Wednesday, May 27, 2015

OMG! Another New Bird!

Davey and I took a drive down to the farm store, Roork's, this morning, looking to buy some bird seed and another type of feeder for our yard. Of course I couldn't decide, so we ended up with two new feeders plus peanuts, plus dried mealworms. Yum! And of course the suet and seeds we went there to buy.

A hundred dollars later, we were on our way home, still looking for the spot we once saw hundreds of swans during their migration. And we found it! No swans, though.

We drove off on a side road along the edge of the marshy tidal area. It's near the Salem River Wildlife Management area, off Kings Highway.

"Stop!" I yelled, rolling down my window and grabbing my pocket camera. "There are red-winged blackbirds. I want to try to get some pictures of them on the reeds."

I tried, but those birds are very shy. Every time I aimed at one, it flew away.

We rolled past a big bushy tree and stopped again. I was all lined up, waiting for a red-winged blackbird to alight on one of the tall reeds, when something red moved.

"Don't move!" I said, trying to find it in my fully zoomed pocket camera. Finally I got them.

"OMG! They've got red on their heads! What are they?" I asked Davey. "Some kind of crane?"

"Maybe sandhill cranes," he said. And he was right! I googled them later and my bird group tells me they're very rare in NJ.

But then the red-winged blackbird came along.

And then he flew away again. But I was thrilled!

I very quietly got out of the truck to try to get an even better shot, but I was too low. So I climbed up on the running board, but then they saw me.

Off they went, with this really loud rattling call as they flew away.

Sorry that I disturbed them, but what an experience!

Taken with my pocket camera, Canon PowerShot Elph 530HS, fully zoomed (12x optical). Cropped, but no other corrections to the first three, last one "smart fixed" with Photoshop.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Mrs. Hummingbird... Test Model

I'm so jealous of those people in the videos and pictures online, you know, the ones with a dozen hummingbirds flitting around their multiple feeders. Or the one where the guy opens his window and the hummingbird comes into his kitchen. Or the one where the lady holds nectar in her palm and the hummingbird eats right out of her hand.

Mrs. Hummer appears to be our only hummingbird visitor this spring, and she stops by about every 10 minutes or so in the mornings, less often later in the day. I saw Mr. Hummer once a couple weeks ago, but he didn't show up at all this morning.

The only thing I can figure is that there are so many hummingbird feeders here in the Philadelphia suburbs that they don't need to all come to ours. I've also read that they can be territorial, and in past years I've seen a male chase others away. The only time we get more than one every once in a while is later in the year, when the babies are on their own, but apparently still enough of a family not to chase each other away.

Today I tested out my camera at different levels of zoom, using Mrs. Hummer as my model. My zoom lens came in a package with the camera and it's a Canon EF 75-300mm. Not the best lens in the world, and I've been a little disappointed with the clarity of my pictures so far. I finally brought down my tripod and set it up, so I know the clarity or lack thereof isn't due to my shaky hands.

First I sat on the deck, about 25' from the feeder, and took pics at 300mm zoom. Here's my best one:

Not quite as clear as I'd like. So then I moved closer, about 20' away, still at 300mm.

A little more clear. Then I moved even closer, about 15' from the feeder, and adjusted my zoom to 200mm.

Better, eh? And one more at that level:

Finally, I moved to within 6' of the feeder and decreased the zoom to 100mm. This created a bit of a problem for Mrs. Hummer. She was nervous, and the first two times she approached, she just hovered for a moment and then left.

Finally she took a chance, in spite of that big lens with the crazy lady behind it.

And one final shot...

My conclusion after all that... The closer the better! And even up pretty close, I don't think the lens gives me the clarity at 300mm that it does at 100 or 200.

So you learn something every day, right?

Canon 7D Mark II with a Canon 75-300mm zoom lens. Tests at 300, 200 and 100mm, spot metering. Cropped but otherwise uncorrected.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Feeder Diner

I was sitting out in the backyard this afternoon and heard all this wild chirping. I looked and then grabbed my camera.

Mama and Papa House Finch brought the kiddies to the Feeder Diner. The pics of them on the feeder were blurry, but then they moved to the tree.

First Mama fed the little ones while Papa watched.

Then Papa hopped back to the feeder for seconds while Mama kept the babies happy.

Papa soon came back.

Now it's his turn to feed the crying babies.

So cute!

I was quite a ways away, maybe about 30', with a 300mm lens fully zoomed, handheld. I really need to get my tripod out.

West Deptford NJ, today 5/23/15.

Canon 7D Mark II with a Canon 75-300mm zoom lens. All at 300 mm hand held. Cropped and corrected with Photoshop "smart fix."

Friday, May 8, 2015

Something you don't see very often

Yesterday one of our friendly gray catbirds posed for me. He sat on our shed roof and kept a close eye on me and my camera. Notice his dark cap and long tail.

When he turned to fly away, I managed to catch the underside of his tail. Blurry, but see the rusty orange patch? It's something I never knew the catbirds had until this year.

Interesting, huh?

Taken with my pocket camera, Canon PowerShot Elph 530HS, fully zoomed (12x optical). Cropped, but no other corrections.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

OMG! First ever!

Yesterday I went to the store. When I came home, Davey said to me, "Take a look at your camera."

I looked at the most recent picture and saw this, taken through a very pollen-covered sunroom window:

"OMG! OMG!" I yelled. Yes, yelled. "It's a rose-breasted grosbeak!"

You may think my excitement was a bit much, but we've had bird feeders in our backyard for more than 30 years, and we've never had a rose-breasted grosbeak before.

"Well, crap," I said. "I missed it." Always hopeful, I added, "Maybe it will come back."

This morning we were out back pulling weeds and messing around with the pond, and we finally sat down on the deck to rest. In my new glider chairs, for those of you that know. Luckily I had my pocket camera out there. I just happened to be turned toward the feeder and I saw...

He came to the tree and sat and watched the bird feeder. I kept snapping, but the sun came out, behind him of course, and I couldn't get a decent shot.

So I picked up a chair and quietly moved in a wide circle to get to the other side. I ended up sitting in the flower bed under the oak tree, getting those freaking oak blossoms in my hair. But it was totally worth it!

He sat and sat and sat, and FINALLY, after a good 15 or 20 minutes, he went down to the feeder.

I kept shooting and shooting and shooting. While I was taking 80 pictures, I was wondering why after all these years of bird watching, we finally got this wonderful backyard visitor.

The only thing I can think of is that we just started keeping our feeders up for the summer two or three years ago. So maybe that's why we have this beautiful visitor.

I just hope he's here for the summer and not just passing through. We'll be keeping our eyes open for his mate, as well.

Photos taken with my pocket camera, Canon PowerShot Elph 530HS, fully zoomed (12x optical). Cropped, but no other corrections except to the very first one.

UPDATE: Mr. Grossbeak stayed for 3 days, hanging around in the big tree and coming down to the feeder. Then... gone. So he must have moved on to better nesting grounds. But he's a visitor I'll remember for a long time.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Tern, tern, tern

To everything, tern, tern, tern, there is a season, tern, tern, tern.... That famous song by, who else? the Byrds. 
smile emoticon

 at Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge.

Canon 7D Mark II with a Canon 75-300mm zoom lens. All at 300 mm hand held. Cropped and corrected with Photoshop "smart fix."