This is my favorite season in Virginia (not counting Spring, of course, when the bluebirds are busy getting ready to nest, and Summer, when they are so active, laying eggs, feeding nestlings and fledging, and Winter, when they are so almost desperate for food that they literally spend their days perched on our deck, waiting for me to come outside.)
But seriously, this IS a beautiful time. The humidity is low, the afternoon temperatures are about 70 degrees and best of all, the trees are simply gorgeous! You can tell one of my pictures was taken in Autumn if the background is a blur of red or orange or yellow. I will start with some I took a few minutes ago and work backward in time, since its been a while since I have posted. Hope you see something you like.
As you know, bluebirds are drop feeders. They have keen eyesight and often drop from a fence post, or a limb maybe 20 feet up, to pick off a grasshopper or a caterpillar in the grass. It is very hard to catch them with the camera as they drop. Today I was just lucky.
ducbucln wrote: Have you put in your order for the new Canon 1DX yet?
Not yet duc. But it won't be out until March, if then. Canon are famous for tantilizing with release dates, then delaying the release, often for a year or longer. It does look interesting though but with that hefty price tag the waiting list won't be that long. Problem with getting on a list is that you have to pay msrp, if not even a little more. So the part of me that has to have the latest model fights with the part of me that loves a discount. (I suspect by February I will be on a list.)
But I did buy another new 7D a couple of weeks ago, So now I have two. I really like that model.
So many beautiful captures! Each one is just so sharp and clear. I especially liked the one with the female "but she finally does".
Funny thing happened here yesterday while I was looking at your first pictures as you posted them. A female bluebird landed on a branch attached to our deck. Of course I had to run to the camera but was just able to get my picture through the window before she took off for the garden.
Two 7D's??? Now you really are addicted to cameras! I'd be willing to bet you have a room in your home just to house all your cameras and equipment.lol
I have to break away to do a project for a friend whose birthday will be on Friday, but first I wanted to share this shot I took almost 5 years ago, using a 1D Mark 2N. It is about as sharp as any I have seen for a while.
Thanks duc. My neighbor's red maple is finally showing the bright colors that give it its name The birds must have been pretty hungry: they let me move to where I had the tree in the background. Here are a couple.
Heavy frost this morning, so the birds looked fluffy. Here is one I shot a little after 7 am, when the light was still harsh. (I know the exif information says 8 am. I need to reset that camera's clock for standard time).
Made our weekly trip to Baltimore today. The weather was lousy for pictures but two things were good. First, my mother in law's Japanese maple has shed most of its leaves, and second, one of the tufted titmice (which are normally very skittish) perched there with a sunflower seed in its beak for what seemed like 5 minutes. I got more than 50 good shots. Here is one of them.
I know there are others on this forum that are a lot more knowledgeable about bluebirds than me, so I wanted to get your opinions on a behavior. I live in SE Fort Worth, TX, we have been having a mild winter and it was about 50 degrees this morning, warming to 70 this afternoon. We have had a nesting pair of Eastern Bluebirds for a couple of years, and I saw a mature male checking ou the nestbox this morning early and he was chattering. Do you think that he is just thinking ahead? Surely, they will not start nest building until after the risk of freeze? That won't be until late March at the earliest.
Not to worry, Missy. They are just thinking ahead. On warm days I often see my pair checking out my nest boxes; sometimes even with a few pieces of straw in their beaks, but nothing serious.
Real estate is a big consideration for them. Fewer and fewer natural cavities are available anymore so there is fierce competition for the available sites. I have seen them frantically looking for nesting sites in the Spring and even invading nest boxes occupied by other Bluebirds, driving off females already nesting there.
They seem always to be on the lookout and when they do locate a nest box, it is not at all uncommon for them to visit it regularly throughout the winter. Maybe they are reassuring themselves, maybe they are sending a message to other birds that may seem interested in that location. It is much easier to defend a nest site than to evict birds already nesting there. This is especially true with house sparrows.
This picture was taken late yesterday, before it started snowing.
I do not monitor a trail but know and talk to many people who do. I understand that when boxes are placed that close (and are also within sight of each other) the boxes are rarely all occupied by bluebirds. Some boxes may go unoccupied or perhaps be occupied by other cavity nesters, such as tree swallows or chickadees or even (God forbid) HOSP. I have three boxes, two about 50 feet apart and within sight of each other and a third on the other side of our house. I have a single pair of bluebirds that alternate in nesting between the two that are within sight and they will not allow any other birds to nest in the unoccupied box. The box that is out of their sight has had chickadees and tree swallows nest in it.
However, I know that for whatever reason, some bluebirds are more tolerant than others. For example, one year I had a pair that allowed all their offspring from all three clutches to remain near the nest box during the entire nesting season and over the following Winter. Several juveniles from the first or second clutches even assisted in the feeding of the nestlings of the third clutch. The pair I have now is quite the opposite; chasing the juveniles away as soon as the female lays the first egg in her new nest.
I would also mention that I provide them meal worms and that the adult bluebirds also try to control the feeder, at least when it comes to other bluebirds. I also have titmice, chickadees, nuthatches, downy woodpeckers, song sparrows and Carolina wrens that help keep the meal worm feeder empty and the bluebirds seem moderately tolerant of the other species.
Here is one of the Carolina wrens waiting for meal worms in the freezing rain this afternoon.
I know, this was supposed to be a bluebird thread. I'll post a couple of bluebirds for these last few.
My male bluebird, for whatever reason, was really singing up a storm yesterday morning. When artists paint bluebirds that are supposedly singing, they often show their beaks wide open. Actually, they only open their beaks a tiny crack as you can see in this shot. Notice also that his throat is bulged out a little. If it matters, this is how they really look.
Got another lens. It arrived after dark yesterday, and like a kid at Christmas, I couldn't wait for the morning light so I could try it out. And wouldn't you know it, the sky is VERY overcast. Nonetheless, here is my first shot.
I'll be watching the sky all day, hoping for it to clear so I can see what this baby can really do. Probably switch to the Mark 4 too.
400mm f/2.8 ISO 2000 1/1000 sec, using a Canon 1DMk3.
Well, for a moment the sun came out (sorta) but the only birds that were around were the Carolina wrens. I will keep looking for the bluebirds but so far I am pleased with the lens. BTW Boston, the perch is sun bleached and in some shots it does look like it is frozen. And on some mornings it is totally white with the frost.
Margaret, it is too long and too heavy for me to hand hold and it requires a strong tripod as well.. It is a tiny bit shorter but I think it actually weighs more than the 600 f/4 and it is definitely heavier than the 500 f/4. I also like the 400mm focal length and I use the 400 f/4 DO as what you might call my "walk about" lens and it is the lightest lens I own.
I can hand hold the 200mm f/1.8, the 300mm f/2.8 and for a minute or so, the 500mm f/4.
Boston, I love the Carolina wrens as well. I love how they sing! They, along with the titmice and the chickadees, are my favorites -- all after the bluebirds, of course.
Dave, your camera and lens collection is extraordinary and something all of us dream about. Congrats on the new lens-the photos have always been spectacular. It's wonderful that you have such a perfectly suited hobby.
ducbucln wrote:Dave, your camera and lens collection is extraordinary and something all of us dream about. Congrats on the new lens-the photos have always been spectacular. It's wonderful that you have such a perfectly suited hobby.
I found myself echoe'ing your sentiment axactly Vicki. And may I add, Dave has the eye for the finer things in the art of living.
From time to time I get requests from artists or illustrators, wanting to use my pictures of bluebirds as models for some drawing or illustration they are working on. I almost always give them permission, and rarely ever hear anything from them again. A few months ago I got such a request from Sue Shanahan, a Chicago-based artist who specializes in children's portraits and illustrations for children's books. Many of her drawings feature fairies and flowers.
She wanted to see a bluebird in flight and I told her she could browse through my SmugMug site. I never knew which of my pictures she ultimately used.
Several weeks ago she sent me a copy of the finished drawing and I thought you might like to see it. It took me until today to find the picture she used as a model.
Incidentally, you can see more of her work at www.sueshanahan.com