Showing posts with label birds. Show all posts
Showing posts with label birds. Show all posts

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Review of Spring Bird Photography

Young Sparrow
Spring is one of my favorite times to photograph birds.  It is so wonderful to wake up in the morning and hear all the birds singing in the trees.  Each day I look through my camera zoom lens and try to locate new birds to my area.  Some are just passing through during their migratory routes and others will stay here for the summer.  Still others are year round residents that are growing their families in the spring.  The photo above shows a young sparrow that I captured on our back fence.


Mockingbirds



I was walking in our neighborhood park when I spotted a group of Mockingbirds.  I have rarely seen them in our yard so I was excited to see several in the park.  As I watched the birds, I soon saw a young Mockingbird in the same area.  They look quite in a disarray with their feathers all fluffed out.  I wasn't sure what I was seeing at first but I took some photos and looked them up in my bird book when I got home. 



Changing to Spring Clothes


Some birds change their colors in the springtime.  One that does this in our area is the American Goldfinch.  In the winter the bird has a brownish coat but as warmer weather approaches the feathers molt into a brilliant yellow color.  They are a delightfully colorful little bird that I always enjoy seeing at our finch feeder.


The below photo shows the American Goldfinch in their winter coat. You will note they just have a touch of color under their beak.


The Birdbath a Popular Spring/Summer Hangout


The birds seem to love the birdbath in the warmer weather.  Most birds just stop by for a drink, but the Robins love to hop right in for a splashy bath.


It seems like we are having a lot of Robins this spring.  They don't really go to the feeders but they do love the birdbath.

New Bird for Our Yard


I am always on the lookout for new birds in our yard.  This spring I spotted a white crowned sparrow.  They are quite a stately looking bird.


Whenever I see a new bird, I try to photograph them from several different angles.  I then pull out my bird identification book and look for them.  I also post photos online and ask for help or confirmation for my identifications.

The book below has been a big help in my bird identification.




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Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Spring Forward, Renewal, Rebirth, Revival and Joy!

March 8th is Spring Forward Time! A Garden Review!

 

spring, bird feeding, bees
Image from Pixabay

Yeah, for all our Naturalists/Gardeners/Backyard Enthusiasts and those who are patiently (or not so patiently) waiting for Spring's arrival.  From my own personal experience I know how most of us are feeling right about now.  We can't wait for longer days and warmer temperatures and getting our hands back into the soil.  We want to poke around to see what's about to spring up out of the ground.  We also look up to see where the birds are too.  That first robin or yellow finches just make us so happy.  Our time is coming quickly!


Things Outside are Changing Quickly!

 
Now that it's March, we can look forward to longer daylight hours (it's already light at 6:00 in the morning)!  The bugs and the bees are waking up from their long winter slumber and looking desperately for a food source.  Even the birds are making a comeback.  

Those of us who love hummingbirds will be watching the Hummingbird Migration Maps for 2020!  They are already in parts of Florida and coming to your neighborhood soon!  Be the first one in your neighborhood to mark the map with the first sighting in your area. 


Spring, so much to do and so much pleasure in doing it too!


If you hang out bird feeders, now is the time to get them ready.  Clean and disinfect them all carefully.  We want to feed the birds and not harm them.  Clean feeders are a must!  Pathogens that can harm them can and might live over in the winter months.  There is need to be extra vigilant in making the birds source of food a safe source.  

Wash down all bird feeders, clean out birds nests from last year and give this years birds a really good chance of thriving and surviving.  Clean them out with a mild bleach solution (1/2 cup bleach to a sink full of hot soapy water).  Make sure you rinse them well and let them air dry before setting them out again.  

 

Special Care for Hummingbird Feeders!


Many people give up on putting out hummingbird feeders because they do require extra care.  It may seem wasteful, but their nectar needs to be changed every week.  Spoiled nectar in feeders can cause their death.  No one wants to be responsible for that!  So in the early spring, before you even see them, you need to change that nectar every week.  

Make only a cup of nectar at a time, so as not to waste all that sugar water.  And remember, red dyes are NOT NECESSARY  to attract those little flying gems.  Your hummingbird syrup should be roughly 1 cup of sugar to 4 cups of water.  The measurement does not have to be exact, but close is good.  Use only 1/2 to 1 cup of syrup in your feeders (keep the rest in the refrigerator) until you are sure the hummingbirds have found you!  Once you know they are coming to your feeders, go to town and fill it right up.


Maybe this is the year you decide to help the birds and the bees.

 
You can easily do this with bird feeders, bird houses and even bee houses.  The birds and bees give us so much enjoyment, it's the least we can do to make them welcome in our yards.  Our own Renaissance Woman will even teach you how to make your own bird feeders if you feel so inclined.  It would be a great spring time activity for your children or grandchildren.  Check it out right here: DIY Mason Jar Bird Feeder!

Building bird houses is also a lot of fun and an easy craft to share with your family as well.  The most important thing to remember is that certain birds require different housing.  Some are solitary breeders, while others love to be in community.  You might have to do some research to find out what kinds of birds come to your neighborhood, before you start building.  This review might help you get started! What you need to know about  Basic Bird House Construction!


The Bees are Getting a Lot of Press Lately!  The Key to Success

 
Science has let it be known that the bee population is in trouble.  If we don't have them as pollinators our whole food sources are at risk.  So let's help those pollinators by growing gardens that feed them all spring, summer and fall.  It's not hard to do and I'm sure you will enjoy the efforts that you put into making a beautiful "bee" friendly garden. 

There are a few guidelines that will help you to help the bees!  
  • Plant a garden that will give lots of blooms all season long.
  • Plant single flowered species rather than the big double and triple flowers.  The singles produce more nectar and the bees can easily get to it.
  • Plant lots of different annuals as well as perennials.
  • Build a bee house.
  • Have a water source available too!

Do you need more information?  I like this website for all inclusive information about bees and keeping them happy!  The  Honey Bee Conservancy  I like to keep my family happy, so, with my son-in-law being a beekeeper, this is for him!  I try to do my part in helping him help the bees and I get to enjoy some of the honey too.

Spring is a time of Renewal, Revival, Rebirth and Joy!  Let's make an effort to help Mother Nature in all of this,  by doing something to help all her little creatures.

feeding the bees, helping Mother Nature, hummingbird feeders
Image by jggrz from Pixabay








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Thursday, February 27, 2020

Review of Designing Collages and Composites in Photography


Putting photographs into collages is a fun way to display a grouping of photos.  In the grouping above I show a simple collage with a group of my bird photos.

Create a Simple Collage in Lightroom


The above collage is one that I created in Adobe Lightroom.  To make this collage I moved several of my bird photos to the Print option at the top left of the Lightroom screen and then followed the directions to add the framing and sizing.  You also have options to change the color on the frames and the background and to add some text.

Here is another collage that I made in the same way.


Composites


I belong to a Facebook group called "Create 52" where each week we have a theme to create a photograph and post it on the page.  One of our recent themes was called Collages/Composites.  I posted one of the collages that I made on Lightroom.  I then decided to try to stretch my knowledge and try some of the composites.  Many of the other members were posting some very interesting composites.  Composites are a very creative way of using your photographs.  For my first try I went to Photoshop and opened the collage of the Cardinals and then opened a texture that I had of snow.  I combined the two into one photograph and then changed the opacity to get the desired effect.  Here is the resulting photo.


More Advanced Composites


After seeing some of the other posts in our "Create 52" group, I decided to try some composites using multiple photographs.  I had been on a field trip with a group I help mentor in photography and we went to a local college and several students displayed their musical instruments for us to photograph.  I took several of the photographs and combined them into one design and then used a photo of some sheets of music for a texture.  Here are two of my designs.  Remember, I'm just learning but I think you can get the idea.



Creating your own Collages and Composites


If you are interested in trying one of these procedures there are a lot of tutorials that will help you online.  If you have Photoshop just search for tutorials for creating composites in Photoshop.  If you use other editing software just search online and I'm sure you will also find tutorials for them.  Many of the tutorials are on YouTube and are free.  You can watch them and pause whenever you need to review a step.  I have learned a lot on YouTube.


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Thursday, February 13, 2020

Review of Bird Photography in the Snow


I love photographing birds and in the winter a snowy day can give a wonderful backdrop for my bird photographs.


Female Cardinal


As I reviewed articles online in preparation for writing this article, I found many tips on photographing in the snow.  Most of these talked about protecting your camera, wearing gloves with the fingers cut out and that type of tips.  I have a different setup for photographing birds right from the comfort of my own home and that is what I will be sharing in this article.

Photographing through Glass



The photograph above, as well as all of the photos on this page were taken through glass.  I have tripods set up in my home that I use to photograph the birds in our yard.  The photograph above was taken through our sliding glass doors in the kitchen.  I often get a surprised reaction when people hear that I photograph through glass, but it has worked well for me.

               When photographing through glass
                be sure to keep the glass clean.

I keep a cloth handy to quickly wipe away any smudges on the glass.  On a snowy day I will frequently open the door to wipe away sleet or drops that have formed on the glass outside.

                Set up the camera as close to the
                glass as possible.

I have my cameras set up on a tripod just inches away from the glass.

My Setup


I have two cameras that I use to take my bird photography.  Both are set up on tripods.  
  • Sony A57 DSLR set up with a Tamron 200-600 zoom lens.  This camera is perfect for getting the birds that are at a bit of a distance.  I use these when the birds are at my far feeders, up in the branches of the trees along the back of our property or in the bushes.
  • Sony a6300 mirrorless camera.  This camera set up with a 70-210 zoom lens is perfect for the birds on the deck and in the closer feeders.  I use it in connection with a wireless remote so that I can sit at the kitchen table and trigger the shutter release when I see a bird.  I used this setup in photographing the BlueJays pictured below.













Bright Colored Birds on a Snowy Day


I love to photograph all birds but catching some of these brightly colored birds against the snowy backdrop are my favorites.




















Dark-eyed Junco or Snowbird


Another favorite of mine is the Junco which is commonly called the snowbird.  It has a dark top and white underside which looks great on a snowy day.


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Thursday, January 9, 2020

Review of Mockingbird Information


Mockingbirds have long been the subjects of songs, literature and even movies.  When an early December snowstorm brought the first Mockingbird I had seen to my backyard feeders, I was curious to find more information about these popular birds.

Some Facts about the Mockingbird

From Miriam Webster dictionary I learned that Mockbirds are" a common grayish North American bird (Mimus polyglottos) related to the thrashers that is remarkable for its exact imitations of the notes of other birds."

I did some more research using Wikipedia and All About Birds online and the National Geographic book "Backyard Guide to the Birds".  Here are some additional facts I discovered.

  • Mockingbirds are a New World group of passerine birds. (Passerines are distinguished from other birds by the arrangement of their toes-three forward and one back-which helps them in perching)
  • They are best known for their habit of mimicking other birds, insects and amphibians.
  • There are actually 17 different species of Mockingbirds.
  • Only the Northern Mockingbird is normally found in North America.
  • Mockingbirds are well known for their fun personalities of mimicking other birds songs.

 Mockingbird in Music


As I was researching Mockingbirds, I kept coming up with song lyrics and music with references to the bird.  Here is one of the most popular ones, a lullaby sung by many top musical artists.  Here is the first line.

Hush, little baby, don't say a word. Papa's gonna buy you a mockingbird And if that mockingbird won't sing, Papa's gonna buy you a diamond ring.

Does that sound familiar to you?  I found this cute child's book that features that song.




Mockingbird in Literature

I found several references to the Mockingbird in books.  The most famous is a Pulitzer-prize winner by Harper Lee.



Another book I found with a reference to Mockingbird in the title, is this fun sounding book on cocktails.  The books teams up various classic books with a cocktail.


I took the three photos of the Mockingbird about a month ago and I have not seen the birds since.  I'm hoping they come to visit my backyard again soon.


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Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Platform Bird Feeder Reviewed

Flat Bird Feeder Works Well

I just had to replace my original platform bird feeder. I thought I might share with you what I replaced it with. The original was made of wood and eventually rotted off of it's pedestal. Bummer!

platform bird feeder
Some birds like a platform to feed from
image courtesy of pixabay.com

I do love to feed my little backyard friends and I have found over the years that using a platform bird feeder works well for attracting a variety of the winged creatures to my yard. For one thing they are much easier to fill with seeds and treats and so much easier to keep clean.

Wood vs Recycled Plastic


As I mentioned above, the first platform or tray feeder that I purchased was made from wood. It lasted for several years but finally succumbed to the years of being in the weather and literally fell off of the pole that it was attached to. So, for a replacement, I found one that is made of recycled plastic. That shouldn't rot, me thinks! 

I have seen that many people complain that the little screens rot out in their platform feeders. I hadn't experienced that but the nice thing is that my new one came with two new screens. So, now I can keep the old ones as spares. 

The size of this feeder is nice! The inside measures 20 inches by 15 inches which allows for several birds to feed at a time. My favorites are the cardinals who prefer to eat from feeders that are stationary. I get all sorts of birds to come to the platform. I stopped using the ones that I have to take a lid off of to add seed. They get dirty on the inside and can cause bacteria to grow and they are so difficult to clean. The platform works best in our yard. 

I only have one complaint and it isn't the manufacturer's fault. Squirrels can easily come up and rob the feeder of food. I gave up a long time ago on trying to keep the critters away...it is a battle I can't seem to win. So, the squirrels eat at the feeder too. So, do raccoons but there is no getting away from it. 

It took longer for my new platform to arrive than I thought was necessary. Again, that isn't the manufacturer's fault. It was a shipping issue that caused the problem. Waiting longer was aggravating but once it came, I was extremely satisfied with my purchase. The birds are loving it, too.

If you find that you are in need of replacing your old feeder or would like to try one in your yard, I can highly recommend the platform feeder made from recycled plastic.





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Thursday, July 11, 2019

Review of Attracting Birds to My Backyard

                                                    

Black-capped Chickadee


I have often been asked how I attract the large variety of birds to our backyard.  In the past  several years I have documented 31 different types of birds.  I believe that the wide variety of food that I put out for the birds helps to attract different types of birds.  These birds provide hours of entertainment for my husband and me.  In this post I will share with you the different types of bird food.

Mixed Variety Bird Seed

In several of my bird feeders, I use a mixed variety of bird seed. This type of mixture includes sunflower seeds along with other mixed seeds.  I have not found any one brand that seems to be better in attracting birds, so I usually buy whatever is on sale.  Here is the type that I purchased last.

                                                   



In the photos below you will see the variety of birds that enjoy the mixed bird seed that I keep in several different feeders in our backyard.





Nyjer Bird Seed

I have a finch feeder that I keep filled with Nyjer seed.  These seeds are small black seeds that don't fall through the small mesh of the feeder.  This feeder attracts many different birds, but it is particularly popular with finches.  In the photo below you will see Goldfinch enjoying the Nyjer seed.


The birds in this photo look like they have spotty or dirty looking feathers.  That is due to the fact that this photo was taken in early spring and they were still molting.

                                              


Suet Nuggets

This year I have started to put suet nuggets in a feeder.  This food has become very popular with woodpeckers.  Downy woodpeckers are frequent visitors of the nugget feeder.




I sometimes put whole peanuts in this feeder.  They last longer than the nuggets but I find it hard to tell when the feeder is empty because the empty peanut shells are left behind.  Here is a Red-bellied Woodpecker enjoying the peanuts.




                                                            


Suet Cakes

Another popular bird food is suet cakes.  I keep one hanging in my backyard feeding area year round.  They are frequented by a wide variety of birds.  In the photo below you see a Grosbeak that visited the suet cake this spring.


Hummingbird Feeder

Each spring I look forward to seeing my first Hummingbird of the year.  I hang out the feeder starting in early  April.  I make my own food for the feeder boiling 2 cups of water and 1/2 cup of sugar in my microwave.  After cooling the mixture I add it to the feeder.  It is important to change the mixture every week to ten days and more often in very hot weather.



Bird Bath

In addition to the various bird feeders I provide a bird bath on our back deck.  This gives the birds a place to get a drink and in the case of Robins to take a bath. This spring I looked out one day to see a whole group of Bluebirds lined up on the edge of the bird bath.

 I love to see the Robins splashing in the bird bath.








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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Birds Butterflies and Bees in the Garden, What you Need to Know

How to successfully attract birds, bees and butterflies to your garden and enjoy them all season long!

Everyone that I know is so tired of winter.  Once the clocks have moved ahead for Daylight Savings Time, all of us are just counting down the days until we see those first signs of spring.
I have not yet had the delight of my first Robin or Blue Birds.  I know though that they will be coming very shortly.  And I am ready to welcome them all with some special treats that I know they will love.
birds, butterflies and bees in the garden, attracting wildlife, garden birds
Monarch Butterfly and bee on Asters
                                          

Three Basics That Are Essential

If you want the birds, bees and butterflies to come to your yard, you need to provide some of the things they will want.  
Like any other living creature, these little marvels of nature are looking for shelter, food and water.  Those are the essentials for any living being that you would care for.  Garden visitors are no different in that regard.  The only other thing that they may be looking for, would be a safe place to nest.  Trees and bushes are great for that!


Flowers are food!

Bees and butterflies and yes even the birds are looking for flowers to feed their appetites.  Pollen laden plants are a bee's best friend.  Butterflies and bees like nectar laden flowers too.  Birds are more attracted to seed heads that will come later in the year.  But they will use petals, and leaves to line their nests.  


Attracting different kinds of birds.

If you set out bird houses, you will certainly get some feathered friends calling your yard their home too.  Feeders for finches and hummingbirds will almost guarantee their arrival at your doorstep.  Plant the right kinds of flowers and you will have an abundance of these lovely little creatures to watch and enjoy.

Butterflies, birds  and bees will enjoy a bird bath.  The birds will splash around cooling themselves off in the heat of the summer, while the butterflies and bees will also stop for a drink and a little rest.  Butterflies and bees can also make use of the sugar water that is in your hummingbird feeders, so don't be surprised to see them there too. 

Having a place that is rich in flowers and shrubs with a few trees for their safety will make all of these creatures very happy to call your home, their home too!

Picking the flowers and shrubs to enhance your garden!

If you really want the butterflies, bees and birds in your garden, here is a list of some of the best ones to plant.

  1. Butterfly bush, as the name indicates is a magnet for many different types of butterflies, but they are also a magnet for hummingbirds too!
  2. Sunflowers, their flat heads are wonderful landing pads for all garden critters.
  3. Coneflowers will attract bluebirds, bees, and butterflies as well.
  4. ServiceBerry Bushes will attract cardinals, robins, cedar waxwings and more.
  5. Phlox is another great plant to attract birds and butterflies.

If you enjoy having these critters in the garden with you, make their lives easier by planting lots of the flowers that they love.  The list above is just a small sample of what plants are great to encourage wildlife in the yard.  It is by no means a complete list.  For that I refer to my book produced by Birds and Blooms Magazine.  


Gardening for Birds, Butterflies and Bees!



You can get your own right here! It is a great resource book and one that you can come back to and reference for future garden projects or additions.

You might also like to take up photography when you see how beautiful it is to have these creatures in your garden.  Mary Beth (another writer on Review This) shows us what it's like to take pictures and how to do it too!  You can check out her article right here: Bluebird Facts and Photography

Having a natural flower filled garden will surely bring you and all the visitors to your garden a lot of joy and happiness.  The colors and scents, along with all the activity will inspire you to enjoy the beauties of nature.

butterflies in the garden, attracting butterflies into the garden, garden flowers
Swallowtail Butterfly
attracting bees into the garden, garden bees, garden flowers
Bee with sunflower






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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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