Sometimes it’s great to go off to exciting places to take pictures of nature. Sometimes it’s nice just to stay home and photograph the nature in your own backyard! You never know what you are missing until you spend a few hours curled up in a blind or hidden in some bushes. I know that our wintering Painted Buntings and American Goldfinches will soon be departing, so I spent a fun afternoon doing some yard birding.
Yard birding takes some patience. I have a blind that I sometimes use to hide from the birds, but on this particular afternoon, it was very windy and I knew that the birds would be disturbed by the flapping of the blind. So I found a good hiding spot in the bushes. As long as there is a visual barrier between me and my subjects, they seem to be fairly tolerant of my presence.
I had barely settled in when a Palm Warbler came hopping across the yard. One way to identify Palm Warblers from a distance is to notice that they flap their tails up and down quite often. Glad that I had just cut the grass, I aimed my Beast at him, just as he grabbed a snack! I think it was a small butterfly or dragonfly. He posed with it for a few seconds before gobbling it down.
We’d had a series of rainy, windy days as several fronts moved over Central Florida. I was happy just to be out with a camera. I was trying some Alan Murphy techniques for attracting small songbirds to pretty perches. I had a grouping of sunflowers that had sprouted under my feeders, and I was trying to get the birds to pose on those. But of course, the Painted Buntings decided to perch on the most un-natural perch around… :)
After working with the Painted Buntings over the past few years, I’ve learned that I can take their feeder and put it in a nice spot (like a grassy area where I’ll get smooth green backgrounds). Then I can put something picturesque near the feeder. The birds will usually hop to the perch before jumping into the feed cage. Except for today! The female Painted Bunting didn’t cooperate well either. She posed on top of the feeder. But I had taken a few shots of the sunflower plants by themselves, and so I played with Photoshop and moved the female to a prettier perch.
A Gray Catbird meowed for me to feed Squirt (the running joke in our household…the gray catbirds tell us when to feed our gray cat!) American Goldfinches sang with their sweet “potato chip” calls. Gosh, I’m going to miss them in a few weeks. Then I spotted a new bird to my backyard. Savannah Sparrows are quite common, but I’ve never seen one in our yard before. My first shots were horrible, of the two birds who were hiding on the far side of the yard. But patience paid off – as I sat there, the birds inched their way closer and closer to me, until I could get a fairly decent shot.
The most animated birds in the yard right now have to be the Northern Cardinals. We have several pairs who seem to be nesting in the area. Territorial disputes are common, especially when I see one female and two males in the yard. When that happens, they don’t care if I’m doing yard work or photographing or anything. They’ll fly right past me in order to chase off the potential rival! Smart birds, as the females are looking pretty colorful in their breeding colors right now…
The cardinals are the most likely to perch on my sunflowers, and I was hoping they would provide me with some photogenic opportunities, but of course they didn’t. Instead of picking the seeds from the centers of the sunflowers, Mr. Cardinal decided to be lazy and eat the seeds under the feeder. He looked pretty cute with his mouth full, though!
The American Goldfinches are starting to turn yellow. More about that in an upcoming blog post…