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Posts tagged “birds

Spring Fling

The happy couple

Spring has sprung and the ducks have shown up at our pond. I call it a pond, but it’s really more of a reedy, mucky puddle. No matter, they like the early vegetation that sprouts from the bottom. Being a shallow pond, they can easily reach whatever grows and I suspect they like the water that warms so quickly in the early April sun.

Follow the leader

I get a kick out of seeing them. This year they showed up as an attached pair, whereas in years prior I’ve watched the female get chased hither and yon across the water by several pursuing drakes intent on having her as a mate. Once they’re paired, they stick together like glue, but sometimes the drake has to spend a lot of time chasing off other suitors. Oddly, this year things seem very quiet and it’s been just the two of them.

Bright and showy
Understated and less obvious

His job is to keep tabs on her and protect his future progeny.

He’s watching me

Her job is more complex, as usual. 😉

The soon to be busy Mom

To my surprise, they hung around all day. Usually I only see these ducks once or twice before they leave to raise their young in a safer location, but then they showed up again a few days later and spent the better part of another day eating the black oil seed that has dropped from my feeders and snoozing on a small island of grass in the pond. At the end of the day they left, and I haven’t seen them since. A nearby neighbor has a beautiful, huge, clear pond, so I feel quite honored that this couple even chooses to visit my little puddle when they could have much nicer digs right down the road.

Catching some Zzzz’s

Time to go!

Show and Tell



Show me passion and I’ll show you a great teacher.


This woman and her husband did a raptor demo at a large local fair. When I first laid eyes on her my initial thought was: Whack-a-do! I mean, her choice of clothing seemed a bit odd. But as the program progressed I became engrossed in the show. (And I learned that her attire was chosen for a specific reason) This woman’s desire to educate her audience went far beyond any other wild animal demo I’d ever seen. Animals can be unpredictable and therefore, all animal performances can have moments of entertainment. But It didn’t take long to see that this woman was downright serious. She was almost bursting with passion and pride for her raptors and she was deeply committed to making sure her audience walked away with at least one new tidbit of knowledge about the birds. Did she strike me as being a wee bit odd? Yes, but it was her passion that really made her stand out as a great teacher.

Thrill Me

untitled--3-3(Click on photo for best resolution)


Nothing excites me like having the opportunity to photograph a hawk in the wild. I’m not sure if the thrill is from the challenge of the shoot (it’s hard!), or if it’s just because I like hawks so much. In this case, the excitement hit me during the processing. Until then, I didn’t realize this hawk was missing an eye. I’m always secretly hoping this hawk shows up in my photos again someday.

Channeling Mom



Every couple of years we get a pair of hawks that mate and nest somewhere close to our property. Two years ago a striking pair of hawks raised their young in the woods across the street. This year, they picked a big old white pine out behind our new barn and built their nest in the crotch of the tree. There’s always lots of activity when the young are being raised, but it’s nothing compared to the racket once the chicks have fledged. Apparently, like teenagers today, the juvenile hawks stick around for the summer and harass their parents into feeding them. They chase their folks from tree to tree, calling out pathetically for morsels of food and parental attention. The result is four loud, frantic, very large birds flitting from tree to tree all day long. At first I thought it was pretty cool. No matter what time of day I stepped out I was likely to find one or more hawks perched on a low branch nearby, screeching back and forth to each other. But that was back when we were in the throes of a heat wave, when all my windows were closed, the air conditioning was on and I was spending as little time as possible outdoors. Now the heat and humidity have moved on and I’m trying like crazy to get caught up on the gardening and lawn projects that got shelved during the heat. To say the hawks are distracting is a mild understatement. I’m torn between throwing down my gardening tools and bolting for my camera or grabbing ear plugs. I thought it would be easy to capture a few photos of the family, but so far I’ve traipsed all over tarnation and I’ve had very little success. A few days ago we had a grey, misty morning and as luck would have it, I heard one of the youngsters calling plaintively from the willow tree out back. I grabbed my camera and tripod and holding my breath, crept out the basement door. Would the hawk sit still long enough for me to fire off a couple of frames? Barely, but this is one of three photos I got. I would have liked a few seconds more to really get the camera better focused, but it wasn’t to be. Young hawks are especially leery of people and it didn’t stick around long enough for me to make any corrections. Better luck next time I guess!

Note: I don’t know why, but you have to click on a photo now to see better resolution. Anyone know what’s up with that? Annoying …..

Intruder Alert!



 I wasn’t trying to photograph a hummingbird, but one decided to show up anyway! My shutter speed wasn’t set to catch it very clearly, but it’s better than nothing. This little pollinator was pretty fearless and several times it hovered only a few feet away and stared right at my camera. I think it was trying to figure out if I was a friend or foe! I’m finding the longer I stand in one place at the garden’s edge the more nature just accepts me and carries on.

Family Swim








Caught, between letting go and drifting off on a breeze.




On Alert



I’ll risk being repetitious and post another picture of this beautiful hawk. Here, it’s watching the walkers who are about to ask me what I’m shooting. I knew someone or something was approaching before I heard them because the bird’s head swiveled abruptly in a different direction. While the hawk seemed to pay very little attention to me, it’s gaze stayed fixed on the pair until they walked out of sight.

I think one of the reasons I was able to drive home, get my gear and return to find this hawk still roosting was because it looks to me like it had recently fed. In some photos I can see a slight tinge of blood at the base of it’s beak and in other photos it looks like there’s a bit of blood on it’s feet. Which could explain why the hawk was so complacent. Many times I’ve tried to get close enough to photograph a hawk, but unless they’re settled in for a good roost they’re usually too wary to let people approach. Of all the pictures I’ve taken, the ones that have been the most successful have shown signs of a recent kill. (One other time I got some great shots of a one-eyed hawk that was perched on a limb that overlooks our pond. At the time I thought the hawk might actually have been hunting the pond, but it was impossible to tell.)

Either way, I’m very thankful that I had the opportunity to take so many good pictures of this hawk. Truly, this was a really big thrill for me!




That I somehow managed to capture several semi-decent shots of this hawk was a huge thrill for me! First, the circumstances were a bit unusual and second, it’s the first time I’ve shot any wildlife since my eye troubles began last March.

 I was driving home from the grocery store and had just pulled onto my road when a large shadow passed over my car. As soon as I could safely pull over I peered upward and saw a very large hawk glide across the road and into the woods, where it landed gracefully on a low branch of a tree. My car idled as I sat and watched the bird, cursing my bad luck that I didn’t have my camera with me. I immediately began to calculate how long it would take to drive to my house, run inside and grab my gear (which would require a lens change) and drive back? Would the hawk stay put or fly off after I left? I could tell the bird was starting to settle into a roost, so I decided to try to make a go for it. I didn’t hurry or panic, I simply drove home, got my gear and drove back. Much to my surprise, the hawk was still perched comfortably on the same branch!

It’s always a bit of a chance when you try to shoot birds in the woods. Wind can cause tree branches to move, making the results blurry and limbs and leaves often cast shadows that obscure some (or all) of the desired target. I stood in the middle of the street with tripod in hand, trying decide how close the bird would let me approach before showing alarm or flying off. I inched forward a step at a time until my advance was blocked by a stone wall at the shoulder of the road. The bird watched me  the entire time, but held it’s position. I decided not to chance scaling the stone wall since I didn’t think I could do it without rousing the bird from it’s roost. I set my tripod down, made some adjustments to my camera and started shooting.

At first the bird was partially obscured by the shade of an overhead branch. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to try to reposition myself or just wait and see if the bird might shift slightly on it’s own. I chose to wait, and within a few minutes the bird changed it’s position just enough so that the shadows were slightly lessened. Unbeknown to me (because I was so focused on shooting the hawk) two people were walking toward us on the road. Talk about bad timing! On one hand, that turned out to be good because the hawk moved into the light more and swiveled it’s head around to follow the walker’s approach. But on the other hand, as the walkers got closer to me one of them spoke out. “Deer?”

OK, does that make any sense? You see a crazy lady standing by the road side, head glued to a big honking camera on a tripod and you TALK to them? I mean, what else would I be trying to shoot if not wildlife and if so, wouldn’t it make more sense to be quiet? I guess not. I didn’t reply, but the walkers continued by, chattering loudly the entire way. Fortunately, the hawk was comfortable and it didn’t decide to take off. I stayed and shot as many frames as I could, then decided I should try to move closer. I reasoned that if the hawk flew off I wouldn’t be going home empty-handed, but if I could obtain a better (or different) vantage point then why not try? I got about halfway over the stone wall before the hawk had had enough. It launched into the air, flapped it’s massive wings a few times, then glided off to a tree beyond the reach of my lens. Giddy with excitement, I drove home. I still had several bags of groceries to unload and put away before I could download my pictures and see what I had. Needless to say, I was pretty pleased!

I think it takes an enormous amount of skill and good luck to shoot wildlife with any real success. (And a big honking lens) I’ll never have that kind of skill or the equipment to be that good, but I’m tickled pink when the sun, moon and stars all align, and I get lucky!





Sometimes life is hard and you just have to hunker down, tip your head into the wind and make the best of things.

My FIL is doing as well as can be expected. He’s propped up a little in bed, his color looks good and the breathing tube is out. Well, he pulled it out. While his demeanor is good, he’s not exactly what I’d call a cooperative patient. Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell if he’s misbehaving because he can’t hear a thing without his hearing aids or if it’s because he’s got some pretty significant short-term memory loss. (Beginnings of Alzheimer’s) He’s telling lots of jokes and trying to make all the nurses and visitors laugh, but that’s just Pop’s way of trying to cope with his discomfort of being where he is. And being in pain. Mom tries way too hard to make Pop understand the minute details of what’s happened, which only makes him more confused. So he asks silly questions, trying to make everything into a joke, and that just upsets Mom even more because she’s convinced he’s lost his mind. Good grief! I tried to tell Mom not to worry about Pop’s comprehension of everything and to just roll with whatever goofy comment he makes. It hasn’t even been 48 hours and the poor man is allowed to have a little post-surgical confusion! It’s not like he’s being combative or nasty. Yet. Hopefully, as the days go by he’ll start to get his sea legs under him and things will calm down between them.

I do think the hospital is doing a fantastic job. Pop has pain, but nothing … and I mean NOTHING like I experienced after my spinal fusion. Oddly, Pop has an epidural line in place just like I had, so I wonder why it was so much worse for me? People say bone pain is the worst and I guess I’d have to agree. I remember having convulsions from the pain, it was so bad. Having had more than one abdominal surgery I guess I’d have to say there’s little comparison. I’m not saying it’s not painful … it’s … it’s just different.

On another note, the horse is doing OK. Her eye looks pretty grim, but I’ll be out there again today to do more doctoring. No reply to the Email I sent to our town departments. No surprise there.

Here and There





and going!





I’m feeling a special kind of empathy for my one-eyed kindred spirit.





Today was the first day in a long time that the sunrise was interesting and the light was good. Although we tend to bemoan losing an hour to daylight savings time, it means slightly darker mornings. That buys me a little more time to get up and out the door to go shoot. Not that I did that this morning, but at least I’m beginning to hope I can start thinking about it again. It was an unusually lousy winter for photography. The light was bad, the weather was dull and I didn’t get outside even once to take any pre-dawn pictures. But this morning the sky lit up with patches of red and orange and there’s a clarity in the air that holds promise of good things to come!

PS. There’s an unexpected “surprise” in the picture above. I didn’t know it was there until I processed the photo, so it’s not in perfect focus. But it’s still kind of cool! Can you find it?

Lookin’ For Love!



It’s breeding season for hawks and they’re driving me crazy! I see about 6-8 hawks around my house and property daily and usually when I see them they’re in a great location to shoot. Unfortunately, their minds are so focused on finding a mate that they’re not content to sit in one spot for very long. For the better part of an hour I watched one male follow a female from tee to tree yesterday. I had my camera in hand, ready to grab a few frames if they roosted low and close by, but they stayed pretty much on the move. Ah well. Hopefully a pair will mate and build a nest nearby. A few years ago we had a pair raise their young almost directly across the street from our farm. That was thrilling, albeit noisy! I had tons of viewing and shooting opportunities, but back then I didn’t have a camera. The hawks seem to like our little corner of the neighborhood so perhaps if I’m lucky a pair will call it home again this year?

Going Places


My dog doesn’t herd geese very often. They don’t excite him much and he gets bored. But I get a real kick out of watching geese operate as a group. I mean come on, if you’ve never followed behind a gaggle of geese for the better part of an hour and not cracked up then you’d better check your humor meter. The waddling, the hissing, the honking! You’ve gotta laugh. But I’ll tell you what’s NOT funny. Clipping goose wings. Yeah. I volunteered for that chore once. Now there’s a little event I’m not gonna to sign up for (again) in the near future. And to think I was worried about them pooping on me! See those long graceful necks? Well let’s just say those suckers have reach and they can BITE! I was afraid I might hurt them at first, until they got nasty with me. Then all bets were off. Catching a goose and holding it to be clipped makes dancing with wolves look like beginner ballet. Think of any time you’ve ever watched somebody try to catch a chicken, only two times bigger and about a gazillion times meaner. It really should be a rodeo event.

So for the most part this is how I like my geese: On the go!





A small flock of ducks circle a reservoir at dawn. Sometimes that’s how my life feels: circular.

Little Dipper




Not one of my better photos, but I liked that I could see the little dipper’s tongue as she was feeding. It’s also a bit of a challenge to capture two hummingbirds feeding so close together. They usually don’t tolerate others in their space.



Day five with no power and no end in sight. It looks like we’ll (once again) be one of the last folks to be patched back into the grid. We were close to last eight weeks ago when we finally got our power back on eight days after Irene blew through. We may top that record yet.

So I’ve mostly been sitting around feeling sorry for myself because life is pretty tedious without power. I’ve been reading a book a day and walking the dogs a lot. Anything to break the monotony so I don’t spend all my time thinking about how much I’d like to throttle my power company. I mean, I pay my bill just like everyone else.

When I was growing up we had an incredibly long bus route for school. We were the last to be picked up in the morning, which allowed for a few extra minutes of sleep, but then we were the last to be dropped off in the afternoon. That meant we sat on the bus for over an hour every afternoon. But fair was fair and we never thought to complain. After all, the kids who got picked up first every morning had an hour ride too. Well, I think the power company should help all the people who were last to be connected during Irene and make the folks who were up and running in a matter of hours wait a week or more this time around. Fair is fair.

With so much less to occupy my time I’ve been watching my bird feeders. I decided to hang a few feeders out just prior to the storm and they’ve been pretty busy ever since. And that means hawks. Now that the leaves are off the trees I can see the hawks that I could only hear a week ago. As I was gazing out at our barn I suddenly saw a large Cooper’s hawk swoop down and land on a low branch that overlooks our pond. I knew my camera was sporting a zoom lens and was mounted on my tripod, so I quickly grabbed them and crept out the front door. Sometimes I can get pretty close to these guys and other times they fly off as soon as they see me coming. Well in all fairness I’m usually  lugging a large camera and tripod in my wake, which probably isn’t the most discrete approach. But it’s the only way you can get a chance at a shot unless you know of a reliable spot you can stake out and wait. I used to get pretty nutty about trying to get hawk pictures, but I’ve long since adopted the mantra that either I get a shot or I don’t and if I don’t, there will always be another time. Or so I tell myself.

This hawk held it’s ground. It certainly saw my approach and turned to look at me several times as I fiddled with my tripod and camera settings. I knew it would be impossible to pass under the bird and get in front of it to get a good shot, so I hoped it would turn it’s head enough to get a decent profile picture. As the minutes ticked by it did that and more! When I manipulated my lens back and forth from autofocus to manual, the audible click caused the bird to swivel it’s head fully around and stare directly at me. I happily clicked away!


It wasn’t until I got inside and downloaded the pictures that I realized something was wrong. At first, I thought I’d done something to screw up the pictures, but upon further inspection I realized this hawk was missing an eye!  I couldn’t believe it, but the handful of photos that should have both eyes in them clearly show there is an empty eye socket. At first I felt so bad for the bird. I mean, life is tough enough without having to hunt and fly without the use of both eyes. But looking at the pictures I realized the hawk wasn’t under fed or in poor condition and I had watched it fly from tree to tree. It sure didn’t look like it suffered any in flight. So I guess this handsome beauty doesn’t need my sympathy. Apparently hardship is 10% situation and 90% perception. Maybe there’s a lesson in that after all!


On Guard



More action in our pond. There’s a female too, but she was taking a quick snooze in the long grass just off to the left of the frame.  This guy was very hard to catch standing still. He took his sentry duty pretty seriously.


May 10, 2011

Canon EOS 7D

ISO:200, 163mm, 1/40 sec, f/4.0

Lens: Tamron 70-200mm

Lightroom3: brightness/contrast adj.

Pond Guard



I’ve been hearing a ton of hawk calls the last few weeks. I would imagine it’s breeding season and as a result, the local hawks have been very active and vocal. A few years ago we had a pair that nested right in sight of our barn and I got to watch their comings and goings until the trees finally leafed out. It was very cool to watch them take turns sitting on the nest, then feeding their young. I keep hoping I’ll get an opportunity to shoot a mated pair this spring … I’ve been hearing what sounds like a pair down back, and if I can pinpoint their exact location I might get some good photos. Until then, I’ll just have to enjoy the shots I got this winter.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want



This isn’t the picture I wanted, but it’s the one I got!


A week or so ago as I walked out to feed the horses I noticed an uncanny stillness in the surrounding woods.  As I went about my chores I  periodically scanned the treetops, knowing that sometimes the quietness is the result of a hawk hunting nearby.  All the places I usually see a hawk perched turned up empty, but as I went to the hay rack I glanced back over my shoulder and caught the orange-red flash of a puffed-up hawk sitting high up in the branches of a tree that overlooks our semi-thawed pond.


Ah-ha! Gotcha!


I’ve learned there’s no point in hurrying. I didn’t have my camera or tripod with me, so I calmly walked back to the house to get them, passing directly in front of the tree where the hawk sat.  Typically, when hawks perch near our pond they’re either hunting or sunning and I’ve seen them sit motionless for twenty minutes or more at a time. So I didn’t rush. I didn’t want to jinx myself. My camera needed a lens change and  to be mounted on a tripod. I’ve learned from previous experience that I don’t shoot well with my camera mounted on a monopod if I’m shooting something up high. I also took the time to set my camera settings prior to stepping out the door.  When I was ready, I headed back toward the barn, eyes scanning the trees and hoping to see the hawk still there. As luck would have it, he was! While I went about getting my tripod in place I wondered if I’d be able to get a good shot, especially given how high up in the tree the bird was perched.


It took only a minute or two to set up the tripod, level my camera and zone in on the hawk. I snapped two quick shots, then after checking them closely, saw there was a small branch partially blocking my view. I picked up my tripod, moved about fifteen or twenty feet to the right, then re-leveled and re-focused my camera. Perfect! I slowly pressed the shutter release, which was set on a two second delay to avoid camera vibration. At that very instant the bird opened it’s wings, few off, and I got a perfectly composed shot of an empty branch.


I’m not too terribly disappointed because I know the hawk will be back. Our pond and surrounding fields offer great hunting for winged predators and we see the hawks often. What DID please me is that even though the two pictures I got were partially blocked, they were in good focus. I’ve taken a few pictures lately (OK, more than a few ….) that have made me question if my camera is maybe having some issues or if I’ve just forgotten how to take a decently focused photo! Learning photography is fun when everything is going well and your pictures turn out fine, but when there are problems it can be really hard to pinpoint the source of the issue. Obviously, the problem is me, which is pretty much what I thought! 😉


It’s cold and pouring rain out today. Maybe it’s a good time to get that camera guide book out again and get cracking!


Feb 14, 2011. 8:30 AM EST.

Canon EOS 7D

ISO: 100, 200mm, 1/640 sec, f/5.0

Lens: Tamron 70-200mm

Lightroom3: Crop



Feathered Ornaments

I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many different birds sharing the same small tree. I guess in a bad storm they have to make due. At one point there were three pairs of cardinals perched in this mini tree. I know they don’t usually like to be that crowded, but we got so much snow that day that there wasn’t any other place to go. I felt sorry for them, like I do all wildlife when the weather turns extreme. I took a small hike into the woods late yesterday afternoon in hopes of shooting a sunset. I was stunned by how deep the snow is and how difficult it was to navigate even just a few yards. We’re seeing deer prints on our shoveled and plowed paths, which makes me wonder how long it will be before they start to decimate my shrubs? Oh well … they must need them more than I do now.


Jan 12, 2011 12:00 PM

Canon EOS 7D

ISO: 250, 123mm, 1/160, f/8.0.

Lens: Tamron 70-200mm

Lightroom 3: Crop, minor contrast/brightness adj.