A patio hour and the Merlin App

For them not interested in reading, you can see the photos in THIS<<link SmugMug Gallery.  

For a SmugMug slideshow, click HERE<<link. When you click the link, it will open in a new window, and you have two options:
1) Manually scroll through the photos by clicking the “<” and “>” symbols to the left or right of the photos.
2) There’s a PLAY/PAUSE button at the top-left of the screen with the transition set at about 5 seconds. Note: clicking the PLAY arrow can run a full-screen slideshow if you click on the corresponding icon. You can then still use the”<” and “>” symbols to the left or right of the photos (this will pause the slideshow).

If you want the full experience, keep reading.

Many of the bird photos I share are snapped as I sit and look out onto the backyard from the covered patio. Generally, that’s early morning — sometimes between 7:00am and 10:00am — when the weather permits it.

The birds are more active early on, flying hither and fro and, like the robin in the photo above, occasionally avail themselves of one of the two birdbaths we keep filled, fresh, and clean.

By mid-morning, the activity dies off, and I may resort to shooting flying bugs like this dragonfly.

Trust me; it takes practice to track an erratically flying insect while looking through a viewfinder at 200mm zoom.

Sometimes, I cheat and use the Merlin App (by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology) to entice birds closer. It’s not ethical, I know, and I’ve stopped doing it for single birds because it seems both cruel getting their hopes up and it may also detract them from finding an actual mate.

But, if I see a pair or more of a given bird, I occasionally fire up the app, bring up the bird, and play one or more of the recorded songs and/or calls.

By the way, the app is free and can be had at this LINK for iOS and at this LINK for Android. If you’re into birding, I highly recommend it.

Anyway, on this particular morning, a pair of American Cardinals were hanging around . . .  

Let me tell you that birds are quick . . . I had my shutter speed at 1/1250th of a second and they still come off blurry when they take flight.

Anyway, when I saw them on the bush across the way, I fired up the app. Here’s the thing; there’s a 50-50 chance the birds will just ignore the songs and go their merry way . . . but this pair didn’t.

Here’s a gallery of the photos, but I’ll then highlight a few of the better captures for them who don’t bother clicking on galleries.

I should clarify something . . . American Cardinals don’t usually come this close and offer up these kinds of great poses. I’m not a professional, so I know these don’t compare to shots by wildlife photographers, but I was thrilled with these captures.

Here are a few of the above presented in their own glory . . .

Yes, I can confirm they were baffled by my apparent mastery of their language.

Hey, you know that thing I do with hummingbirds where you have to find them? Depending on the lighting, that can either be easy or difficult.

Them used to my shots probably find it hardly a challenge . . . but what about for a monochrome shot?

Hopefully, that’s a bit more of a challenge than usual . . . at least until we get later in the Summer and I have craftier birds to photograph.

Here’s another shot I liked from that morning . . . this is a Robin hopping from one end of the birdbath to the other; no wings needed.

There was a trio of House Finch I also tried to entice via the recordings on the Merlin App, but they didn’t seem to pay the sounds of their supposed brethren any mind. But I got a few action shots, so I was still happy. These guys have since been regular in the yard, sometimes joined by another male.

I mentioned my neighbors put up a Purple Martin house . . .

While Purple Martins were pretty quick to adopt their new home, so did another bird I was less thrilled to see . . . a House sparrow. For them thinking that’s not a problem, they should read this LINK. I doubt my neighbors will do anything about it, but THIS<<link is what they should do.

If it weren’t tragic, the above would be almost comical since the Martin knows the sparrow is there and, in the last photo, it looks as if each bird is looking for the other but on opposite sides of the house. I also think that’s why the male hardly ever leaves; probably trying to protect the nest.

By the way, this exact problem is why I opted not to put up a Purple Martin house. I used to have birdhouses in my yard in Colorado, and between the mites and predators, I had less enjoyment from them than I thought I would. I mean, I was happy to help the birds, but it’s sad finding dead chicks or having the nest be abandoned by the parents because of some problem or other. It was hard enough finding the cardinal nest attacked and destroyed last year. 

These four grackles streaked across the sky and it was all I could do to raise the camera and snap two photos. Both photos turned out focused and freezing the action, so I was pleased with both my reflexes and focus acquisition speed of the camera.

Going back to hummingbirds for a moment, I’ve not seen many males at the feeders. Also, they’ve not stayed long enough for me to get a decent photo of any . . . until this particular day. By decent, I mean showing their namesake throat. 

Well, that’s it . . . one more photo, and it was time for me to go back in and do other stuff. Still, not a bad one hour thanks, in part, to the Merlin App.

By the way, that’s one of two rescued cement birdbaths. Rescued because this past winter they suffered extensive damage (cracks) from the freeze-thaw cycles they experienced. I used outdoor caulking to fill in and repair all the cracks. I then used bilge paint to waterproof the inside (non-toxic waterproof paint what has the advantage of resisting algae growth) and copper paint for the outside (although I’ll probably tone that paint down a bit as it’s pretty flashy). So far it’s working well; it gets a lot of use and is easy to keep clean.

Here’s a gallery with all the photos. Hope the post was interesting and enjoyable.

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

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