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Category Archives: Wildlife

“Cat Call” (Gray Catbird, Adult Male, Dumetella carolinensis) Nikon D300, 490mm (VR 200-400mm F/4G w/1.4x Teleconverter), F/6.3, 1/320s, ISO 320

After the silence of winter, the chirping of birds in the spring is a welcomesound!

When you’ve been listening for as many years as I have, you can’t help but learn the different bird calls and, after some time, can instantly identify what birds are around just by the prevailing sounds.

Since it is mating season, the songs have been abundant! Many will sing for hours on end, desperately trying to entice a mate. Once a mate is found however, the songs do not end but rather, turn into chattering between the males and females.

Oh, wouldn’t you love to understand their conversation? 😉

The male Gray Catbird returned time and time again to this particular branch to sing out his melody. I spent quite awhile photographing in order to achieve a well-composed, well-lit shot of him in full song, his beak wide open. Another must-have was to capture an image where that tiny spot of red under his beak was exposed as he sang. Not an easy task, as I soon found out! Persistence, however, does indeed, pay off. 🙂

During his song, a House Wren joined in on a lower branch and began to sing along. Not one to pass up an opportunity, he now became the focus of my attention.

“Sing to Me” (House Wren, Adult Male, Troglodytes aedon) Nikon D300, 490mm (VR 200-400mm F/4G w/1.4x Teleconverter), F/5.6, 1/320s, ISO 320

The wren’s song was different as he was already successful in finding a mate who was busy making a home in the large yellow bird house for the inevitable wren brood to come. Still, their voices blended and harmonized and I enjoyed the free entertainment on that warm, sunny day.

Eventually, both birds flew off to other tasks and I called out a “Thanks, guys!” for the private concert, knowing that it wouldn’t be my last.

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It’s that time of year where all the birds have one thing on their minds… makin’ babies! 🙂 The wrens have taken up residence in the large yellow bird house, the chickadees are in the bellows bird house and the sparrows (both the English and house varieties) have found spaces in the gutters (despite our attempts to discourage them. Sigh).

Looking down from one of my office windows, I can see the large arbor that extends over our garage. Two weeks ago, I watched this female robin tirelessly gather building materials for her nest.

“Material Girl” (North American Robin, Adult Female) Nikon D300, 420mm (VR 200-400mm F/4G lens with 1.4x Teleconverter), F/5.6, 1/160s, ISO 640

The nest is lovely and she barely fit inside of it when it was finished. However, with all the rain we’ve had in the last two weeks, I didn’t get a chance to scope out a spot where I can get a good camera angle on the actual nest itself (it is tucked within the trumpet vines just below the garage eaves…a very tricky spot, indeed). Sadly, this week the nest has been empty. 😦 (I am hoping this is merely a temporary situation and that it hasn’t been abandoned even before being utilized for its intended purpose). Stay tuned.

“Orange Crush” (Baltimore Oriole, Adult Female) Nikon D300, 550mm (VR 200-400mm F/4G w/1.4x Teleconverter), F/5.6, 1/80s, ISO 640

 
 

Over the weekend, a flash of orange streaked across the sky and I knew in an instant it meant the Orioles were back!! I immediately cut an orange and filled the rind halves with sweet jelly in the hope I could entice the little beauties to stay around.

I have no idea where the nest is being built but this morning, I spied two males and a female flitting about the yard. Good enough reason for me to haul out the large lens and tripod, dontchathink? 😉

“Getting Ready” (Baltimore Oriole, Adult Female) Nikon D300, 550mm (VR 200-400 F/4G w/1.4x Teleconverter), F/5.6, 1/100s. ISO 640

 

 
 
Now, while the brightly-colored male eluded my lens (must be related to the male cardinal, eh?) I was able to capture the female as she took 5 in a nearby tree, a tuft of freshly picked grass clasped in her beak.

Folks, I did my best paparazzi moves to capture these images! Even so, I was eventually spotted by the orange girl and she then decided the photo shoot was over.

Seeing that these are my first ever Oriole photos, I’m okay with that! 🙂

Success! 🙂

As promised, I re-created the edible birdhouses with stronger eye hooks and hung them in a different location (high up in a tree far back in the yard).

Within minutes, the Black-Capped Chickadees were feeding! Granted, they were the only brave ones that first day but it didn’t take long for the White-Breasted Nuthatches to catch on by the following morning, with the Dark-Eyed Juncos snacking happily below (they are ground feeders).

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I’m not saying the squirrels didn’t try but they just couldn’t get to the houses so they had to settle for what scraps the birds allowed to fall to the ground.

Aw, poor babies. 😉

With the voracity at which the birds are feeding, I suspect by the end of this week, the houses will be stripped clean and the process will start all over again.

Oh, my. What have I gotten myself into? 😉

"Not a Good Sign"

While the concept of the edible birdhouse is sound, it would appear the installation needs some work.

should have realized the beginning of the end when I woke up yesterday morning and saw this:

(Apologies for the poor focus quality of this image as it was shot with a long lens through a not-so-clean window).

Nervously, I watched the grey squirrels for quite some time throughout the day and though they were able to access the pinecones, they appeared to be completely baffled as to how to get to the birdhouses. 

Relief! 🙂

"Chickadee... Check!"

 
 
I even felt a surge of hope when I witnessed a visit by an actual bird!

Yippee! 😀

(Again, apologies…long lens, dirty window = blurry-ish image).

After this shot was taken, I moved the camera to our sunroom where I could shoot more clearly. However, not much activity at the houses by either fur or fowl occurred during the rest of the day so I let things be and resumed my regular daily activities.

Fast forward to this morning.

"Appetizer"

 
The ‘Fruit & Nut Villa’ was now on the ground and being fought over by several grey squirrels while another was up high feasting upon what I now call the ‘Appetizer’. 😉

See that dangling string on the right? Yep, that is where the villa proudly once hung. Upon closer inspection, the small eye hook was still attached to the string so it clearly wasn’t strong enough to withstand the weight of a plump grey hurling itself onto the roof. The house must have dropped like a hot potato.

Sadly, it didn’t take long for the ‘Skylight Villa’ and ‘Sweetheart Cottage’ to meet the same fate.

"Main Course"

While some of you might have erupted in anger over such an outcome, I found it quite comical to watch the squirrels devour the houses. They really are persistent little beasts! I do take some satisfaction, however, in imagining them now, back at their nests, holding their full tummies and moaning like a group of middle-aged men after an indulgent night of pizza, wings and beer. 😉

When it was all over, each house looked like this:

"Picked Clean"

So, it is back to the drawing board. I already have a new batch of edible glue prepared and ready to go. The houses can be reused (they clean up easily with some hot water and a scrub brush) so another attempt is forthcoming. I simply under-estimated my critters and made it way too easy for them. Yes, they may have won the first battle but what they don’t know is I’m in it for the long haul and it’s time to put my engineering degree to good use.

I just hope they don’t start calling me Wile E. Coyote… 😉

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