Lots of sparrows visit my feeders right outside the windows, and while I’ve heard white-throated sparrows I’ve not seen one, at least not up close. I know they are ground feeders, and in winter I will often hear their little “tseeet tseeet” at dusk and see them deep in one of the dense bushes. But those stripes on his head, the yellow markings and especially that white spot really stood out—this one was right up in my lilac, not coming to the feeder just above it, but scouting the ground underneath before diving down for a prize seed.
It’s just the lilac with leaves opening in bright green, but this cardinal looks as if she is in a tunnel of magic twigs, fading in and out of reality. I love to play with depth of field.
I was also a little concerned, though, on opening the photo on my computer and seeing that she apparently has something wrong with her beak, and she also appeared smaller than other female cardinals. Babies aren’t even hatched yet so she managed to survive the winter, and she had two very bright and enthusiastic males courting her, so the injury or malformation is apparently not life-threatening, and the boys don’t seem to mind.
A robin and sparrow indulge in a mid-afternoon plunge. If you look closely you can see lots of droplets above them. They made quite a splash!
Blue jays are always certain they are the center of the universe, and anything they have is the best thing ever. This blue jay has a seed, it’s just like any other seed from the feeder, but this one is his and it’s better than all the rest and he’s telling the world about it.
Looks like they’re an item! Both are nearly finished molting from their winter coats to their summer coats, the male bright yellow, the female more of a dull olive, all the better to blend in with the scenery when it’s egg-sitting time. They don’t actually nest until later in the summer, when the thistles are blooming, but that doesn’t mean they can’t stock up at the thistle feeder.
I couldn’t get my telephoto lens on my camera fast enough, so this was taken with the regular portrait lens, it’s a little grainy.
I found her in her favorite morning fishing spot, though she grew angry and flew farther downstream before I had my camera ready. I readied my lens and crept to the top of the bank as off she flew!
This isn’t in a park or conservation area, this is right in the middle of Carnegie. I dropped my car off for service and walked back home, dipping down by the creek, studying a few industrial areas, walking down a few alleys instead of main streets and then walking on Main Street itself.
Chartiers Creek winds through the middle of town and beyond in both directions, and a colony of great blue herons nests about 11 miles away, considering the entirety of the creek’s channel as their hunting ground. For the most part the creek is less than a foot deep, and today the air turned slightly warmer again, warming the water and bringing out the small creek fish, carp and darters. The heron stands on the gravel on a shallow edge of the creek and as the fish swim between her legs she just reaches down with that long neck and picks them out of the water with her beak like tweezers.
When the heron is standing still in the water, she is so slender that she looks like a twig or thin tree branch standing up in the water. But when she decides to fly she is hard to miss as she looks like a prehistoric creature, some sort of pterodactyl, with her long beak, long hooked neck and immense wingspan, plus those long gangly legs. Not to mention she is quite blue.
Those big, long wings are so graceful that I can’t even describe it.
I’ve been playing in this creek since I was a child. Both the heron and the fish she eats are signs that a creek horribly polluted by industrial waste has found a new life. I’m glad to see it coming back.
The starlings made a mess of the bird feeder, but they were certainly entertaining while they were at it. Heavens, the drama!
Three doves sit quietly in the morning sun on the battered old branch over my garden. They often keep so still it’s difficult to tell them from the gnarls and patterns of the branch, long weathered and pecked by woodpeckers and chewed by squirrels into an abstract pattern all its own.
They remind me of the “bench sitters”, retired older men who, in good weather, sit on the benches along Main Street, quietly exchanging comments with each other now and then, happy enough for the quiet company of old friends.
It was not warm today, but this sparrow couldn’t wait for his bath! His buddies were next, but actually thought better of it after being splashed pretty liberally. Or perhaps they didn’t need to actually get into the birdbath after that.
The birds are truly preparing for spring, singing away, pairing off, looking for nesting sites, and eating anything in sight.
Hand made birdhouses, created by local kids in school, hang in young maples along the Panhandle Trail in Collier Township. You can’t miss this one! And it looks like the birds have noticed it as well—this one is either showing signs of occupation from last year, or a new resident this year.
A thin layer of snow covers the ice in a barrel in my yard, birds walked all over it to explore.
A very speckled starling in deep consideration of his next meal. Though they can be pesty, cleaning out a feeder in minutes, or shredding a suet treat in seconds flat, they are very beautiful to look at, especially on a sunny winter afternoon.
A few birds always gather at dusk to find their last meal for the night, and there is always enough seed on the ground for them to feed, dangerous though it is. One little song sparrow balances on a branch near the ground to scout for the best spot before dropping down to eat. A male and female sparrow joined him in the gathering darkness.
I’ve always liked a song sparrow’s little round and striped body. Below is the same song sparrow in a view from the front.
On a dark, rainy and windy day the grackles seem somehow excited, moving in ever-larger clouds like specks of pepper in the heavy clouds.
Just a few tiny snowflakes floated about yesterday, but that didn’t bother this male American goldfinch in his winter colors—he’s got two little flakes on his head and more falling around. Even in the somewhat dim light his yellow ruff is vibrant though the rest of his color is dull for winter.
Here’s another photo of him partly for the view of his delicate little feet; I actually got several and liked these two best. I wasn’t on a stakeout in my yard, but sitting in my desk chair photographing with a zoom lens through my windows. The feeders hang right outside and the birds visit all day long.
Wrens always have to be different. I think this little one was overwhelmed by the choice of feeders on the deck.
A small flock of geese hurrying south.
I’ve seen more flocks in this arrangement, with one long arm and just one or two geese on the short side. I can’t remember if I’ve seen this many before.
Seeing gees flying in a “V” got me thinking about the things we learn that are dependably the same, every year, every day, every time. Usually these things occur in nature, with all its infinite variety, still the geese fly south in a “V” shape, and the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.
“Across the purple sky, all the birds are leaving
But how can they know it’s time for them to go?”
“Who Knows Where the Time Goes?”, Sandy Denny
These sparrows will be able to take a dip well into October. The light isn’t quite right to catch all the water droplets splashing out of the birdbath, but you can see a few drops and the little waves. Sparrows never do anything individually, only as groups, and I watch them in all seasons conducting business in the big spruce in my front yard, and rising and falling like leaves to the feeder hanging in the maple very near the birdbath.
This rough little bluebird house looks sweet during the day when I visit the Kane’s Woods trailhead in Scott Township. But when the evening light washed it with gold with the yellow wingstem in front, there was something piquant about the scene; the birds are gone for the season, autumn is coming, night is falling, but home is still here when they return.
I was originally caught by all the textures in this one small area—the locust tree bark, the craggy grapevines shedding their own bark, the birdhouse surface a little frazzled from birds getting a claw-hold on the wood, the leaves in the background, the wingstem in the foreground—and both the direct sunlight from the setting sun and the reflected light from the sky above. It was really a feast for the eyes and the camera lens.
A young male cardinal preens himself in a moment of morning sun in the spruce after having a bath in the fresh rainwater that filled the birdbath in last night’s storm.
From last summer about this time, I think she is a wonderful welcome to July!
A female rubythroat peruses purple irises. There was plenty of red and pink in a friend’s garden, but I guess she decided to try a different flavor.
This shot could have been steadier if I’d been using my tripod, or change the shutter speed and other manual settings, but it was all I could do to grab my camera in time, zoom in and let my camera autofocus. Still, having a stucco wall behind to add light and define the subject helped to hold the focus in one spot.
Ahead of me on the Panhandle Trail just after the Oakdale crossing it suddenly looked as if the gravel was moving on its own. I was hot and a little tired but as I slowed I realized it wasn’t the gravel at all but a little family of killdeer out for a walk, two adults and three little ones.
Killdeer are related to sandpipers, so picture the long thin legs, narrow horizontal bodies and long beaks. You’ve no doubt heard a bird call a high-pitched “kill-deer! kill-deer!” just about anywhere but especially near water, even along the rivers in the city.
They nest in gravel, usually along streams, because their food source, insects are plentiful at the water’s edge. However, they will adapt to any gravel if a food source is near, and I’ve even seen them nesting in gravel between the rails of the railroad track. Their coloring, grey and tan with dark brown stripes around the neck and eyes, blends them in with the gravel, a perfect camouflage.
Until they start to move. Anyone seeing moving bits of gravel move around should at least look a little closer, and you may see the little ones, just a puff of soft feathers atop long skinny legs, marked just like their parents in miniature and just as loud as their parents but just saying the second syllable of their name only.
As soon as I stopped my bicycle and pulled out my camera, the little ones turned left and away from me, bibbling away in the opposite direction toward home, while their parents each did the “broken wing trick”—slowly hobbling along dragging one outspread wing as if they were injured, trying to lead me away from their babies and their nest.
Mind you, this family had just been dodging bicycles, but moving objects don’t really frighten them, only big ones that stop and look at them.
As soon as the babies were safely near their little crossover point, their parents joined them, making loud, sharp warning sounds.
And from here, it’s easy to anthropomorphize, especially when there are parent birds and baby birds involved. Even if they aren’t thinking and saying what humans would in this case, some things are universal, and the little drama probably went on like this…
All was well until one little guy decided he wasn’t quite ready to go home yet, and turned around and ran off, his little legs moving so fast he appeared to be hovering an inch or so above the ground.
Dad wasn’t happy. Apparently he had decided this was one day the kids should listen to him. But where had he gone? Perfect camouflage all around, the little one had disappeared.
He spotted the little guy and began trying to gently guide him back toward the crossover, which was quite a distance away. The little one would have none of it.
Then he tried to show the little guy how to cross the ditch, a much shorter route. Even a sibling, who had already crossed over, came to the other side of the barrier, calling to the little one (but probably yelling “chicken!”, as siblings will do…do birds call each other “chicken”?).
“Not me!” the little one said, probably a good decision since climbing or hopping over a 12-inch concrete barrier would be quite a feat for something the size of two cotton balls running around on toothpicks.
Then he realized he was all alone, and stopped.
Suddenly Dad was there, flying back and forth and landing to lead the little one to the other end of the barrier, standing on the other side and making, instead of the usual sharp warning sound, a soft, comforting chirring sound.
He finally led the little bit all the way down to the other end of the concrete barrier and convinced him to cross through the weedy strip where the concrete barrier ended, and they all made a ruckus when they got together again on the other side.
Then they blended into the pile of gravel on the other side of the barrier. Hope Dad had a good Father’s Day.
A crow harasses a very patient red-tailed hawk high up against the flat sky before a storm.
I followed a red-tailed hawk around this afternoon, trying to get the perfect photograph, but I did not succeed. The hawk was circling a fairly large valley that is a local county park, riding the thermals and gusts on an unusually hot day on the front of a storm. I couldn’t follow quickly enough on foot so I was actually driving my car and parking it, hopping out and looking at the sky for the hawk. It was always gracefully circling elsewhere, so I quit the pursuit and headed home, followed by the storm.
But I did remember this photo I’d taken several years ago with an older digital camera. The photo itself is a little grainy, but I like the interplay of the two birds in this one. The crow was really dive bombing the hawk and you can see a few feathers missing in one wing. But the hawk didn’t divert from its circling on the rising wind, and I presume the crow eventually lost interest.
And neither bird paid attention to the leading edge of the front just entering into the photo, the tip of a big thunderhead pushed along by winds. As today, it likely developed into a cataclysm of hot and cold air, then settled down into rain.