Wednesday, March 18, 2009

ONE MORNING'S BIRDS

Call this the morning’s photographic bird report. All the images in this posting were taken within the space of perhaps thirty minutes. (You can double-click to see them larger, of course.) The session began when I stepped outside to scatter cracked corn for my geese couple who—barely past dawn—were already standing in the yard, impatient to be served. You can’t keep geese waiting. Naturally, the untrusting Canadas flew off the instant I opened the door. These are wild birds, more or less, though they seem to be learning to tolerate my presence. Instead of flying across the river or even farther, they simply glided over the bank to the water, where they bobbed on the current, honking loudly, while keeping a watchful eye on my corn tossing. I pitched out a scoop of yellow grain and picked up my camera for a quick shot. Before I could frame and shoot the geese, I heard a duck quacking upstream. A female mallard was standing on a rock, calling to the drake to get over there and keep her company. I snapped her portrait first, then turned and took a shot of the geese. Looking around, I noticed a few turkey vultures sitting in the tops of some trees across the river beyond the island, testing their wings, waiting for the climbing sun to warm them up before they began their day's scavenging flights. The big birds were located perhaps 250 feet away. Much too distant for more than a mediocre shot. The buzzards are only recently returned from their winter vacations in the South. In fact, these birds are just the early arrivals, a fraction of the 175—200 number of the spring-through-autumn flock that typically roosts in the tops of the island’s big sycamores. The full group won’t manage to get themselves assembled for several more weeks. After a few additional shots—of sunlight on trees, a cloud or two, and crocus biding their time until a higher sun triggered their opening—I figured I’d go back inside and let the geese have at their breakfast. So I headed down the hall to my workroom to check e-mail and upload my photos. I hadn't yet plugged the camera into the computer when I looked out the window and saw a Cooper’s hawk sitting on the stump end of the old Christmas tree, which I recycle as a handy refuge for just this reason: when the hawk suddenly appears, the ground feeders—sparrows, wrens, doves, etc.—have a nearby hidey-hole. (I posted about this in January, REFUGE…NOT REFUSE! here) Some days, when I’m working long hours at my desk and happen to look up at the right moments, I watch the fleeing birds use this hideout tree two or three different times. The wily hawk makes regular rounds and repeats its visits throughout the day. Most times, the tree-hidden birds outsmart the Cooper’s, flying out one side while their would-be killer pokes his hooked beak in the other. A few days ago, though, I saw the hawk plunge into the Christmas tree and come out with a titmouse in his talons. Still, the recycled Christmas tree saves a lot of lives—and I’m glad I didn’t decide to move it yesterday when I spent a few hours giving the yard a spring raking. The final shot, taken perhaps two minutes after the hawk’s (victimless) departure, was of a perky cardinal at the feeder just beyond my workroom window. Here along the river, the redbirds are whistling longer and louder with each passing day: “Spring is here, the sun is shining, and all you lucky ladybirds can’t possibly fail to notice what a handsome fellow I am in my bright scarlet feathers!”

22 comments:

giggles said...

Quite the busy morning! (Cool Coopy!)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Goggles…

Yes, indeed, and I actually did some genuine paying work between the photos and the posting, plus finished raking the yard. Now I have to bring the wheelbarrow around and truck off all my leaves to the compost pile. Busy, busy, busy. But outside, in the sun, with Moon the dog and the river.

Could be worse.

Lynne said...

A Coop's got to eat too. Neat picture. I like to think that they only get the weak, ill or injured songbirds. Not sure about that though.

Please post more about those Turkey Vultures! They are my favorite bird (in the "big" category anyway) I'd love to get a sense of those numbers so nearby.

That Cardinal is glowing in that light. The babes must be lining up!

Carolyn H said...

Very cool Cooper's Hawk you have there.

Carolyn H.

Val said...

Kudos to you for noticing and appreciating the beauty that surrounds you!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Lynne…

Yup, a bird's gotta do what a bird's gotta do. I don't begrudge the hawk his meal—but I like messing around with his odds. (Actually, from the size, I'd say the Cooper's in the photo was likely a female.)

I will post more about "my" buzzards. I'm really fond of them, and glad they keep coming back. The first year I lived here—having moved in in June, when the island was in full leaf and you really couldn't see through the trees to accurately count roosting buzzards—I kept thinking 15—20, maybe 25. As the leaves began to thin in September-October, I upped it to 25—40. When I could actually see, I was stagged by how badly I'd undercounted. Of course I always saw a lot of birds flying in in the evening or before a storm. But never more than 20 in in the air at once, and that was iffy; try counting wheeling buzzards sometime! Black blobs seen through the trees were not much better. No one was more astonished when I figured the actual numbers. I have a shot somewhere of the whole bunch—most of 'em, anyway—just before the departed for the winter. I think you can count 173 or so. Another shot shows about 125. I'll try and find them and use them in a post.

That redbird is a real ladies' man, for sure.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Carolyn…

Cool, and this morning, hungry, at least around my birds.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Val…

These past two days—sunny and 70 degrees—have been much needed. And I honestly do appreciate all that I have.

Rowan said...

The Coopers Hawk is a beauty, I like hawks - they are superb birds. The cardinal is a fabulous colour, I've never seen one for real even when I've been in the US, hope I do get to see one someday.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Rowan…

I like hawks, as well. And I'm glad you enjoyed the cardinal. They are Ohio's "state" bird species, a sort of designation the states have for things—birds, flowers, trees, minerals, etc. Several other states list the cardinal as their "state bird" too. They say their numbers are declining, though I've not noticed this around here. I have cardinals at my feeders all winter and cardinals around the cottage at practically every moment of the day.

I suspect we take them for granted, but they really are stunning. I hope you get to see one in the wild one of these days.

Raph G. Neckmann said...

Beautiful photos, Grizzled. The cardinal is luminous in his lovely colours!

I saw a heron fly right overhead today! Wonderful slow flight.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Raph…

The morning sun was not far up when I took the cardinal shot—maybe 20 degrees above the horizon. So the light was strong and almost straight on, as you can see from way it strikes the bird full-face. It a also a slightly yellowish, which made the cardinal's deep red a bit orange, more scarlet than it would look later on in the morning. I didn't color correct.

I think herons in flight are neat—slow, sure, maybe even a bit smug, but not so much graceful as relaxed, as if something besides those long wings were keeping them up.

JMS said...

Remarkable shots, I'm envious. We have oodles of birds in the yard and on the water but neither I nor my lens can get nearly so close.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

JMS…

More luck than talent, or fancy equipment. All were taken with an 80—200mm zoom. I have a 30 mm, but didn't have it on at the time. The buzzards were 250 yards; geese, 50 feet; duck, 75 feet; Cooper's hawk, maybe 90 feet; cardinal, 48 inches. The Cooper's and cardinal shot through the window (which badly needs cleaning!) of my writing room.

Now if I'd had about a 500mm for those turkey vultures…

Jenn Jilks said...

Great shots!

Despite a tragic accident on the ice - our big wildlife on the water was a kid on an ATV. I heard a couple of geese, but our water isn't open yet.

BTW

What kind of camera?

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jenn…

Spring isn't quite here yet, either. Tomorrow's high is to be in the 40s with lows in the 20s. Probably no more 70-degree days for awhile.

ATV watching isn't the greatest—though some of the riders could be considered wildlife.

The camera is a Nikon D-70.

Deb said...

What a great day! That cardinal shot is simply beautiful. And thanks for the tips on seeing a Saw-whet owl. I will keep my eyes open next time I venture out into the soggy woods!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Deb…

Glad you liked the cardinal—fact is, I almost didn't put it in because it was a "feeder" shot. I just added for color. But it seems to be one of the most liked of the five.

Really, don't give up on that saw whet. I'd say you have a pretty good shot.

Gail said...

Hi-
as always - amazing photos. Really breath taking. I am hoping to catch the lovely crane that happens by our ponds out front. I am also getting the humming bird feeders ready to go up. Last year they were waiting on a statue in our garden right next to whee the feeder goes. Hoe cute is that? :-)
Love Gail
peace.....

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

You know, I was just thinking this afternoon that I ought to be getting my hummingbird feeders ready. Late-April is usually the earliest to expect them hereabouts, in southwestern Ohio, through there are a few records of hummers returning a bit earlier. So I want to back up my own "feeders-out" date by two weeks—call it the first week of April. I'd rather be too early than late, as the earliest birds can really use the nourishment.

Glad you liked the posting pix.

JMS said...

http://www.hummingbirds.net/map.html
We've never had them this early before, but it's fun to watch their progress.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

JMS…

Sorry to be slow in answering—my internet line has been down since Thursday afternoon.

Re. hummingbird arrival dates…I'd have to dig out my own notes to be exact, but I know last year I had at least one bird at least a week before the end of April, and that was the same day I put the feeder out. So I know that was too late. Bruce Peterjohn, in his magnificent BIRDS OF OHIO says a few ruby-throats by the last two weeks in April, and earlier reports for the sourthern part of the state (my area) so I figure early-April to be on the safe side.

According to the wonderful migration map at the address you provided in your comment (Which I didn't know about, BTW) the first hummers through here in 2008 were April 10—14. In 2007, March 28—30, though this appears to have been an unusually early northward movement. Yet, going by this map of reported earliest sightings, I can see that an April 1st date is none too soon for putting a feeder or two out.

I really appreciate the tip on the map. Thank you.