There were hundreds of birds at The Ranch in Montana every day but most of them were Pine Siskins. On the last morning before I flew home, a bird new to me landed briefly at the water feature and drank along side the Siskins. It’s a female Red Crossbill. The females don’t have red feathers like the males which give the bird part of its name, but they do have the crossed bill. Their distinctive large stout bill, with its crossed tips, enables it to pry seeds from pine cones.
It makes me so happy to see the hummingbirds in my garden. This female Anna’s Hummingbird has been spending lots of time in the yard and the feisty male that chases all comers away is no where in sight so she can sit for a few moments without fear of being harassed.
You never know when or where a photo opportunity might present itself. The other day I looked out the bay window at my garden and a moving spot of green caught my attention. A Katydid was crawling slowly across the window pane. I grabbed the D6 with the 500mm PF already attached but I had to stand ten feet away to get the Katydid in focus so I switched to my 105mm Micro lens. By this time, Katy was moving steadily across the pane. I had no time to get a tripod or attempt focus shift shooting so I kept shooting images until she disappeared around the window frame. It’s an interesting perspective, I think. Katydids don’t exactly have a cuteness factor going for them, but it’s not often you get a chance to see the underbelly of a bug. I lucked out because although the window was filthy with dust and ashes from the fires, the light was just right so that they didn’t create too much of a distraction. And, I have to say that the camera and a macro lens have given me the courage to photograph ugly creepy crawlers that a few years ago would have caused me to turn and walk, or run, away. So this is the ideal way for me to photograph a creepy crawler, through a windowpane!
Water is a lure for birds. And, the water feature at The Ranch in Montana is an incredible magnet for lots of them. While I was there, it was Pine Siskins that dominated the water feature. Here, a Pine Siskin enjoys the diversion.
Despite the oppressive smoke that hangs in the air from the LNU Fire Complex, the birds still must feed and forage. The foliage and flowers are covered with a fine dusting of ash but the Anna’s Hummingbirds still sip nectar from the flowers. This female Anna’s tolerated my presence while I took her photograph.
It’s always nice when a critter that is named for something actually hangs out in its namesake. Here, a Pine Siskin sits in a Lodgepole Pine. According to The Audubon Society’s Field Guide to North American Birds, Pine Siskins nest in conifers and feed mainly on seeds and some small insects. The guide says that these small finches feed in flocks which, after nesting, can number in the hundreds, a phenomenon that I witnessed in Montana.
The Ranch in Montana is very bird-friendly. At the moment, most of the birds that visit the feeders and water features are Pine Siskins and they flock in by the hundreds. But, Evening Grosbeaks are occasional visitors, like this female who managed to hold her own on a perch over the water while the Pine Siskins crowded below.
Sometimes, we’re so anxious to get to where we’re going that we don’t see beauty literally at our feet. We were wandering through the grounds at The Ranch in Montana when Sharon pointed out the pods from the Opium Poppy that volunteered at the edge of the grasses near the house where we were walking. I was stopped in my tracks. If I hadn’t looked down, I wouldn’t have noticed the small pods tucked away at the edge of a slope inches from my feet. I was intrigued by the patterns that the groups of pods created in the shaded edge of the small slope. I used my Nikon Z7 and the Nikkor 105mm Micro lens (with the FTZ attached), leaned over, and focused straight down on this trio of pods. I must remember to look down so I don’t miss something beautiful.
The past few days I have been in Paradise. I’ve been staying with dear friends at their new home in Montana and enjoying the fruits of their labors. Birds by the hundreds flock to their ranch to take advantage of the bird-friendly environment they’ve created. Right now, Pine Siskins dominate the feeders and the water features, with hundreds flocking in to spend the day. I suspect they don’t venture much past the stately Ponderosa Pines that surround the area as they return at first light. While the Pine Siskins far outnumber other birds here at the moment, in the few days I’ve been here, I’ve seen 30 different species of birds, mostly right here at the ranch. The only down side is that the smoke from the wildfires in California has found its way to Montana, turning the sun a bright red and blanketing the horizon with a thick haze. I’ll be returning late today to Northern California where many of the devastating fires continue to burn without containment. I’ll miss this Paradise.
Male Broad-billed Hummingbirds are gorgeous birds. Their jewel-like feathers make them appear to be flying gems.