It has been a busy time at my backyard feeders, especially the past few weeks when most of these photos were taken. This handsome fellow is the male House Finch.
I put this bird first because he's been my favorite visitor so far this spring. I try to put out a variety of bird food types in hopes of attracting a variety of species. It's working in that this colorful guy has been coming around regularly in recent weeks, and I don't recall having the House Finch in my backyard before.
I think it's always neat to capture birds looking right into the lens. Their expressions often are not as benign as this House Finch's.
The American Goldfinch is another show stopper. I only saw this striking bird a couple times in March. For this shot, after spotting him while inside my house, I quickly and stealthily moved outside and hid behind a couple trees, getting off only a few frames before he fled.
Back view of the spectacular American Goldfinch:
Here we see the female Goldfinch and the male feeding together. Sorry missy, but you are pretty plain compared to your man!
Another seasonal drop-in has been the Brown Headed Cowbird. I had this bird with the unique look and name last spring so I recognized it went it came back recently.
The male seems rather shy but when it does come to my feeders, it likes to stay awhile, sometimes five or more minutes at a time. It feeds and just enjoys hanging out.
Here's the male and female Brown Headed Cowbird together on my feeder. The female comes more often to the feeder and seems less fearful than the male. I have a new advantage point from above for my photo-taking. An upstairs bathroom has a narrow window. I took out the screen and a turn of the handle opens the window out so I can look straight down on the unsuspecting birds (if I'm quiet enough).
Brown Thrashers have been around regularly of late. This is the biggest bird, along with the occasional Blue Jay, to feast at my feeders.
This big bird won't get any style points on the feeders. It's rather ungainly and aggessive, often leaving a feeder twisting like a top when it's through its rough feeding.
I don't photograph birds from the backside often, but when the Brown Trasher is thrashing away on the feeders I'll take what I can get.
I really like Blue Jays but find them very difficult to photograph whether in my yard or other places where I see them. They don't stay still for long and are very skittish, aware and afraid of people. Look at the look one gave me on a rare occasion I did get a shot of one at my feeders.
The Blue Jay is a big presence but very camera-elusive. I do love its coloring and will continue to seek high quality images of this feathered favorite.
I just added this new Blue Jay photo taken yesterday from my backyard hammock. It's always good to have the camera handy!
I had an exciting few days in late April when I first spotted the next bird in trees on the side of my yard. The red caught my eye then Cardinal notions were quickly discarded when I noticed the yellow underside and the different face. I also knew it wasn't the House Finch (see first photos in this post). My friend Richard Hayes helped confirm that this is a Tanager and additional review on both our parts concluded this to be a Scarlet Tanager. Unfortunately, I caught only a few glimpses of it and only this one not-so-great photo. I heard its distinctive call a few times in later days but alas just a quick passing through by this bird, a first sighting for me. But pretty neat it was in my yard. Hopefully it will return in the future.
Another exciting and unusual vistor to my yard was this Red Shoulder Hawk, just last weekend. Alesia and I were sititng on our patio when off to the right there it was, looking at us and at our feeders. I hope it wasn't insulted when I said to her there's a Hawk then Alesia said, no it's a Dove.
The smaller Downy Woodpecker is a regular at my feed fest. I had never heard of this type until a few years ago when I started to get into birding and wanted to know what this fiesty bird was. You know the males because of the red patch on the back of their heads. I like this shot because you see the red spot, which sometimes looks like the letter "W" (for Woodpecker no doubt), its open beak, and its dark eye that is seen. This boy's in full feeding mode!
This orange-flavored suet is popular with the Red-Bellied Woodpeckers. I have suet for them in the back of the yard. But this pecker, much larger than the Downy, also frequently comes to my front feeders, closer to the house.
I'm happy that the Northern Cardinal is a mainstay of my backyard. I've taken hundreds of photos of them and never really tire of seeing them. They are obviously very striking and photogenic, the female as well as the over-the-top red/black goateed male.
The Cardinals are easier to photography than many birds because they do often sit (or perch) still for more than a couple seconds.
Love this shot of a female with her mouth foul!
Caught the male Cardinal in mid-call. Or maybe its yawning? No, birds don't yawn, do they?
One last Cardinal in full red glory!
This is a favorite recent photo, two Carolina Wrens at my friend Richard Hayes' house. They look plump don't they? Winter coats still on perhaps? Love their eyes and expressions.
Here's a classic pose by the distinctive and petite Carolina Wren.
The Tufted Titmouse is a cute little bird that's very vocal and assertive about hitting my feeders. It's not particularly concerned if people are nearby, which I like. The life of this little gem may seem carefree but it does always have to keep alert to predators such as Hawks. I witnessed a Hawk swoop down and grab one of these birds just feet in front of me. Just another meal for the Hawk. I felt bad for the Tufted Titmouse.
The perky Carolina Chickadee is a mainstay at my feeders. They aren't particularly afraid of people and drop in dozens of times a day. Why not? I keep my feeders well stocked. They know a good deal when they see one! Lately the Chickadees have been in spring mating mode, I think. The wing flutter here is unique to the season. I've been seeing this species and others feeding each other, ala male to female, and vice versa. Cute!
The White-Breasted Nuthatch has been coming around lately. I hadn't seen this bird in a couple years. I instantly recognized its black mohawk and upside down behavior. I guess blood rushing to the head is not an issue with this Nuthatch.
This is an immature Purple Martin with much prettier coloring, in my opinion, than the all-dark adult. The reason they don't go to feeders is because the Purple Martin gets all its food in flight and its water that way too. A big bug eater this species. Glad to have them in the neighborhood!
Next is a new bird for me this year, the White-Throated Sparrow. I first photographed it in my friend Richard's backyard. He attracted Orioles with grape jelly, and lots of other birds came around too. (see my separate Baltimore Oriole posting- it's before this post).
I love the yellow "eyebrows"- OK, I know that's not birdspeak. I've spotted this Sparrow in my yard a few times but my better photos are these taken at my friend's house.
The tiniest bird visitor has been active of late at our special feeder for this species. Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds, male and female, love this feeder next to our back door.
Alesia does a great job refreshing the Hummingbird "sauce" regularly.
This lightening fast little bird is very challenging to photograph. My approach, when I know they are around, is to sit on my porch and have the camera fixed and focused on the dish and hope the bird flies into, hovers and feeds within the frame. It's the only way because if they see any movement, they're gone. Notice its little feet!
Finally, it's always neat to see new life in the spring among the birds, all shapes and sizes. These Canadian Geese come to the backyard regularly now. The four little ones are quickly growing. This is a tight clan with the parents always keeping a very watchful eye.
In closing, I want to thank Kate Silvia with the Carolina Nature Photographers Association for the PhotoShop and other tips she gives at our monthly meetings. I used some of her tweaking techniques for this posting and feel my photos look better than ever. Happy birding everyone. Hope your feeders stay busy! (from left: Northern Cardinal, Brown-Headed Cowbird, Downy Woodpecker)