A warm sunny afternoon and a good meal create the perfect pairing for nap time. This White-breasted Nuthatch could barely keeps its eyes open a couple of weeks ago at Sax-Zim Bog as it rested on a tree trunk after foraging for sunflower seeds.
This Black-capped Chickadee was feasting on seeds from exploding cattails near one of the feeding stations at Sax-Zim Bog in Minnesota. This tiny bird was taking a break from the feeders and foraging for natural nutrients nearby. Cattails grow in the kind of marshy land that comprises most of Sax-Zim Bog. It’s easy to get an idea how tiny the chickadees are when you see this one clinging to a cattail’s seedpod. Tail and all, they’re about 5 inches.
Many birds are sexually dimorphic which means that males and females have very different plumage characteristics. An example is the Pine Grosbeak. Males stand out from their surroundings. They sport brilliant red feathers and dark wings with white wing bars. This distinguishes them from the less brilliant, though no less beautiful, female Pine Grosbeaks that tend to blend in more with their surroundings.
To me, the harbinger of spring is freesia. Years ago I planted some freesia corms in my front flower bed and without fail, freesia is the first flower to appear in my garden in spring. The heady aroma is my favorite floral fragrance and to me, it means spring is almost here. It rained on Wednesday and a few raindrops still clung to the blossoms even after I clipped them and placed them in a vial to photograph them. A power outage that lasted most of an hour Wednesday evening gave me a chance to photograph them in complete darkness so there were no light leaks. I’d already set up the three flashes I used so all I needed was a flashlight to guide me back up to where I’d set up the flowers and to focus.
I’m looking forward to spring when the flowers will start blooming profusely again and I will be able to sit on my patio waiting for birds to visit my feeders and fountains and photograph them. Once again I’ve been inspired by my friend Moose Peterson, a Nikon Ambassador, who last night gave a Nikon-sponsored Webinar at B and C Camera in Las Vegas, NV about backyard bird photography. Not only did I get some great tips and suggestions for improving my backyard bird photography, I was thrilled and honored that he used several of my images to illustrate the possibilities for a backyard bird photographer. Since Anna’s Hummingbirds are my favorite backyard birds to photograph, I wanted to revisit some of the images I took last year that were possible because I followed some of Moose’s backyard birding suggestions, like putting a correctly sized perch near one of the hummingbird feeders. I had previously determined that the background would be uncluttered and out of focus if I placed the perch in one of the flower pots near the feeder. All I needed to do was wait for the hummer to land on it. I was ready when he did.
Grosbeaks have large, conical beaks. This male Evening Grosbeak is a good example of that distinctive beak characteristic of Grosbeaks. As is the case in dimorphic birds, the male is more colorful and distinctly patterned than the female.
This female Pine Grosbeak matches perfectly with the muted grays and rusts that comprise the background near one of the feeding stations at Sax-Zim Bog in Minnesota. The color palette of the bird and of the background are almost identical. I find that fascinating. Despite the color match, the bird stands out from the background because I used the largest available f/stop to give me the narrowest depth of focus so that the background would be blurred and the subject in sharp focus.
According to The Cornell Lab’s “All About Birds,” Pine Grosbeaks live in northern climes, mostly in Canada. They will come to sunflower seed feeders in winter in the northern states which is where I saw them last week in Sax-Zim Bog in Minnesota. These birds are large finches that make most of the other birds at the feeders look tiny. When the feeders are empty or there are too many other birds, the Pine Grosbeaks will forage underneath for precious sunflower kernels pushed out of the feeders above them. Here a pair (these birds mate for life), the grayish female in the background, search the snow bank for edible sunflower seeds. The brilliant red male stands out from the white background.
American Red Squirrels were as frequent visitors to the Sax-Zim Bog feeders as were all the Boreal birds. Just as at as home bird feeders, these small rodents forage not only underneath the feeders but right on them as well, competing with the birds for the seeds and other goodies on display. There were quite a few of them at each feeding station and sometimes they would get into very vocal and sometimes physical squabbles. This little guy was taking a break from the feeders and posed charmingly for me on a nearby log.
Who doesn’t love peanut butter? And a graphic depiction of that classic of all classic combinations, the P.B. and J. that we all grew up eating, became a familiar sight at Minnesota’s Sax-Zim Bog last week with a slight modification to the “J.”. In Sax-Zim Bog the “J” was neither jam nor jelly but rather a Jay, a Canada Jay to be exact. All the birds seemed to love the generously slathered globs of peanut butter on logs and perches and specially crafted feeders. The temperatures were usually well below freezing so that peanut butter did not melt and the birds severed chunks of it with their beaks. They came back for more peanut butter over and over so apparently swallowing was not a problem for the birds. No milk needed to wash it down.