Backyard photography

Springtime Backyard Bird Photography

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Last weekend I spent a couple of happy hours in my backyard, photographing the springtime birds. Our Painted Buntings are getting ready to leave, and they are especially active at the feeders right now. I counted up to 4 males and at least 10 greenies in the yard at the same time. The two Gray Catbirds continue to chase each other around the yard, as do several pairs of Northern Cardinals, each of whom thinks it owns the yard. Our American Goldfinches numbers are dwindling as the weather gets warmer. In the evenings, the Tree Sparrows fly overhead, a small flock that reminds me a little of the murmuration I got to photograph a few years ago.

Painted Bunting (Male)
Painted Bunting (Male)

I placed my “pretty perch” near a feeder, sat back in a comfortable chair, and watched and waited. It didn’t take long for the birds to cooperate. :)

Northern Cardinal (Male)
Northern Cardinal (Male)

I took a few branches from the flowering Coral Honeysuckle and placed them on my branch. Mr. Cardinal thought that was an excellent idea. He reached down to bite at the flowers and extract the nectar from within.

American Goldfinch
American Goldfinch

After observing the American Goldfinches for several years, I knew that they would perch on the tallest branch near their feeder. So I stuck a honeysuckle branch on the top of my shepherd’s hook. The next time a goldfinch flew in, he hopped obligingly on my branch. :)

Gray Catbird
Gray Catbird

The pair of Gray Catbirds has been quite vocal this spring. They perch in opposite sides of the yard at dusk and call back and forth: Meow! Meow! It’s fun to watch our gray cat Squirt’s head go back and forth as he listens to their calls.

Painted Bunting (Greenie)
Painted Bunting (Greenie)

I started to notice the flocks of swallows a few weeks ago. They start after sunset, flying in circles, calling to each other and plucking insects from mid-air (at least somebody likes all the midge flies in our neighborhood!). Photographing these fast fliers is a challenge, especially as the light fades.

Tree Swallow
Tree Swallow

The birds aren’t the only springtime visitors in the backyard. Several bunny families live in the neighborhood and spend their afternoons hanging out under the bushes. They always remind me of my mom. So this last picture is for her… :)

Backyard bunny
Backyard bunny

Beyond the Backyard

Another Lake Apopka Sunset

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A couple of weekends ago, the sunset forecast was pretty good for Central Florida, so I twisted Rich’s arm into visiting Magnolia Park on our way to the grocery store. He pointed out that we pass the grocery store on the way to Magnolia Park, haha, but he came along for the ride anyway. ;-)

Sunset at Magnolia Park
Sunset at Magnolia Park

There was a cold front coming through that evening, and the clouds in the distance were the leading edge. A church group sang in Spanish about the glory of God as we watched the sun dip under the horizon. The song was accentuated by the faraway calls of Limpkins and Peacocks.

As usual, I bracketed multiple shots at varying exposures and combined them using HDR. I loved how the fiery glow of the sun reflected off the lake in the afterglow image.

Sunset at Magnolia Park
Sunset Afterglow at Magnolia Park

A nice way to end the day… (and much more peaceful than the grocery store!)

Backyard photography

Colorful Afternoon in the Backyard

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Sometimes the best birding spots are those closest to home. Like your own backyard. It’s springtime and my feeders are full of Painted Buntings and American Goldfinches. We’ve had a pair of Gray Catbirds that sit on opposite sides of the yard and meow at each other. Our Brown Thrasher pair is back at the bird bath. From time to time, we hear the calls of Eastern Bluebirds in the treetops. So I headed out into my backyard last Saturday afternoon to put out a couple of perches near feeders and photograph the birds who happened to settle on them. It was fun. :)

Painted Bunting (Male)
Painted Bunting (Male)

In previous backyard bird photography sessions, I waited for hours before a male Painted Bunting happened onto my staged perch. This year I got lucky and it happened in a few minutes. :)

It’s pretty simple to get photos like this. Over the years, I’ve observed that the birds fly to my feeders by following a pattern. They peek out of the bush and wait till they feel safe. Then they fly to a shepherd’s crook or similar perch, sit there for a few seconds, then hop over to an open feeder port.

So I took a walk around the neighborhood, found a pretty branch, and placed it between the bush and the feeder. The birds immediately accommodated me by hopping to my perch. Then I sat back in the shade, put my camera into Silent shooting mode, and wait for the birds to come. It doesn’t take long.

Palm Warbler
Palm Warbler

Nearby, this Palm Warbler was searching for bugs in the flower bed. He was starting to get into his breeding colors, bright yellows and rich browns that make his normal winter plumage look pretty drab. He’ll be leaving FL soon to head up north to breed.

Brown Thrasher
Brown Thrasher

This Brown Thrasher stayed on the perch for about 10 seconds, making a number of strange faces as he considered a jump to the feeder. Then he returned to the flower bed and started thrashing through the mulch. He helpfully leaves all the mulch on the lawn. ;-)

White-Crowned Sparrow (Juvenile)
White-Crowned Sparrow (Juvenile)

My last visitors of the evening showed up just as the golden light started to fade. Three White-crowned Sparrows, all juveniles, calling quietly to each other as they checked out the salvia seeds. This was the first time I’d seen White-crowned Sparrows in the backyard. It was a nice way to end the afternoon as the cats helped me update their backyard Life List.