Birds – May 7-11, 2014

No, I’ve not left the blogosphere to its own devices. I just figured it would do fine for a few days even without my paltry contribution. Better, even.

So, what have I been doing? Well, for one thing, prepping this lo-o-o-ong post.

Birds, bluebirds, swallows,

I’ve also been spending time on my deck, coffee in hand and camera nearby, watching the many birds that now live and play near and around our house.

. . . exactly what I was doing on the 6th. It’s the 25th as I write this, so lots of stuff to catch you guys up on.

"Get off my lawn!"

“Get off my lawn!”

"Grouchy jerk!"

“Grouchy jerk!”

Those are Common Grackles (often confused for Brewer’s Blackbirds, probably because of the striking eyes). And, no; the male was not really yelling at the female; it was all part of the rite of Spring (even though within four days of those photos we would have our last blizzard – I hope – of the season, with temperatures dipping into the low twenties).

Birds, bluebirds, swallows, Birds, bluebirds, swallows,

You are seeing correctly . . . the Tree Swallows are back!

Side note: I typically use the 70-200mm f/2.8 when shooting birds, but as with the last post, I’ve been using the 80-400 f/4.5-5.6 lens. You might remember me complaining about that being a slow lens, and not as clear (sharp) as the 70-200mm . . . well, here’s what I found out by accident . . . if I set the focus to ‘constant’, and ‘single focus point’, the dang photos come out as sharp as all heck.

If you care to compare to photos on THIS POST, this next photo was taken hand-held with the above settings.

80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 lens, hand-held, single point focus.

80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 lens, hand-held, single point focus.

. . . you can click on the shot for a larger view, but you can also go see the full resolution shot at the SmugMug gallery HERE.

I have to tell you Bob; I was ‘act of reproduction’ impressed! So much so, that I started using that lens for all the shots on this post.

Anyway, back to the birds . . . and the fact these are swallows in flight, not an easy thing to get even with a fast lens, let alone this lens.

Birds, bluebirds, swallows, Birds, bluebirds, swallows, Birds, bluebirds, swallows,

Here’s an unprocessed and uncropped shot for comparison . . .

Birds, bluebirds, swallows,

That’s a shot at 400mm zoom (600mm equivalent) of a swallow diving and turning, as swallows are apt to do.

I know, I know . . . I’m repeating myself, but, as I said, I was ‘act of reproduction’ impressed.

And here is what pleased me more . . .

"Hello! . . . this is new"

“Hello! . . . this is new”

"Holy crap! . . . someone really took some care in building this!"

“Holy crap! . . . someone really took some care in building this!”

"I sure as heck would not want to live with the anal retentive person who built this"  "Dang! It looks like it could survive a hurricane!"

“I sure as heck would not want to live with the anal retentive person who built this”
“Dang! It looks like it could survive a hurricane!”

Swallows can’t speak, let alone think, but I am adept at reading swallow-body-language. And it goes to show you swallows know nothing about construction.

I should have used outdoor grade plywood, not pine. However, this was a trial run. I used the plans as they were, and already I can see changes I will make for a more permanent box. Not that this will fall apart anytime soon; it’s just my MO . . . learn how to do something, then adapt it to what I think it should be done. It may very well be that I’ll find out my way is not the way to go, but then I will know for sure instead of wondering about it. Worked for golf, racquetball, and pretty much everything I do in life. Not saying I am right, or that what works for me will work for others. Just saying that I like to work out what’s best for me.

Still, the bird did not look convinced.

Birds, bluebirds, swallows, Birds, bluebirds, swallows, Birds, bluebirds, swallows,

It would be another week before I figured out why, after repeated visits, the swallows did not even enter the box, and stopped coming to visit.

I’ll get to the reason on another post. Suffice it to say, the swallows went back to flying around.

Birds, bluebirds, swallows, Birds, bluebirds, swallows,

There are a few more shots in the gallery, but I don’t want to bore everyone to tears here.

May 8th was a ‘no-pictures’ day. I don’t recall exactly why, but I was either doing some chore or other, or the weather was crappy, or both. But, come what May . . . which May? Why, the 9th of May . . .

Evening Grackle

Evening Grackle

The eyes look weird, and the body is all swollen-like . . . this Grackle is in the tail end of its call. Not sure if it’s their regular call, or a mating call, but they get all funky-looking (more on that later). I think it is their mating call, as their ‘regular noise’ does not involve a plumage display.

Here he is again, looking a bit more ‘normal’.

Evening Grackle

Evening Grackle

The coloring might seem dull, but it’s anything but. Lots of hues and reflections playing off incident light.

As the caption says, it was evening, with the sun racing to meet the horizon . . . and the Robin calling an end to the day.

Robin

Robin

The moon was already up and about . . .

The Moon

The Moon

. . . and what I think is a female Brown-Headed Cowbird sat perched high, looking over the neighborhood.

Female Brown-Headed Cowbird (?)

Female Brown-Headed Cowbird (?)

Just as I turned back to the Grackle, a passing cloud blocked the Sun . . . still managed a couple of decent shots, though.

Evening Grackle

Evening Grackle

Evening Grackle

Evening Grackle

Grackles fly a straight flight, as opposed to the undulating path, the difference being a constant flapping of wings as opposed to bursts of flapping. They are also easily identified because their tail forms a keel while in flight. It could be other birds do that, but not that I’ve seen.

I mentioned clouds, and here’s what they looked like . . .

Clouds, as shot

Clouds, as shot

Nothing spectacular, as the sun did not work itself up to give me a show before setting . . . so I created my own . . .

Clouds, as shot (DxO Film Pack B&W conversion)

Clouds, as shot (DxO Film Pack B&W conversion)

onOne Perfect B&W - Disperser tweak

onOne Perfect B&W – Disperser tweak

Does anyone else see the large bird head, complete with piercing eye and long bill? No? . . . maybe I’m losing my marbles.

Here’s another shot of the clouds, a few minutes later . . .

Clouds, as shot

Clouds, as shot

Clouds, as shot, Lightroom B&W conversion

Clouds, as shot, Lightroom B&W conversion

Clouds, as shot, onOne Perfect B&W conversion

Clouds, as shot, onOne Perfect B&W conversion

Clouds, as shot, onOne Effects atop B&W conversion

Clouds, as shot, onOne Effects atop B&W conversion

Just then, the sun peaked through again, catching a different Grackle with one of its last rays of the day.

Evening Grackle

Evening Grackle

Saturday, May 10th; none of these birds knew what would come the very next day . . . temperatures would plummet from the high 60s to the low 20s, winds would howl, and the bitter cold would be made that much more unbearable by the unrelenting snow. 

Poor birds went about their lives blissfully unaware of events that would literally change their lives. The morning started peaceful enough . . . 

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow

. . . the male tree swallow perched on the hummingbird feeder hanger, keeping an eye on me . . . 

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow

I was pleased they still let me get very close.

Meanwhile, across the yard, the Common Grackle was also keeping an eye on things.

Common Grackle

Common Grackle

As I said, the reflection of their feathers can be quite interesting, even as their expression makes them seem downright unfriendly.

Common Grackle

Common Grackle

They have a right to be mad at me. A pair had been trying to build a nest inside one of the gutters, under an overhang. I mean, from a bird’s point of view, it probably looked like a great spot . . . but it was right next to the feed from the upper part of the roof. Literally, it would have been flooded in seconds, especially given that it was built over the downspout opening.

For a couple of days it had been a test of wills. They would build, I would grab a ladder, climb up there, check to make sure there were no eggs, and then remove the nest (very well-constructed nests, I might add). And then, on the third day, tragedy struck.

You see, I went up there, looked in the nest, saw no eggs, and pulled the nest off, letting it drop to the ground . . . except there was an egg in there. I don’t know how I missed it, but when the nest hit the ground, the egg bounced out and into the rocks, breaking.

I still feel bad, and there was nothing I could do to convey to the five birds that came to inspect the damage just how sorry I was. I mean, I will destroy someone’s home without much thought, but killing their unborn offspring is a line I would not knowingly cross.

And these guys look tough, to boot.

Common Grackle - I think this is a mating call

Common Grackle – I think this is a mating call

Common Grackle - I think this is a mating call

Common Grackle – I think this is a mating call

 I mean, Batman wishes he would look that formidable! The fact they close their inner eyelid gives them a look of pure evil.

Common Grackle - I think this is a mating call

Common Grackle – I think this is a mating call

Common Grackle - back to just plain Bruce Wayne

Common Grackle – back to just plain Bruce Wayne

On the next fencepost over, a red finch was studying wood patterns . . . 

Red Finch

Red Finch

Red Finch

Red Finch

"It's wood, alright . . . this is not the grain I'm looking for."

“It’s wood, alright . . . this is not the grain I’m looking for.”

He then hopped down to the gorilla mulch, gathering stuff up for his nest.

Finch pair

Finch pair

Did you miss the female? She’s easy to miss . . . 

Red Finch Female

Red Finch Female

Meanwhile, on another part of the fence . . . 

Black-headed Grosbeak

Black-headed Grosbeak

This was the second new bird I saw that week, the first being the Towhee. In fact, at first I thought this was the Towhee, but no . . . positively identified as a Black-headed Grosbeak (I think).

It proceeded to fly to a nearby evergreen, and start singing . . . probably trying to attract a mate.

Black-headed Grosbeak

Black-headed Grosbeak

Black-headed Grosbeak

Black-headed Grosbeak

And on yet another part of the fence . . . 

Bluebirds

Bluebirds

Bluebirds

Bluebirds

. . . something was up!

Bluebirds

Bluebirds

"Hey, buddy! Could you maybe give us some privacy?" "Sorry; I'm Disperser, and I shoot photographs; it's what I do, darlin'; it's what I do."

“Hey, buddy! Could you maybe give us some privacy?”
“Sorry; I’m Disperser, and I shoot photographs; it’s what I do, darlin’; it’s what I do.”

*** WARNING – STRONG CONTENT! ***

So, them with a weak stomach, or even weaker sensibilities, might want to turn away . . . 

"May I have this dance?"

“May I have this dance?”

Birds, bluebirds, Birds, bluebirds, Birds, bluebirds, Birds, bluebirds, Birds, bluebirds, Birds, bluebirds,

"Did you get that? I want to do an album for the kids!"

“Did you get that? I want to do an album for the kids!”

I should mention that the whole sequence lasted longer than most Hollywood marriages . . . I checked the timestamp, and from the first to last frame, it was exactly one second.

"Did you see that!?"

“Did you see that!?”

"Are they allowed to do that? In public!?"

“Are they allowed to do that? In public!?”

"When the Moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie . . . "

“When the Moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie . . . “

". . . that's amore!"

“. . . that’s amore!”

" . . . I need to get on eHarmony.com and find me someone . . . "

” . . . I need to get on eHarmony.com and find me someone . . . “

Meanwhile, nearby . . . 

"Did you see that!?" "See what?"

“Did you see that!?”
“See what?”

"That! Those bluebirds!"

“That! Those bluebirds!”

"I didn't see a thing!"

“I didn’t see a thing!”

"Don't give me that! I know you were watching. We need to do that, too." "Fine . . . did you bathe?"

“Don’t give me that! I know you were watching. We need to do that, too.”
“Fine . . . did you bathe?”

"Yes, I did. I'm still wet under my wing, see!?"

“Yes, I did. I’m still wet under my wing, see!?”

"Now, let's get it on!"

“Now, let’s get it on!”

"OK, fine! . . . have you got protection?" "uh . . . protection?"

“OK, fine! . . . have you got protection?”
“uh . . . protection?”

"What the heck is 'protection'?"

“What the heck is ‘protection’?”

"What the heck just happened? . . . . and where's my other leg?!"

“What the heck just happened? . . . . and where’s my other leg?!”

"lum de lum de lie . . . legs be good eatin'!"

“lum de lum de lie . . . legs be good eatin’!”

Readers might have noticed the beaks of these birds oven very wide. It turns out the muscles for opening their beaks are larger than those of most birds, and larger than the muscles to close them. 

They use their beaks to pry open crevices, looking for food. 

Meanwhile, the Robin gave up on eHarmony.com, and decided to just advertise.

"I'm here, ladies!"

“I’m here, ladies!”

"Guaranteed, at least two seconds staying power!"

“Guaranteed, at least two seconds staying power!”

Good luck, little buddy!

Meanwhile, what the heck is this?

"John Cleese, eat your heart out!"

“John Cleese, eat your heart out!”

This Grackle was trying to mimic the US political scene . . . 

Sometimes I'm on the right . . .

Sometimes I’m on the right . . .

"And Sometimes I'm on the center . . . "

“And Sometimes I’m on the center . . . “

". . . and sometimes I'm waaay left!"
“. . . and sometimes I’m waaay left!”

Well, by then the weather was beginning to change . . . the wind from the North brought frigid air to the region, and the next day . . . blizzard.

I only snapped one photo on the 11th . . . 

Seashells, Macros,

That was the scene on the bush outside my office window. At one time there were three hummers seeking shelter in the bush, with me trying not to disturb them as I changed the hummingbird feeders every few hours. 

I don’t know if that little fellow made it, but I hope so, and I hope I helped. As for the rest, they might have lived , or might not have . . . I hope for the former.

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ o o o o o o ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I don't understand

I don’t understand

Astute persons might have noticed these doodles, and correctly surmised they hold some significance for me, and perhaps for humanity at large.  

If you click on the doodle, and nothing happens, this is the link it’s supposed to go to: https://disperser.wordpress.com/2011/12/26/palm-vx-and-i/.

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Note: if you are not reading this blog post at Disperser.Wordpress.com, know that it has been copied without permission, and likely is being used by someone with nefarious intention, like attracting you to a malware-infested website.  Could be they also torture small mammals.

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Please, if you are considering bestowing me recognition beyond commenting below, refrain from doing so.  I will decline blogger-to-blogger awards.   I appreciate the intent behind it, but I prefer a comment thanking me for turning you away from a life of crime, religion, or making you a better person in some other way.  That would mean something to me.

If you wish to know more, please read below.

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. . .  my FP ward  . . . chieken shit.

About disperser

Odd guy with odd views living an odd life during odd times.
This entry was posted in Feathers, Photography Stuff and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Birds – May 7-11, 2014

  1. sandra getgood says:

    Great post! And I’m guessing your birdhouse already had an inhabitant in residence, because otherwise it looks perfect for those swallows. Your yard seems to be somewhat X-rated at the moment…..great pictures!

    Like

    • disperser says:

      Thanks Sandra . . . I debated including the x-rated stuff, worried I might offend someone . . .

      I’m kidding, of course. Some say my whole purpose for living is to offend someone. I’m lucky that way . . . some people go their whole lives not knowing why they are on this Earth.

      Like

  2. oneowner says:

    Long post is right! I had to take a nap half way through but some excellent photos. I also have some soft core bug photos I want to post but my better half says someone will find them offensive. I think all my photos are offensive anyway.

    Like

    • disperser says:

      Anyone who finds soft-core bug photos offensive would first have to admit they thought about them in ‘that’ way.

      And unless you have a different definition of ‘offensive’ than I do, your photos don’t qualify.

      . . . it’s like if you’re not even trying . . .

      Like

  3. I’m glad you are out on your deck, coffee in hand, even if only intermittently. Your bird photographs are brilliant. They are not ones I see over here. I have not got a very telephoto lens but I am waiting for some lens extenders to see if I can get more magnification by slipping them on my 100mm Macro. Amelia

    Like

    • disperser says:

      Teleconverters will cut the light, so to maintain the same shutter speed you would need to increase the ISO. You can do research on the options, but when I looked at them (a number of years ago), the conclusion I got was to buy a dedicated telephoto lens.

      These days the third party lenses are pretty good (Sigma, Tamron, etc), and are a lot less than Nikon or Canon lenses.

      Also, while these were shot with a 400mm lens, my usual choice is the 200mm as it is a much faster lens (easier to capture birds, especially if they are moving).

      http://digital-photography-school.com/the-pros-and-cons-of-using-tele-converters-extenders-on-your-dslr/

      Like

      • Thank you for the link. I did think about a teleconverter as I could use it on other lens but I have gone even cheaper. This has no glass work just a plastic extension (actually 3) which lengthens the focal length but it does connect with the electronics of the camera although probably I’ll need to focus manually anyway. It may be useless for insects but I’ll have a go. It will have its limitations as I’ll have to use it in bright day light as I’m not forking out for a Macro flash, yet.

        Like

        • disperser says:

          I’m either not reading this right, or you are looking at the wrong thing. Extension tubes are used to increase magnification, not zoom, and are used to increase the macro capability of a lens:
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extension_tube

          I just bought a set for myself, and while they do increase the magnification, they also shorten the distance to the focal plane.

          They will not increase focal length, hence you will not be able to bring the distant object closer. Only a teleconverter will do that, at least as far as I know.

          Like

  4. AnnMarie says:

    This is a most delightful post which I enjoyed thoroughly! Now . . . off to SmugMug!

    Like

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