Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Piggyback Bird

Western Kingbird Piggyback

Leaving work one day, I noticed some birds hanging around the perimeter fencing that I didn't immediately recognize.  Driving away, I phoned my wife and described the birds as she searched her bird identification app.  Back and forth we went, me trying to describe them and her asking questions as she narrowed her search.  Apparently I'm not too good at describing birds because we were unable to settle on an answer.

When I arrived home, I sat down with one of our bird books and began searching.  Not long into my search I found what I was looking for.  I called my wife over and showed her the picture on the page - Western Kingbird.

During lunch the next day, I moseyed out onto our nature walk with my camera hoping the birds I saw previously were still around.  I wanted a closeup photo to verify their identification.  I was pretty certain they were Western Kingbirds, but the Western Kingbird looks very similar to a couple other Kingbirds, specifically the Cassin's and Couch's Kingbirds.

As luck would have it, I managed to walk about 20 feet before seeing two of the birds sitting on some of the power lines coming into the plant.  I quickly snapped a few photos and then began waiting to see if they would provide me a closeup opportunity.  As I waited, I was able to identify six Kingbirds buzzing around, which I thought was pretty cool considering I'd never seen one until the day before.

I watched closely as one of the Kingbirds finally landed close to where I was standing.  I slowly brought my camera up and began snapping photos while walking very slowly toward it.  I was surprised to see the  Kingbird remain perched as I crept closer and closer.  Then I got another surprise as I noticed a spider (at least it looked like a spider) sitting on the bird's back.  Yes, you read that correctly, a spider getting a piggyback ride on the back of a Western Kingbird.  Nature never fails to amaze!


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Birds at Home

House Sparrow

It's been quite a while since I was able to dedicate a full morning/evening to a local photo trek.  But, my camera is never too far from my side.  The weather has been fantastic and we've still been spoiling some of the local birds with black oil sunflower seeds.  We all enjoy sitting in the living room or on the front patio and watching the birds come and go and I often grab the camera to capture their activity.

On this particular day, I was growing tired of getting photos of birds perched directly on the feeders and patio railing.  I started thinking of ways to break things up a bit so that I could get pictures of birds in a more natural setting.  I finally walked down to our willow tree and picked out a good sized branch that was already lying on the ground.  Using some black zip ties, I was able to mount the branch between a couple shepherd's hooks that were positioned close to the main feeder.  I was counting on the branch becoming a staging area for the birds as they came and went.  Normally, the main staging area is within our ornamental plum tree that sits about 20 feet from our patio.  It provides good photos, if you can get a bird to land on an open branch unobstructed by leaves, but the new branch, if the birds would use it, would provide me a much closer view.

Little by little the birds began warming up to the additional branch, landing on it as they came to feed.  All I had to do was sit and wait for them to land in a position on the branch that offered a pleasing composition.  The two photos here of the House Sparrow and the Downy Woodpecker are a couple of my rewards.

Downy Woodpecker

Not to forget about the plum tree, I captured this photo of a Common Grackle as it came to harass some of  the other birds and grab some seeds.  I don't really care for the Grackle (as a bird they're pretty annoying), but I couldn't pass up the beauty of it's iridescent blue head and yellow eyes against the red leaves of the plum tree.