Thursday, February 25, 2010

Count Down to Spring

Just think campers, we're down to 26 days to Spring! I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to it. I'm fed up with the snow, the weather man tells me we've had 100 inches so far for the year and the weather's about to go south once again in the way of a Nor'easter, even as we prepare this blog.

The Art Alliance of Mount Aloysius College is sponsoring a Gone to the Birds January 20 - March 12, 2010. A reception was held on Sunday, 14 February 2010.

Patrons of the arts view some of the pieces on display at the Wolf-Kuhn Gallery on the campus of Mount Aloysius College in Cresson, PA.

Visitors take a closer look at a photograph of a Snowy Owl, which isn't often seen in this area.

The Student Government Association at Saint Francis University recently had the grand opening of an ice skating rink which is situated behind the DeGol Field House.

Free hot dogs, hamburgers and hot chocolate are one way to get students on any campus to attend an event.

Ice skates in the snow.

This SFU student does his best impersonation of Hans Brinker.

Dried buds from last year's Spanish Yucca flower are a nice contrast to the snow.

Bird hotel, closed for the winter.

I swear next year I will have many pots of these silk flowers around the yard so I can have a winter garden.

This is a Titmouse and a Black-capped Chickadee looking to land on the same spot of the feeder.

It's a near mid-air collision for these opposing two birds.

The orange slices that were part of our Christmas decorations are now serving as a little color in the white of winter and hopefully, the birds will enjoy them as well.

The warm weather that we've been having for the last several days has brought out the local rodent population.

Titmouse about to fly down to the feeder below him.

If you are a regular reader of the blog you've seen more than enough photographs of the woodpeckers and other birds flying into the suet feeders. This photograph shows the male Hairy Woodpecker as he flies toward the suet feeder. The distance between the 2x4 on the left and the center of the chain holding the feeder is 29 inches. For the most part, I try to snap the shutter as soon as the bird indicates that it's about to take off. Sometimes, I'm too fast, sometimes I'm too slow. In this shot I'm a little slow because the bird had traveled approximately 26 inches by the time I hit the button.

At this point, the bird is about 5 inches from the feeder.

In this shot the Red-bellied Woodpecker was sitting on top of the 2x4 before leaping off to land on the suet feeder.

Similar, but Different (a study)

These next two pictures are just pure luck for the most part. Because the Hairy Woodpecker was having trouble landing on the suet feeder, I was able to get shots of him while he was fluttering about around the feeder. This allows me to get shots from the back of the birds that I would normally not get because of the way they usually must approach the feeders. When you look at these two pictures you can see they were shot from different directions yet they are similar. Look closely at the two shots and see what you find to be similar and what you find to be different.

Here you have to imagine what the bird's feet are doing.

In this picture the bird is approaching left to right. In the previous picture the bird is approaching over my shoulder. You can see the bird's feet getting ready to grab the feeder.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

13th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count

Here we are in the middle of February and it's time for the 13th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count sponsored by Cornell Lab of Ornithology, National Audobon Society and Bird Studies Canada. As has been the tradition over the last few years we participated and this year is not any different. All of the photographs were taken in the last week. Those from the hawk to the end were taken during the days of the count.

13th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count, Susquehanna Township, Cambria County, PA.

A male and female pair of Downy Woodpeckers fight over a perch on the suet feeder.

These are the male and female Hairy Woodpeckers. There are three photographs this week that show two birds of the same species competing at the feeders. Believe me, it isn't easy to get these shots, especially those of the male and female of the same species at the same feeder at the same time.

Red-Bellied Woodpecker
In this shot I've allowed myself a little head room in front of the bird so that I can be sure that the woodpecker is completely in the frame.

Female Red-Bellied Woodpecker.

I have seen this hawk three or four times over the last month or so, but it was never around long enough for me to properly identify or even get a photograph of until this weekend. This was the highlight of our 13th Annual Backyard Bird Count weekend. It happened at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, the first day.

Sharp-Shinned Hawk -- Accipiter striatus
When I first spotted the hawk it turned and flew away from me. I then spotted the hawk sitting on a limb overlooking the bird feeders which is one of the Sharp-shinned's favorite places to hunt.

It was only a stroke of luck that I pressed the remote control shutter release as the Sharp-shinned Hawk took off for a better perch nearer the feeders.

At this point the Sharp-shinned Hawk is all but directly over my head about 15 feet high in the trees. To get this shot I'm kneeling on the floor, shooting almost straight up through a closed window.

I can't wait until spring comes and they lose their greenish color and go back to the gold.

Blue Jay.

Tufted Titmouse.

Mourning Dove flying through the trees.

Female Cardinal on a sassafras branch. The sassafras trees are abundant at the edge of the yard just at the start of the woods.

Male Cardinal on a sassafras branch.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Prologue Snow Date 10 February 2010

Two snow storms in 5 days. Sure do wish the Mrs. could keep up with the snow shoveling.

I shot this a few days before we got hit with the latest bout of snow. Oh, what a dfference.

Right now this yard decoration is under about 20 inches of new snow.

A lull in the storm. Work with me here.

Seeing that I've only been out of the house once in the last week, I've been spending a lot of time shooting the birds again. By watching the birds, you can tell when the weather is about to turn for the worse. When the sun is out and shining the birds tend to fend for themselves and eat what they can find in the woods. But when the sky starts to turn grey and the temperatures drop, they come back to the feeders and the heated bird bath.

Timing is the name of the game when trying to shoot any of the birds like this Downy Woodpecker as they go to land on the suet feeder.

A White-breasted Nuthatch landing on the suet feeder.

The biggest of the woodpeckers to use the suet feeders are the Red-Bellied.

With his beak holding a piece of the suet and seed, the Red-Bellied flies off to a tree to enjoy his meal.

Some more pictures of another bird that had a run-in with a window pane that I was able to keep out of the snow until it was able to fly again.

If you've ever been hit in the head hard enough that you thought it would make your toes curl, this in fact is what happens to most birds when they run into a windowpane as you can see in this picture. Once the birds start to revive themselves, I can tell they will be able to fly again when their claws start to uncurl and they begin to grip or hold onto my hand.

Here's looking at you.

The bird flew from my hand and rested on the porch rail for a few minutes before it flew off for good. You can see that the claws are back in their normal position.

It's either take off or get rammed for the Nuthatch as a female Downy Woodpecker heads for the feeder.

Shooting at 1/2500 of a second using a 200mm lens and a 2x extender stops the Downy Woodpecker just before she hits the feeder.

About 5 weeks ago or so I spotted this male Hairy Woodpecker and 2 females in the woods some 20 yards from the house. It took 2 weeks to get the picture of the females that we used on the January 14th blog. After many, many hours of standing at the window watching for the male, he finally came into camera range and posed for me. Now the only two woodpeckers that I need to get pictures of are the Red Head and the rare 3 toed Black Back Woodpecker.

Goldfinch sitting on a sassafras limb.

Right about now I'd rather be in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Close-up of a lizard garden ornament. It's safe and warm in the house awaiting spring.

Snow field, Westrick Farm, Elder Township, PA.

Don't forget this weekend. Sharpen your pencils, make a pot of chili and stay inside where it's warm. If the weather stays as it is you'll have lots of birds to see and count. Good Luck!