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Posts Tagged ‘songbirds’

Female Cardinal Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 400, f8 @ 1/500 sec

Female Northern Cardinal
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 400, f8 @ 1/500 sec

This morning when I awoke, I made my way into the kitchen to check the outside temperature on the thermometer by the kitchen window – it was reading -27 degrees Celsius. This temp would normally be fine with me but here in the land of the windchill factor the winds were making it feel more like -42 degrees Celsius. Now that’s getting a little chilly 🙂 Nonetheless, I knew the cold and wind would make for some productive songbird photos from my heating blind that is set-up by the backyard birdfeeding station. After a quick protein shake for breakfast and a hot cup of coffee I made my way out to the blind. As predicted the birds were quite active as they filled up on the variety of feed that I put out for them to offer them a varied diet. The only problem that I encountered was that my aging portable heater that I use inside the blind was not able to contend with the brutally cold wind that was howling outside and my blind is by no means wind-proof. I last about two hours before I was forced to head back into the house to warm up. Here is a selection of my favorite songbird images from this morning’s time inside the blind.

Female Cardinal (vertical crop created from horizontal capture) Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 400, f8 @ 1/500 sec.

Female Northern Cardinal
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 400, f8 @ 1/500 sec.

In the female Cardinal image above the vertical orientation was cropped from an original capture that was in the horizontal perspective. I felt that the vertical crop represented her better here. Doesn’t she look at tad chilly herself with the frosty build-up around the eye.

Blue Jay Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 400, f8 @ 1/400 sec.

Blue Jay
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 400, f8 @ 1/400 sec.

The Blue Jays never seem to disappoint at the feeding station, although this morning they did look a touch puffier as they tried to stay warm amid the frigid temperatures and windchill.

Male Redpoll Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 360mm (DX crop = 540mm 35mm equivalent) ISO 400, f8 @ 1/500 sec

Male Common Redpoll
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 360mm (DX crop = 540mm 35mm equivalent) ISO 400, f8 @ 1/500 sec

On the coldest winter days I often get visits from Redpolls that have ventured down south, from the treeline in the extreme northern regions of Ontario.

Female Redpoll Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 400, f8 @ 1/500 sec

Female Common Redpoll
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 400, f8 @ 1/500 sec

And below are a couple of Black-capped Chickadee images. Like the Blue Jays, the chickadees are always present and entertaining to watch at the feeding station, and generally they become quite tame. They will often visit the feeders while I am changing the perches around and they will even take seed right out of my hand.

Black-capped Chickadee Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 400, f8 @ 1/500 sec.

Black-capped Chickadee
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 400, f8 @ 1/500 sec.

Black-capped Chickadee Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 400, f8 @ 1/500 sec.

Black-capped Chickadee
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 400, f8 @ 1/500 sec.

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American Goldfinch Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 1250, f8 @ 1/125 sec.

American Goldfinch
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 1250, f8 @ 1/125 sec.

Today I finally had time to get out into my insulated photo blind, complete with portable heater, for my winter songbird photography. A couple of days ago I found a tree that was adorned with berries, so I snipped off two small sections of branches that I could use as perches at my backyard set-up. Here are a few of the days best results. The activity today at the feeders was quite low due to the lack of snow on the ground. Once we get a good layer of snow on the ground the activity always increases dramatically. When there is very little snow on the ground the birds tend to ignore the feeder and forage around my property in search of other food sources, such as previously stored food caches or hibernating insects.

Please do click on each of the images to see the larger, sharper versions.

Hairy Woodpecker Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 1250, f8 @ 1/320 sec.

Hairy Woodpecker
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 1250, f8 @ 1/320 sec.

Black-capped Chickadee Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 1250, f8 @ 1/160 sec.

Black-capped Chickadee
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 1250, f8 @ 1/160 sec.

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Blue Jay in Winter

Blue Jay in Winter

Capturing pleasing images of songbirds at my backyard bird feeding set-up in a pleasing pose is always a challenge. When I select perches to use I am always mindful of how I will position them during use. This is mostly because I prefer to capture the songbirds that frequent my set-up in such a pose whereby the tail feathers are not merging with the branch. Often the birds arrive on the perch and move about quickly, as a result I find it is best to pre-focus on the perch and when a suitable subject comes in for a landing a will fire off a burst of images. By doing so you are almost certain to capture an image with the tail raised up away from a merging position and you will likely get the head angle in a pleasing position too. One of the hardest birds to photograph at my set-up is the Northern Cardinal…try as I might I cannot get them up onto the perches, but they do frequent the snow covered ground below as they forage for any spilled seeds. Here are a few songbird images from my last sitting in the backyard photo blind a few days ago, as I took a break from my preparations for my upcoming trip to Cayman Brac in the Caribbean Sea. Hope you like the images 🙂

Please click on the images to see the larger, sharper versions.

Blue Jay in Winter

Blue Jay in Winter

Blue Jay in Winter

Blue Jay in Winter

Black-capped Chickadee in Winter

Black-capped Chickadee in Winter

Female Northern Cardinal in Winter

Female Northern Cardinal in Winter

 

 

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Black-capped Chickadee

Black-capped Chickadee

Winter is my preferred season for photographing songbirds. This year is looking like it may be a very productive year for bird photography as well. So far this season in the fields around my home there are at least two Snowy Owls, a Bald Eagle, and Sharp-shinned Hawks. Not too mention a Red-bellied Woodpecker at my suet feeder set-up.

On this Saturday past I decided it was time to head out to my heated, backyard photo blind and commence adding some new images to my songbird collection. I have been using this blind for a great number of years and it provides me with a toasty warm place to photograph these birds while the cold, winter winds howl outside. The day after I created these images we received close to 2 feet of snow and I have been busy digging myself out, but tonight I finally had time to process some of the images I created.

Hope you enjoy them 🙂

Please remember to click on the images to see the larger, sharper versions.

Blue Jay

Blue Jay

American Tree Sparrow

American Tree Sparrow

 

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Green Frog (male)

The two images of the male Green Frog (Rana clamitans) may very well be the last frogs I will photograph in the vernal ponds behind my home. As followers of this blog know my home backs onto an abandoned cattle pasture which has several low lying areas that fill with rain water and snow melt, thus creating vernal ponds. These ponds are temporary and dry out by the end of summer, but they do hold water long enough for numerous species of frogs and toads to reproduce. According to my dear, elderly neighbors that arrived in Canada, from Germany many, many years ago after the war, the field has been laying fallow since about 1975. This 40 acre plot of abandoned agricultural land is used by many ground nesting songbirds such as Bobolink, Meadowlark, Horned Lark and Upland Sandpipers. Deep in the ground Chimney Crayfish await the rains to emerge and breed in the vernal ponds. Hawks, Owls, Fox , and Coyote hunt the Meadow Voles that inhabit the field also. During the winter months I take my daughter skating on the frozen pond. Most importantly though are the vast numbers of frogs and toads that arrive at the vernal ponds each spring to reproduce – a sight and sound to behold. Having sat in the ponds among the frogs and toads during peak chorus, I can honestly state that they are louder than any RAMONES concert I ever attended 🙂 A truly remarkable experience, but…

Green Frog and Water Scorpion

It is with great sorrow that today I report on October the 18th this has been wiped out. The field was recently sold to a farmer that has cut down every tree that lined the field to open up more fields and has since tilled the soil for the planting of crops. This of course will mean more fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. I have always believed that this little corner of nature, located in Simcoe County, would one day be wiped out for either agriculture (it has always been zoned for agriculture) or housing developments, but I do wish I did not have to witness its destruction.With amphibian populations in serious decline around the globe, largely due to human impact, such loss of habitat, even on this small 40 acre plot of land, can yield a deadly blow to the local populations of frogs and toads.

I do hope that I am wrong, but I believe that in the fields behind my home, the Spring of 2013 will be the season without song. A sad, but all too familiar occurrence in the world that struck home on October 18, 2012. Below you will see the photos of how the field looks today.

In the photo above you are looking out over the field where each spring the largest vernal pond is to be found.

In the above photograph you are looking back toward my home, and again, across the field where additional ponds are found each spring. My home can be found immediately behind the trees on the right side of the image.

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Black-capped Chickadee in snowstorm

Winter has once again returned with two days of snow squall activity. On Friday morning I took advantage of the stormy weather to sit out in the photo blind for some additional songbird images. I just love to photograph the songbirds around my home during periods of snow. The snow streaking through the frame gives a real sense of the elements these birds face during the winter months and the activity at the feeding stations is often at its best. During snow squalls it is possible to have near white-out conditions one minute and clear conditions the next. This day of stormy activity turned out be one of my best days yet in the photo blind this winter. We have also had large numbers of Dark-eyed Juncos and American Goldfinches arriving over the last few days.

All my songbird images are photographed with the Nikon 80-400mm VR lens which I often find to be painfully slow in regards to focusing, but by pre-focusing on the perch and then adjusting the composition to anticipate where the birds may land the lens does not have to work very hard to focus on the bird when it does land on the perch. I also work the camera and lens mounted on a loose ball head with the VR function activated. Often I find this will yield the best results, however, many images are created to capture the few that I consider to be the keepers. Here is a selection of my favorites from the day.

Hairy Woodpecker – male

Black-capped Chickadee

Dark-eyed Junco

Black-capped Chickadee

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

Black-capped Chickadee

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Black-capped Chickadee on pine branch

I seem to be on an endless hunt for new perches for photographing birds at my backyard set-up. Fortunately, there are several woodlots I can easily access and during storms I tend to have lots of small dead branches fall from the Ash trees on my property. When selecting the perch I tend to avoid a plain old looking stick unless it has some interesting shape to it or other features that may prove interesting. Most often I am looking for small branches that are not much more than the thickness of a pencil. Perches with lichens, moss or small pinecones tend to work very nicely for the species I get at my feeder set-up, but I have also had luck with rose hips, mullien seed heads and even dried burdock, that are readily available along the side of the roads around my home. Occasionally larger moss covered stumps will work well, especially if they have a hollowed out area to fill with various feed, depending on the species, in your area, that you wish to attract. This year it seems like the most frequent visitors to my feeders are Chickadees and Tree Sparrows, however, the Red-bellied Woodpecker continues to arrive daily and I have been lucky with additional photos of it that I will post in the future. Here is a small assortment of additional songbirds from my backyard set-up with various perches.

Black-capped Chickadee on moss covered perch

Black-capped Chickadee on small pine branch

American Tree Sparrow on snowy, moss covered stump

Black-capped Chickadee on small pine branch

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