Sunday, December 03, 2006
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Monday, November 06, 2006
Sunday, October 29, 2006
Saturday, October 14, 2006
Monday, October 09, 2006
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Monday, October 02, 2006
Sunday, September 10, 2006
The fog comes on little cat feet. It sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches and then moves on. Carl SandburgIn the Ohio River Valley, fog can limit itself to hovering over the water only, or covering all the roads until you reach the river itself. Last weekend, only the river was hidden in the fog.
Walking along the bank, I knew the birds were all there, but even the Killdeers were silent and invisible. A fisherman, not to be stopped by a little fog, had built a small campfire along the shore. I doubt he was cold, but the smell of wood smoke added a pioneer touch to the air - the scent of smoke meant that people were nearby, though unseen. The water lapped softly along the muddy bank, and I listened to it without competition from other noises. All my senses seemed to be narrowed, focused to the small area visible in the fog. A jet went overhead, its roar muffled, in another unreachable world from my land of fog. As time passed, the fog lifted slightly, and I could see a little farther along the shore. Had I stood there long enough, the entire bend would have come in to sight. Appearing silently out of the clouds, an Osprey glided to the top branch of a dead tree. When you can't see the water, fishing is pretty useless, so he decided to just take a rest. Of course, my telephoto lens was back in the car, so I took a few photos and crossed my fingers. I doubt the lens would have made much difference. If you didn't know this was an Osprey already, you probably would not recognize it. But what can you do in the fog....
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
I carried the tripod mounted camera down along the path, just to see how sharp I could get closer subjects. My tripod sat in the corner for a long time, and needs another good treatment with WD-40 to make it swivel easier before we go to Chesapeake Bay in a few weeks. Nuthatches can be hard to see with your eye at all, and even harder to find in a camera lens, being little birds that move around a lot. Here's a great shot of the nuthatch in its typical upside down position. Notice how this little guy looks more blue than gray. The nuthatch at my feeder (I didn't know they even ate sunflower seeds) will land on the roof, swing upside down, then hang down to grab a seed and fly away with it. My Panasonic Lumix camera has a monitor that comes out and swivels around from the back of the camera, so I could compose and focus, even when the bird was at an awkward angle for a camera on a tripod to point at. Ah, but it's tough to get old. I have to take my bifocals off to see the monitor clearly at all.
I'll have to take a self-portrait of the Dennis Birdwatchers, decorated with hats, binoculars, spotting scope, tripods and cameras. Dick is using the Olympus point and click camera and has lots of fun working with the digital pictures of his own. Certainly, that camera takes a lot less muscle on vacation. Maybe I'll let him be in charge of carrying the spotting scope on its tripod! Our photography hikes may be shorter than those for just the watching, with all this equipment to cart around. I guess that's a choice you have to make. What is more important, the watching or the photos? If you don't take the camera though, Murphy's Law guarantees you will have a perfect opportunity for the perfect shot.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Saturday, August 19, 2006
Advice from a River...Go with the flow... Immerse yourself in nature...Slow down and meander....Go around the obstacles...Be thoughtful of those downstream...Stay current...The beauty is in the journey!
Thursday, August 10, 2006
Friday, August 04, 2006
The squirrels are wary of anyone coming in the yard, so I have to take pictures of them through the porch screens, and they tend to come out fuzzy. It takes great skill and determination to reach down from the top of the feeder, around the baffle, until the squirrel swings under it all together. Holding on to the perches with three feet while reaching in with one paw to grab a seed certainly receives my applause. Any creature willing to work this hard deserves any seeds he can get.
Sunday, July 30, 2006
First, wash the windows in the kitchen door, in case dirty glass is the actual problem. Then put the camera on a tripod and aim it at the feeder and focus it before any birds come. So far so good. However, in the afternoon, the windows reflect the afternoon light, tending to wash out any photo taken through the window. If I move the glass aside, the screen still makes for fuzzy pictures. Also, these windows aren't one way glass, and when I rise to turn the camera on as a hummer approaches the feeder, they see me move, and dart away. Would a shutter release cable help? But the waiting until a bird comes is the hardest part! How do those professional photographers wait around for hours until the bird comes to them? I'll keep trying. They won't be leaving for several weeks yet, so there still may be hope for me to get a clear shot.
Thursday, July 20, 2006
When you finally slow down enough to look at them, spider webs are amazingly beautiful and intricate. Almost invisible in regular light, when bejeweled with morning dew, they out sparkle diamonds. One spider builds only the minimum of strands, while another weaves a tight net. Is this determined by the species? One long strand can stretch across great distances... well, to a spider they must be great. Certainly they are much longer than the spider herself. Does a young spider spinning its first web tremble in fear at the leap required to fasten that first strand across the emptiness? Does the older spider want to downsize, now that she is facing retirement? Can I have the courage and determination of the spider when something knocks me down, again?
Focusing a camera on a spider web takes a lot of concentration. The photographer moves around, trying to catch the light shining off the dew in just the right way. The rest of your group may call, "Come on already." Be careful though. Watch the web so you don't knock it down in trying to preserve its beauty for ever. I have lots of pictures that did not focus on the web successfully, but either before it or behind it. Life is like that. It's hard to know what is important and where to spend your efforts. Knowing full well that in a while, it probably won't make a difference anyway. After all, life is just a spider web.
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Vultures are intelligent birds. At a raptor show, the handler would carry in the owls and hawks. However, she walked in being followed by a young Black Vulture which followed her like a puppy. It had been impressed by people when it hatched and couldn't be released into the wild, but this bird learned new things twice as fast as any other bird they worked with she said. These Black Vultures found a red ball washed up on the river bank, and spent a wonderful morning playing with it. First one would peck at it, then jump back when it moved. Then another would push it back towards the rest. The Vulture Word Cup we called it. A Turkey Vulture is most efficient at flying. In the morning, they wait until the sun warms the surrounding area (the rocks at the Falls of the Ohio), and when the thermals start to rise, they all take off at once--a "kettle" of vultures on the wing. A Turkey Vulture only has to tip its wings a bit to change directions and can be easily recognized midair by the "V" position of its wings and the fact that you rarely see it flap. Under the proper conditions, a Turkey Vulture can soar for up to six hours without flapping its wings. The Turkey Vulture Society website has amazing facts about this bird. Although it is constantly exposed to the bacteria associated with decaying meat, the vulture doesn't get sick from it. Its head has few feathers and it will toast itself in the sun to destroy anything it might have picked up. We saw one on the ledge of the 32nd floor in our office building, calming holding its wings outspread to enjoy the sun and breeze from this lofty perch. Its urine is strong enough to kill any bacteria on its legs. The acid in its stomach will destroy many organisms that would kill another animal if ingested. If not for Vultures, we would be up to our elbows in carcasses! Yet for all the road kill along the highway, I've not seen many vultures who got hit by a car from stopping for a little fast food.
Sunday, July 02, 2006
If you don't have your camera, you are bound to see some good birds and wish you had it.Our family traditionally goes to the Louisville Zoo on at least one holiday, and today the kids and I went. You don't have to go out into the woods to see some birds and get some great photos. In fact, it's easier at the Zoo, because the birds either can't fly off, or aren't interested in hiding from you in the first place! The zookeeper for the Lorikeets is a friend of my daughter's and a most enthusiastic birder! After the female birds had their fill of nectar from the visitors, he blew a whistle and they all went back inside the building. Then he warned us about the males about to be released. "They will fly out in a group, from one side of the enclosure to another, perhaps a couple of times. If you don't think it sounds like fun to have 26 parrots flying at you, stand back, or duck down if they get too close." The birds did exactly as predicted! I love having a bird that likes to be photographed.
The wild ducks and geese know a good thing when they see it, and take full advantage of the free feed and safe nesting areas at the Zoo. One goose gave a loud squawk and jumped up in the lake, then we saw a turtle come up from beneath it with a big grin on his face. Nothing like goosing a goose, he said. We saw the standard Mallards, and some other smaller ducks with red eyes and a white throat. I think these are Wood Ducks in their non-breeding plummage. Once I saw a comment that the only way to tell what a brown duck is is to watch who she hangs out with. That may work sometimes, but not today. We saw brown ducks that could have been female Mallards, or maybe female Wood Ducks, or maybe Black Ducks? It didn't have an orange bill like the mallard. They might have been juveniles of those species, or males in non-breeding plummage. (Virtual head shaking) Do male ducks loose their fancy feathers once the breeding season is over?
Thursday, June 29, 2006
One source says the Phoebe often nests in or around human habitations, building mud and grass nests under the eaves of buildings. The Pee-wee builds a nest on a horizontal limb well out from a trunk in a living tree. If it had sung, I could have recognized the song, but I didn't hear anything that day. Therefore, if the nest belongs to the bird I saw, I'd guess it's the Phoebe.
Second guessing on a bird's identity can drive you crazy. However, it is also dangerous to go with the first bird you see in the book that looks kind of like the one you saw. One time I had to ask a local expert about a picture, and he confidently said it was a mocking bird. That's what I thought the first time, in fact, but the longer I worked with it, the less confident I was. Will I ever have that confidence level? There are so many pieces to look at - color, lighting, stripes, legs, song. How can I get those birds to pose nicely and sing for me at the same time? Settle down there, girl, don't get all hyper. Remember, you are doing this for the fun of it, right? Don't get so wrapped up that you forget that part. This isn't a contest, and no one will give you a bad grade if you get something wrong. Every time you try to make a tough identification, you learn something else, and that alone is worthwhile. Take a deep breath and move on to the next bird.