed of 1/500 or higher is ideal
  6. GET CREATIVE and Have Fun!

Florida Wilderness Reserve

The area where we stayed this past March was a wonderful place to observe and photograph birds.  I spent some time each day walking along the reserve area of wetlands and observed the birds in the area.  After a few days, I got quite familiar with their behaviors and was able to find the right times to photograph them.  I found late afternoon and early evening to be a great time to catch the birds in flight.  I particularly enjoyed photographing the Herons, Egrets, and Ibis in flight.

First Tries

I found that my first attempts did not quite give me the results that I wanted.  I would have loved for the photo below of the Sandhill Crane and the Spoonbill Roseate to be in better focus.



In my attempts to quickly photograph birds in flight, I ended up with a lot of backsides of birds.

With Lots of Patience

I eventually got a few shots of birds in flight that I feel were good.  Here is a blue heron.
 And I also like this  pair of egrets.

Slower Birds are Easier

I found photographing the Whistling Ducks in flight to be easier, but then they are a bit slower.


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Thursday, April 12, 2018

Review of Photographing and Identifying Birds in Florida Wilderness Reserve



I enjoy watching and photographing birds and most of the year I do that in my own backyard in Missouri.  During  March we travel to Florida and this year we stayed in Palm Beach Gardens where there was a nature reserve just steps away from our condo.  Every day I would walk back to the reserve and was rewarded with some wonderful sights.  There were a wide variety of birds and ducks and I saw several turtles and an alligator. 

Identifying Birds

I like to know the kinds of birds I am photographing so I spend a bit of time online finding the names and species of the different birds.  I find the website for Florida Audubon at http://fl.audubon.org/  to be very helpful in identifying the birds I photograph.  Here are the varieties I have photographed in the nature reserve.
  • Great Egret
  • Snowy Egret
  • Red-winged blackbirds
  • Doves
  • White Ibis
  • Glossy Ibis
  • Anhinga
  • Blue Heron
  • Little Blue Heron
  • Tri-colored Heron
  • Sandhill Crane
  • Roseta Spoonbill
  • Whistling Duck
  • Wood Duck
  • Cormorant
  • Wood Stork

 

Ducks in the Wilderness Reserve

The first day I walked into the reserve I noticed some interesting looking ducks.  They stood tall and had rather long necks for a duck.  I found out that these were called Whistling Ducks.

Whistling Ducks Flameless Candle


During the next weeks, I observed these ducks each time I visited the reserve.  Sometimes they would sit very still, but one day I heard them making a loud racket and then a pair of them would fly up off the ground.  This scenario would be repeated by several different pairs of ducks.  I'm not sure what they were doing but it was sure interesting to watch.

I also saw some Wood Ducks at the reserve.  They are such colorful ducks.

 

Roseate Spoonbill

One bird that I had never seen before was the Roseate Spoonbill.  This bird is easily identified by it's rosy color and flat spoon-like bill.  It stood still often so it was easy for me to photograph.



 

Wood Stork

One day I noticed these rather large white birds in the distance.  When they flew the underside of their wings were lined in black.  They were quite impressive in flight, but when they settled down they looked quite unusual.  I took a photo and went back to my computer to identify them.  I easily found a photo and determined them to be a Wood Stork, they are the only stork that breeds in the USA.


Anhinga


The Anhinga is a large water bird found in the warmer waters of the southern Americas.  It is sometimes called by several other names: snakebird, darter and water turkey.  

I found these birds to be very interesting.  They are able to stay underwater for quite some time and I observed them diving for their prey and then resurfacing quite a ways down the stream.  At that time only their head and neck would appear above the water before they took another dive into the water.  After a while I would see them on the bank drying out their feathers as in the photo above.

I believe the bird in the photo above to be a male anhinga and the one in the photo below to be a female.  Males have a black neck and white at the tip of the tail and the female has a beige colored neck and breast.



Sandhill Crane

I saw several sandhill cranes during my visits to the reserve and I even saw one walking down the center of the roadway near our condo.  They are tall birds and quite tame.  They were easy to take photos of since they did not frighten easily.





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