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.

Beyond the Backyard

Aerial Acrobats at LAWD

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Every spring I look forward to photographing the baby swallows as they line up and dance to beg for food. Last Saturday at Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive (LAWD) I found Barn Swallows congregating near their nesting site. I grabbed my intermediate telephoto lens and challenged myself to get some sharp photos of these tiny aerial acrobats.

Barn Swallow in Flight
Barn Swallow in Flight

It’s a challenge to photograph these birds on the wing. They are rapid fliers as they zoom around over the canals. I think they are nesting under this one bridge. Occasionally they would land on a branch out over the water, so I positioned myself low on the bridge and waited. Then this bird posed right in front of my lens. :)

Barn Swallow
Barn Swallow

It’s quite fun to practice your flight photography skills on these little guys. I was happy to get a few shots in focus. When I looked at the images on my computer, I saw that the birds were dive-bombing insects in midair. They reminded me of the Swallow-tailed Kites that congregate over these same fields at the end of the summer.

Aerial Acrobat
Aerial Acrobat
Beyond the Backyard

Signs of Spring at Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

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It’s my favorite time of year – spring! All over, the birds are putting on their spiffiest feathers, pairing up, and raising cute little babies. It’s such fun to capture all those interactions. It’s been a while since I went to the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive, so yesterday I headed out to see what I could find…

This Anhinga posed right next to my car in gorgeous morning light and showed off his beautiful blue eye. He seemed to know I was taking his picture and even gave me a good head angle!

Anhinga Head Shot
Anhinga Head Shot

I was a little surprised to find this pair of Great Blue Herons building a nest. The herons at Viera have been nesting for several months, and already some of the nests have hatched. This pair was just starting out. One is a juvenile bird so I wonder if this is a “practice” nest. Or maybe we’ll get to hear the persistent “neh-neh-neh” of baby herons at this location in a month or two!

Nesting Great Blue Herons
Nesting Great Blue Herons

All the Pied-billed Grebes have the beautiful bright black markings on their faces and beaks. I didn’t spot any nests, but I’m hoping that they build some close to the road again this year. Watching the babies is such fun!

Pied-Billed Grebe in Breeding Plumage
Pied-Billed Grebe in Breeding Plumage

I still haven’t found the White-faced Ibis that I see reported on eBird, but there were plenty of Glossy Ibis along the drive. They too have beautiful blue faces at this time of year. I enjoyed watching this one stalk his breakfast in the tall grasses.

Glossy Ibis in Breeding Colors
Glossy Ibis in Breeding Colors

All over the place, Red-winged Blackbirds were giving the calls of springtime. They perch high in their nesting location to proclaim their territory. I love watching them fluff up their feathers as they call. I’m looking forward to photographing more baby blackbirds this year.

Red-winged Blackbird
Red-winged Blackbird

A small flock of Caspian Terns was hanging out on Interceptor Road. Each time a car would go by, they’d take flight. I grabbed my intermediate telephoto and enjoyed each opportunity!

Caspian Terns
Caspian Terns

This little Green Heron also gave me some flight opportunities. I took his picture as I photographed the subject of my next post. You know it was a good morning when you get multiple blog posts out of it! Stay tuned… ;-)

Green Heron in Flight
Green Heron in Flight