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.
The Downy Woodpecker, the smallest woodpecker in North America, is a diminutive version of the Hairy Woodpecker. Yesterday, I posted a photograph of a female Hairy Woodpecker at Sax-Zim Bog. This is a male Downy Woodpecker. The red spot on its head identifies it as a male. And. when they aren’t together, so the size difference isn’t obvious, Downies can be can be distinguished from Hairies by the smaller size of their beaks.
Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers are very similar in appearance except the Hairy is larger and its beak is longer. When they’re side by side, it’s easy to tell them apart. But when they are alone on a tree and hammering into a tree trunk with their beak buried in wood, it can be difficult to tell the difference. This Hairy extracted its beak from the trunk when I took this shot so it is easy to see that its beak is long. Taken at Sax-Zim Bog in Minnesota.
About a year and a half ago I had an opportunity to photograph Bighorn Sheep in Nevada. It was a unique opportunity to see these amazing critters that have become my favorite big game to photograph. What I love about this particular photograph is the pastel grasses that surround this ram. Their habitat is often sharp crags and rocky outcroppings so seeing one in the midst of these soft, pastel meadow plants is to me, unusual.
This charming little Black-capped Chickadee was nibbling on a peanut when I photographed it the other day in Sax-Zim Bog. Chickadees are tiny, fast moving, and adorable.
According to the Audubon Society, Evening Grosbeaks were mistakenly thought to sing only at dusk when they were first discovered in North America in the early 1800s so that misinformation gave them their common name. Despite this misnomer, Evening Grosbeaks can be seen and heard in the morning and the afternoon, not just in the evening. Their enormous, thick bills distinguish them from other finches and even from some other grosbeaks like the Pine Grosbeak. Taken on our last morning in Sax-Zim Bog in Minnesota, this female Evening Grosbeak seems to be staring directly into my lens.
Canada Jays live in the northern latitudes of North America, mostly, and not surprisingly, in Canada. However Minnesota’s Sax-Zim Bog also provides year-round habitat for these Jays which, until a couple of years ago, were known as Gray Jays. They are from the same family as Scrub Jays, Blue Jays, Magpies, Crows, and Ravens. All of these birds are smart and they are among my favorite birds for their antics and intelligence. They also are aggressive and tend to dominate feeding areas. We watched the Canada Jays swoop into the feeding stations at the Bog. flushing the smaller birds. We were told that the Boreal Chickadee, a bird we hoped to see at Sax-Zim Bog but didn’t, would not come to feeders that Canada Jays visited. However, these jay are still quite appealing to me with their large eyes and smaller bill making them appear cute, not looking like the bullies they can be.
One of my challenges at Sax-Zim Bog this past week was to visualize what I wanted in my photographs before taking any shots. Sometimes I get excited and start shooting without thinking through what elements are needed to create a good photograph. Just because the subject is in my viewfinder doesn’t mean I should take a photograph. Thinking it through and patience makes a difference. Sometimes it is best to enjoy the moment and not to take photograph if the right elements are not in place. With this in mind, I watched the birds to figure out their patterns and where they landed. I found a perch they used with an uncluttered background, watched the light, and focused my lens. Then I waited for a bird to land there. When a female Pine Grosbeak finally landed on my chosen perch, then posed for a number of shots, I was prefocused and ready so I got the shot I was after. I took fewer photographs but better photographs because I was not randomly shooting and hoping for the best. Preparation and patience made a big difference. They say patience is its own reward but in this instance, I was also rewarded with the photograph I wanted to get.
Sax-Zim Bog in Minnesota is a bird-lover’s paradise. If you wait patiently near one of the many feeders throughout the massive area, most of which are maintained by volunteers, you will be rewarded with views and possibly photographs of some of the many species that visit the area, some on their migratory journey to their nesting territory but others, like this White-breasted Nuthatch, are year-round inhabitants. At mid-day Wednesday, I stood near one of the stations in the place noted on the Sax-Zim Bog map as Loretta’ Feeders. Most of the visitors while I was there were small, fast moving Black-Capped Chickadees. But this White-breasted Nuthatch made just one brief visit to the feeders. I watched it grab some seeds from the feeder, then scurry down to the snow-covered ground. I realized there was a small tree near by so I focused on that tree trunk hoping that the Nuthatch would do its characteristic down-facing stance on the trunk. When it did, I was ready and I managed to capture just the gesture I wanted. The bird’s sharp back claw, that helps it cling to bark in its down-facing stance, is visible.