Friday, March 31, 2017
Seeing all kinds of critters in the outdoors gives me great pleasure. My bird feeders are attracting more and more varieties with each passing day.
I have bushes on each side of my feeders that provide safe havens for the birds before they hop onto the feeders. This male cardinal is hardly hidden, though, with its striking, vibrant red body.
This chubby little Black-capped Chickadee does a better job of blending in with the woody branches.
It jumps onto the feeder, grabs a few seeds, and then flits off to the nearby, dense evergreens. Once there, it sings out in contentment fee-bee...fee-bee.
The finches have also finally found the feeders in the last couple weeks. These American Goldfinches are wearing their beautiful yellow colors, with the male being the brighter of the pair.
The most recent finch to visit is this male House Finch. I've yet to hear what its song is like, but I hope to become more acquainted with this variety. But birds aren't the only visitors to my feeders.
I dropped a feeder with safflower seed on the ground and actually forgot about it for a few days. When I peeked out the next morning, I found this bunny enjoying the seed as much as any of the birds had. Who would've thought I'd have a rabbit at my feeders!
Saturday, March 25, 2017
With the arrival of spring this week, it seemed like the perfect time to explore some of the Boardman Valley Nature Preserve areas, which had been frozen over in the winter months. I expected to see waterfowl and I was not disappointed.
Two Mute Swans were cruising the pond waters. One seemed pretty content to just paddle along.
The other was busy with the important job of preening its feathers.
Then a handsome pair of mallard ducks came close enough for me to get a good image of them.
Almost out of my range, I spied another pair of ducks, but I wasn't able to identify them. Hmmm.
But most of these waterfowl were busy dunking themselves in the water and getting vegetation off the pond bottom for food.
As I watched the swan engage in the same behavior, I had to chuckle as it appeared it was going to tip over in its search. I imagined what that long neck was doing as it swept along the pond floor.
Friday, March 17, 2017
I was beginning to wonder if I was going to photograph any owls this year. Then I read that the Wildlife Recovery Association was doing an owl presentation at the Boardman River Nature Center. I jumped at the chance to see some owls and learn about their habitats. All the owls that the organization brought had been injured and were now living their lives at the sanctuary.
The first owl was a small, reddish-brown Eastern Screech Owl. Its big, yellow eyes are striking! This owl is stocky, and has a large head with no neck.
Here is another Eastern Screech Owl, but in the gray variety. The ear tufts on this owl type are almost always raised.
This owl's restlessness was a signal that it was ready to return to the safety of its cage. Notice the handler is wearing thick gloves for protection from the owl's serious claws.
Oh, my. This next owl was such a cutie. It was a pint-sized (literally) Saw-Whet Owl. It is a very shy owl and prefers a dense habitat. To accommodate this owl's need for privacy, the handlers built a garment with its own protective hollow.
The Saw-Whet's shyness was obvious as it didn't look right at people, instead keeping its eyes down-turned.
I was nearly duped into its sweetness; that is until I noticed its hooked beak, which it uses to grip and tear its prey.
Then came the largest owl, and my favorite, the Barred Owl. When I lived in Northport, I would often hear Barred Owls calling to each other with their distinctive and recognizable call: Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?
This beautiful bird gets its name from the striped bars that cover its body. It's unique from many other owls, in that it doesn't have ear tufts.
It's warm brown-black eyes and round head are somewhat deceiving at the sweetness of this owl, but, again, its beak is a reminder of the work these raptors do to survive in the wild. What an enjoyable time it was to see these owls close-up. Many thanks to the Wildlife Recovery Association for the work they do. If you'd like more information, their website is wildliferecovery.org.
Friday, March 10, 2017
I continue to be fascinated with the red spires at the Grand Traverse Commons. This week I practiced using my various lenses to try to capture as many spires as I could in a single image.
I often catch glimpses of the spires in the distance as I drive down the hills of Silver Lake Road. On this day, I pulled over to the side of the road and used my telephoto lens to capture these six spires. The long lens really pulled them in, although I was unhappy with all the shrubs and fence lines in the foreground.
The lens I thought would be the most useful for my task was my ultra-wide angle lens. I mistakenly thought the ultra-wide would help get all the spires in. While I did get eight spires in this one image, I hadn't expected the foreground to be so prominent and exaggerated. Great for a lovely landscape scene, but not so good for this venue.
Besides the prominent foreground, photographers have to take care to keep their cameras with ultra-wides very straight in the horizontal or buildings can appear to be tipping over. I have a bit of that in the building to the left. Five spires and counting.
At this point, I could see my ultra-wide wasn't going to work for the job. I switched to my mid-range walk-around lens, a 24-105 mm. While I didn't get as many spires in, the scene appeared more natural with the size of the buildings being prominent and the foreground parking lot being of normal size and not so exaggerated.
I got five spires in this scene, but there were too many cars to clutter up the scene. Right lens, but wrong time of the day.
As I closed out the three days of shooting, all with beautiful sunshine and blue skies, I returned to my zoom telephoto lens for a close-up of this building and the three red spires. I can see I have more work to do to get the image I'm looking for but I have some ideas for the future. Finding a higher vantage point and shooting at a time when there's less activity might give me what I'm hoping for.
Friday, March 3, 2017
I was driving along the bay when I spotted two Mute Swans paddling in a protected, shallow pool. I pulled over to see what they were up to.
These long-necked waterfowl are so graceful as they bob along our lake shores. Mating for life, they almost always are seen in pairs.
They moved nearly in tandem as they worked at pulling vegetation off the bay bottom and eating it.
Then one swan began preening its feathers, contorting its long neck to reach all over its body.
The other swan went over to an area heavy with reeds. I wondered if there was early nest-building going on.
Turns out it was just making a beeline back into the main bay. Its feet were paddling so fast it was leaving a wake.
The fishing for food must have been better there. I've read that swans have huge appetites and can consume up to eight pounds of submerged aquatic vegetation a day.