December 2021 Birds — Part One

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 will run a full-screen slideshow. 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.

A little over a week ago, I broke down and bought a few bird feeders.

In Michigan, I used to have multiple feeders. In Colorado, I sought to duplicate my bird-feeding habits but ran into a problem with field mice getting into the house and garage (field mice droppings contain some nasty stuff), not to mention one had to bring feeders in at night lest one attracted bears.

I’m pretty sure I won’t have bear problems in my backyard, and I’m hoping field mice stay in the fields. Wait, I take that back. There was a confirmed bear sighting about 30 miles north of us (LINK).

Fortuitous capture of a White-throated Sparrow using my Nikon P900

Anyway, that White-throated Sparrow was one of the first birds to arrive at the feeders.

Well, actually, on the ground. I spread some no-waste feed on the ground to attract the ground feeders. The thinking was that other birds would then investigate.

Slate-colored Dark-eyed Junco photographed using my Nikon P900

The other first arrivals were one of my favorite bird species, Dark-eyed Junco. I’ll have more to say about them below.

I should note a few things about me, cameras, and birds. Because the weather has been warm enough (if a bit cloudy and wet), I sat outside for a few hours at a time just so I could observe and photograph the birds. The feeder is about 15 feet away from where I sit, but the edge of the patio — where those two birds were photographed — is about 25 feet away. My neighbor’s bushes are about 45 feet from my chair.

So, there’s me, my coffee, and both the P900 and the D7500 with either the 70-200mm or the 70-300mm lenses on it. You might thus notice a difference between various photos, with the DSLR photos perhaps (but not always) offering better quality. And, that’s all I’ll probably say about photography and cameras.

Carolina Chickadee photographed with my Nikon D7500
Carolina Chickadee photographed with my Nikon D7500

Chickadees are also included in my list of favorite birds.

OK, OK, almost all birds qualify as “favorite”, but I still can’t help adding the qualifier, so just bear with me.

As it happens, I’m close to the range boundary for two very similar species of Chickadees; the above-pictured Carolina Chickadee and the Black-capped Chickadee. They are very similar, although their song is slightly different. Here’s a LINK comparing the two, and the differences are subtle; a few white feathers and wings striations, but otherwise indistinguishable.

I’m confident the above is a Carolina Chickadee, but look how their territories nearly overlap near my Southern Illinois location.

Black-Capped Chicadee range
Carolina Chickadee range

And, hey, here’s another favorite bird!

All of those were taken with the D7500. The Northern Cardinal flew over to check out them sparrows and junkos eating off the patio’s cement surface.

One of the feeders I bought is an open platform where I put mixed nuts and seeds and other stuff to attract some of the larger birds like cardinals. I’ve yet to see cardinals on it, but after observing the area for a day or so, the cardinals pair eventually joined the other birds on the ground (pictures in latter posts).

I’ve mentioned this before, but if you’ve missed it, I highly recommend getting the Merlin app put out by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (LINK). I mentioned above that the songs of the chickadees differ, but being mostly deaf to high frequencies, I rarely hear birds . . . but the Merlin App can, and it can identify birds by the song.

I also use it to sometimes play a bird’s species calls … it sounds mean, but it gets the bird’s attention and gives me the opportunity to snap a photo while they try to figure out who the heck is calling them.

Case in point . . .

Chickadees don’t normally stand still for very long. That one even answered but, of course, I could barely hear it despite it being close.

I mentioned I would say more about the juncos. If you clicked on the link, you read about the different varieties of juncos. However, most are not local to my area. As far as I can see from the range maps, the only Dark-eyed Junco in my area is the Slate-colored variety . . . which made these next bird anomelies.

I mean, that looks like a junco . . . and even this next photo had me say it’s a junco, especially since they were in a flock of juncos.

But now, look at this gallery . . .

The wing markings resemble those of a sparrow, but more so, the markings of the Oregon and Pink-sided variety of juncos. I almost want to say it’s a cross or combination of all three, Slate-colored, Oregon, and Pink-sided juncos.

As a reminder, this is for sure a Slate-colored Dark-eyed Junco . . .

Captured with the Nikon P900

All of those birds have the build, eyes, and characteristics of flashing white tail feathers in flight, and, of course, the foraging behavior of juncos.

Anyway, I wrote the Cornell Lab asking them about it.

Moving on . . .

A House Sparrow eyeing the food offering. Photographed with the D7500.

Again, I like all birds, but if someone held a gun to my head and asked me which birds I like a bit less, well, after pulling my own piece and getting them to point their gun elsewhere, I’d say the House Sparrow . . . except that I like them too.

By far, they are the most likely to approach humans, usually begging for food, especially in popular tourist areas. Also, they seem so dang industrious! But, they are an invasive species and they can invade (and destroy) the nests of native species.

A House Sparrow offended at me dispariging it. Photographed with the P900.

I was, in fact, surprised they weren’t the first ones on the scene of free food since they are well adapted at living in close proximity to humans.

A House Sparrow offended at me dispariging it. Photographed with the P900.

Let me point something out about the photos, and don’t worry; it’s nothing technical nor is it lenghty. I just want to point out that the P900 photos are hardly cropped and were shot at or near maximum zoom (2000mm eq.) while the D7500 photos are cropped to nearly a 1:1 resolution. That means the SmugMug versions of the files will be huge for the P900 photos and nearly identical to these for the D7500 photos.

Notice the difference between this photo taken with the D7500 and cropped to about a third of the original’s size …

A House Sparrow offended at me dispariging it. Photographed with the D7500.

. . . and this minimally cropped P900 photo, both shot at approximately the same distance . . .

Cardinal photographed with my P900

Of course, if the subject is closer, the D7500 crop can both be of a decent size and show a large version of the subject.

American Robin photographed with my D7500
White-throated Sparrow photographed with my D7500
White-throated Sparrow photographed with my D7500
White-throated Sparrow photographed with my D7500

This post is getting a little long (but still not as long as I used to do). I’ll mention that I saw other birds, like, for instance, House Finches.

House Finch photographed with my D7500
House Finch photographed with my D7500

Yes, I have better (larger) photos of them and a few others, but I’ll leave them for a future post about December 2021 birds.

But, before I go, one photo that surprised me . . . I saw these birds fly overhead and I snapped a shot before they dissappeared below the treeline—

American White Pelicans photographed with my D7500

When I snapped the photo, I thought they were geese flying South, however, I’m pretty sure (certain) those are pelicans. It seems late for them to still be this far North, but I’m not a pelican expert.

There will be more photos coming, and not just birds. It turns out that when you put food out, other critters also come to visit.

Anyway, let me finish with a gallery of the above:

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


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