Tree Swallows Swarm at Lake Kissimmee

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Joe Overstreet Road

Sometimes you come across a scene in nature and you just stare in amazement. That’s what happened to me in mid-February when I visited Joe Overstreet Road. I was hoping to catch the Ross’s Goose, so when I came to the lake and didn’t see it, I was a little disappointed. Until I saw something better: a giant flock of Tree Swallows! Sometimes you just have to be in the right place at the right time…and then the dilemma is, which lens do you use first?

It was the largest flock of Tree Swallows I’ve ever seen up close. It reminded me of the murmuration that Dyeyo and I saw a few years ago in Ruskin. Literally thousands of birds were flying around the lake shore, circling the fields and diving for insects.

Dyeyo used to wonder if Tree Swallows ever landed. Well, yep, they do!

Tree Swallow
Tree Swallow. One of the few portraits with a clean background from over 1,000 images!

Quite a few of them perched in the grassy field as the birds swarmed over their heads. After shooting some video with my iPhone, then with my intermediate telephoto, I settled down with my Beast to try to make some close-up images. You’d think that would be easy with literally thousands of subjects to choose from. Not exactly, with all the birds whizzing by. It took some patience and fast focusing to zero in on particular behaviors, like this swallow dive-bombing an insect in mid-air…

Tree Swallow
Tree Swallow Catches Insect in Mid-air

…or what appeared to be juveniles, lined up on a branch and waiting for Mom to show up to feed them. As soon as she flew by, all the beaks opened wide! “Me, me, pick me!!”

Tree Swallow
Tree Swallow Juveniles Beg for a Bug

Every once in a while I’d look up in amazement. Or surprise, when the poop landed on my camera! It’s hard to do justice to this kind of a scene. I mean, how often do you look up and see the sky literally filled with birds?

Tree Swallow
Tree Swallows Fill the Skies

I tried isolating them in flight. That’s such a challenge when they fly so fast and change direction very quickly. I got a few keepers. :)

Tree Swallow
Tree Swallow in Flight

It was more fun to photograph the interactions between the individual birds. These two birds kept poking at each other. Somehow in that giant field with thousands of companions, I think the right one invaded the left one’s personal bubble!

Tree Swallow
Tree Swallows Bickering

I don’t know all that much about swallows, but I have a feeling these birds are preparing for their spring migration. I spent the morning in complete amazement, and it peaked when I saw a pair of them mate right in front of me. Spring is definitely here!!

202102203_copyrightJessYarnell
Tree Swallows Ensuring the Survival of the Species ;-)

Flowers, Droplets, and Filters!

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Digital Art, Flower Photography, Macro

It’s been a while since I played with Rainex and water droplets.  Daisy-like flowers are really well suited for water refraction, and I had some African Sparkler Daisies blooming in the backyard, so I put two and two together and got…purple!  (Jaime, are you reading this? :)

Purple Daisies
Purple Daisies

If you’re not familiar with the technique, it’s easy.  Grab a piece of clear plastic or glass.  Wash it with Rainex, that stuff you put on your windshield to make the rain droplets bead up.  It works nicely to make the water droplets that you spray on the glass bead up in nice, photogenic circles.  Then put a flower underneath and spend a few hours finding patterns.  It’s fun!

Except on this particular day, I didn’t stop there. :)

Water Droplets with a Dash of Color
Water Droplets with a Dash of Color

Different flower this time – it was a pansy under the glass.  Also there were tiny annoying bubbles in some of my water droplets.  I decided the image needed a little something to make it pop, so I added some color in Color Efex.

One of my images was noisier than I liked, especially after I added the color and sharpened it a bit.  So I started playing with some more filters and stumbled onto something that made me gasp…

Bubbles with a Twist!
Bubbles with a Twist!

That would be bubbles with a twist! :)  This one got a Wow from Rich.  Frequent readers of my blog will know that a Wow is high praise indeed from my hubby, who doesn’t always appreciate my “artsy” attempts.

I really liked this image, but the noise still bothered me.  So I took another photo and tried again, choosing more purple colors this time.

Purple Peacock
Purple Peacock

Not a bad way to spend a rainy afternoon, huh?

Mixed Flock of Warblers at Oakland Nature Preserve

Posted 1 CommentPosted in Backyard photography

Finally! I finally saw the Yellow-breasted Chat at Oakland Nature Preserve! But I didn’t get a photo. That bird is very good at hiding in the vegetation. I thanked him for being so elusive, since he forced me to visit often and explore the surrounding area. I found a mixed flock of birds that was such fun to photograph!

As the chat rustled in the trees, I heard another bird rustling closer nearby. A few minutes later, this Downy Woodpecker popped out very close to me. He posed for a moment to say hello, then continued to search for his breakfast.

Downy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker

I found a mixed flock of warblers and sparrows at the end of the Red Trail. They darted in and out of the trees, giving me lots of opportunities for flight shots and quick focusing. This was my favorite Pine Warbler image of the day.

Pine Warbler
Pine Warbler

An Orange-crowned Warbler peeked out from between the acorns.

Orange-crowned Warbler
Orange-crowned Warbler

Then I spotted the Blue-eyed Vireo across the trail. He blurred a little in my photo as he darted from branch to branch. The light was very low that day, making it harder to focus. But since there was limited sunlight, I could point the camera in any direction I wanted without getting harsh shadows.

Blue-headed Vireo
Blue-headed Vireo

Off in the distance, a House Wren sang from his perch on top of a pile of brush. This is a great “bird in environment” viewpoint.

House Wren
House Wren

I saw at least three Eastern Bluebirds that morning. Their happy chortling calls echoed as they went from electrical line perches to hunting for worms in the grass. One pair of birds seemed to be a mated pair. It won’t be long till they are nesting.

Eastern Bluebird
Eastern Bluebird

The last bird of the morning was a Red-bellied Woodpecker. He flew into his favorite tree carrying an acorn, which he proceeded to stash in his little hole. Then he posed for the camera and told me not to post the location of his stash on the Internet! A bird has to have some privacy, you know. ;-)

Red-bellied Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker