I headed off this morning to go to Starbucks and grab a coffee in preparation for the day ahead. In the front yard there were feathers scattered across the lawn, an indication that something horrible happened to one of the many doves that frequent our yard. I assumed that a neighborhood cat had scored a tasty meal and hoped the day’s rain would wash the carnage away.
As I was returning home, having acquired the aforementioned coffee I spotted the neighborhood Cooper’s Hawk landing on the neighbor’s mailbox. I ran inside and grabbed the camera and managed a few shots before he spooked and flew away.
If you click the images below and examine the larger version you can clearly see feathers in his talons. Feathers that match the feathers that litter my front lawn. I guess this clears the neighborhood cats of suspicion in at least one bird death…
This weekend has been a lot of fun photographing the hummers. At one point we had as many as 4 battling for supremacy in skies over the feeders. The most interesting has been what I assume is a male Ruby Throated Hummingbird who comes in much less frequently than the others.
These birds are fiercely territorial. The hummer in my initial batch of photos has laid claim to the feeders. He will sit atop the crook that holds the feeders or in the nearby Meyer’s Lemon Tree and chases off any interlopers that venture into his domain. Sadly, the Ruby Throated gets chased off every time he shows up so we don’t see him often, and when we do see him he only stays for a few moments.
Still, I have managed to capture a few good shots as evidenced in the previous post and here are two more.
In this picture will notice how he strains his neck as he scans for the dominant hummer
And In this picture you can see he doesn’t even land on the perch, choosing instead to hover for a better chance at a quick getaway should the Bully of Hummertown return.
Be sure and click the above images to see a larger, more detailed photo.
I can’t say enough good things about the Sony SAL-70300G lens I have been using. Sharp as a tack and the IQ is phenomenal when using it to focus and track such small and fast moving targets.
It’s a greater challenge to loosen the camera on the tripod and try to track these speedy little guys and get shots of them in flight. They hover occasionally, but only briefly. They seem to be getting used to my presence, though. And that means they’re coming to the feeders more frequently and giving me more opportunities.
This guy has been coming around, landing on the fence and then hopping up and down making a frightful racket and then jumping onto the feeder. It’s pretty humorous when it happens.
Click image to see full size.
The Hummingbird has taken up station on the crook that holds the feeder. Previously he had been flying in, feeding and flying off and would return every 10-20 minutes. Now he is camped out protecting the feeders from any other hummer that tries to get some food.
Once the feeders have been up for awhile you get a sense of which of the perches they’ll tend to favorite. This allows me to setup the camera on a tripod, take aim and wait with the wired remote in hand.
This was shot with the flash and using the 70-300G lens
This was shot with no flash using the 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens
And this was with the 500mm Reflex and no flash.
We’re pretty sure this is a female Allen’s Hummingbird we have visiting. She’s very curious and even hovered outside the back window and just looked at Cynthia. I didn’t have the camera ready for that but she did come back and flash us with her gold throat. Click the image to see a larger version.
Put the feeders out this weekend and we have our first Hummingbird of the season.
Click the image to see a larger version.
First Hummingbird of the seaston - 2009
I was especially amused by the adolescent Cardinal who seemed to watch the Sparrows for quite along time before diving in herself. It was almost as if she was learning what to do from them.
I was sleeping in on a Sunday. Cynthia was kind enough to close the bedroom door while she worked around the house and I was snoozing quite soundly when the bedroom door was flung open and Cynthia ran in, urgently telling me to get out of bed and saying “come quickly for birdage!”
There’s a tone Cynthia gets when it’s important. I respond on a very subconscious level to this tone. I knew something was up and it was important so I jumped out of bed and followed Cynthia to breakfast room.
She pointed to the window saying “It’s an Eagle or something!!”
I looked and there was no Eagle. But there was Hawk sitting on the fence that divides the back patio from the driveway. What a sight!
The blinds were down with the slats open so you could see out the window but it was not ideal for a photograph. I knew that if we were to raise the blinds the hawk would probably just fly away. If I had any hope of getting a photo of this guy I would need to do it through the blinds without moving them at all.
Fortunately for me, my camera was on the table and already mounted with my Sony SAL-70-300G lens. This lens is pretty remarkable and I was counting on it to be able to spot focus on the bird THROUGH the blinds. It was the only chance I would have.
I grabbed the camera, switched it on and quickly made the necessary adjustments and fired off two quick shots before the hawk flew off.
This is either a juvenile Red Shouldered Hawk or a Cooper’s Hawk. I am betting it’s a Cooper’s.
The blinds make the shot a little on the soft side but all in all, it came out pretty well I think. Especially considering I went from sleeping soundly to shooting this picture in probably less than 60 or so seconds.
The last time I got a shot of a Hawk was back in 2007 at West 11th St. Park in The Heights and I have been itching to get something like this ever since I noticed him flying around the neighborhood.
While watching the feeding frenzy that is the swarms of sparrows and doves along with the smattering of Blue Jay’s, Cardinals, House Finches (pictured above) and Grackles that visit the yard I noticed a bright, almost translucent orange streak zoom in and land on the patio.
I had initially thought it might be an Oriole or even a Scarlet Tanager but after some online research I am confident that what we have here is an Orange Bishop also known as the Red Bishop, Grenadier Weaver, Orange Bishop Weaver, and Orange Weaver.
The markings are a dead match from the black midsection to the sparrow-like markings of the wingtips.
The problem with this identification is that the Orange Bishop is a native of sub-Saharan Africa. Suffice to say, he’s not from around here. I am guessing he’s an escaped pet although I have heard there were reports of Orange Bishops at Storey County Park on West Belt by Bellaire a few years ago and that’s not too far from where I live.
Fortunatley I had the camera at the ready, though he didn’t hang around long enough to get as good a shot as I would have liked. Hopefully he’ll come back.
The baby Mockingbird has moved to the backyard to be near the feeders. We added a misting device to the birdbath and he has been the bravest of all the backyard birds so far. It took him a few tries to figure out where he needed to land, but he sorted it out eventually.
Gus (the guy over at swamplot.com who keeps “borrowing” content from baldheretic.com) has dubbed me the “Stay At Home Nature Photographer” which I suppose is in reference to the number of pics I take around the house of the birds and so forth. All in good fun, I’m sure.
This holiday weekend we had the usual suspects. House Finches, a mob of House Sparrows and numerous doves rule the day.
The Carolina Wren has been getting braver and braver, especially since we discovered his weakness for Orange Delight suet.
Mr Blue Jay continues to be elusive. He zips in and out pretty quickly. Seems awful skittish for such a well known bully of a bird.
In a revolting turn of events, a few lowly and undesirable Grackles have broken with the Westheimer tradition and have begun wandering into the residential areas and have found there way into our yard.
They seem to be raiding the neighbors dog food bowl and bringing the food to our birdbath for processing.
All of today’s shots were taken using the Sony 70-300G lens.
Taken @ 6:15 AM April 22nd 2009
View On Black
On the way to work Cynthia and I spotted the moonrise with accompanying Venus. It was sooooo pretty and I really wanted to get a picture. Sadly, I was not carrying the gear needed to get the shot. Cynthia was kind enough to support me in my decision to turn around and quickly go home so I could whip out the tripod and the SAL 70-300G lens and snap this picture.
I confess to a little Photoshop lens flare on the Venus part, but that’s all original for Mr. Moon.