Bird

Juvenile Robin
Juvenile Robin: ISO 200, 210mm, f/7.1, 1/500

There is a man made marsh in our neighbourhood park system. I went to snap some photos of blackbirds and waterfowl this afternoon.

One rule of photography is always look behind you to see what you are missing. I took a look behind me and this young Robin was checking me out atop of a fence post.

Blackbird
Blackbird in the Rain: ISO 800, 210mm, f/9.0 1/320

Another photo from my hike in the rain along Airdrie's Nose Creek Park. A blackbird watching over the water during a light rain.

Chickadee Surprise © Chris Bates 2013
Chickadee Watching: ISO 200, 200mm, f/6.3, 1/1250

As I was waiting for the wrens to come back and feed their new additions to their family this chickadee perched right in front of me.

Wren Feeding Time
Breakfast Time: ISO 200, 200mm, f/6.3, 1/1600

I set up a bunch of bird houses in our backyard a few years ago. Every year but the last a wren pair had used one of them to start a new family. This year I was losing hope that they would again not use a house . It seemed they were busy building a nest in the neighbours’ trees.

Last week the wrens were getting agitated whenever someone or something invaded our backyard. Watching the wrens revealed that they had set up a nest in the birdhouse I set up in our garage side garden.

I got this image by sitting down on the lawn waiting for the wren to take its usual path from the back fence to the bird house. As you can see by the picture the bug is almost as big as this small bird. I also took the shot mid morning so that the low sun would illuminate the garden and bird.

Chickadee, Chris Bates, Photography, Red Deer, Alberta, nature
Chickadee Feeding: ISO 640, 140mm, f/5.6, 1/750

This is another shot from my previous post. Waiting for the Blue Jays to come to the feeder and tis small guy kept fluttering from the trees to the feeder.

That is a sunflower seed in his bill.

Yellow Rumped Warbler (1)
Yellow Rumped Warbler: ISO 640, 360mm, f/5.6, 1/1000

It has been awhile since I last updated my journal. When I started this project I wanted to post at least once a week. It seems now I am lucky to post at least once a month. Life is racing by and I have little time for my passion of photography. I have to make a conscious effort to not let this happen. I have to remember why I love spending time with my cameras.

The above image is such an example of why I must make this time.

Last month (September) Blue Jays were coming to my backyard feeders carrying away food for fall. Blue Jays love to hide food almost anywhere including compost heaps, eavestroughs, planters etc. I grabbed my cameras and sat on the deck by the feeder waiting for these big birds to return for more food.

As I waited patiently I started snapping shots of the other birds playing in the backyard. First, it was the common house sparrows. Then a chickadee fluttered back and forth from the trees to the feeder. Then I noticed a moving patch of yellow in the apple tree. I quickly focused and got a shot of this bird.

When new birds come to the backyard I usually want to get reference pictures so that I can identify them later with my Peterson Field Guide. I don’t want to scare the bird so as you can see my zoom is out quite away (360mm). I am hand holding the camera as birds tend to move about rapidly. To get the fast shutter speed I have to turn the ISO up. The picture isn’t the sharpest under these conditions but I usually have enough good snap shots to be able to identify the new visitor.

From my research in the Peterson Field Guide and Google I came to the conclusion this was a Yellow Rumped Warbler. I posted this image on Flickr and had one of my contacts confirm that I identified this bird correctly.

I am excited by these new finds. I live within a 10 minute walk to downtown of a city with close to 92,000 people. The backyard is like an oasis in this busy city. I must take the time to stop and marvel at the sights and not let life get too busy for my passions.

Spring Shake Up House Sparrow fluffy bird
House Sparrow fluffing up his feathers: ISO 200, 320mm, f/5.6, 1/1500

Sitting on the Fence side profile house sparrow
Sitting on the Fence: ISO 200, 320mm, f/5.6, 1/1500

Spring feels like it is finally here. The birds are out playing and enjoying the new foliage.

The above shots are of the same male house sparrow. Enjoying the sun while sitting on our fence.

Bohemian Waxwings, Mountain Ash, Birds, Feeding
Birds: ISO 200, 53mm, f/4.5, 1/4000

A followup to my previous post.

This is where the flock of flying waxwings were headed. The neighbour’s Mountain Ash (Right Side of Picture) provides many tiny berries for a large quantity of birds to feed. I wonder how these tiny branches can handle the number of birds that perch on them.


Formation Flying: ISO 200, 15mm, f/8.0, 1/2000

The bohemian waxwings came back to our yard this winter for another feeding. The sound this amount of birds make is surreal.

This is just a small bunch of the birds. Most of them were in the trees behind me feasting.

yellow warbler, Kerry Wood Nature Centre, Red Deer, Alberta
Yellow Warbler: ISO 200, 200mm, f/8.0, 1/750

Waiting for spring to arrive. This yellow warbler was captured last spring at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre, Red Deer, Alberta during one of my nature walks.


Mating Dance 1: ISO 200, 200mm, F/4, 1/1000



Mating Dance 2: ISO 200, 200mm, f/4, 1/1000

House Sparrows love our neighbourhood. They love the trees and the food everyone leaves out for them.

Watching them over the years you get used to their quirky behaviour. Once and awhile you will notice a male showing off to a female by keeping his chest low, wings down, and tail up going into some sort of dance that resembles an epileptic seizure. When I see it, I tell my wife the sparrows are "chicken dancing."

The camera doesn't quite capture it. I will have to carry my little Kodak Playsport around with me more often to try to capture video.

Great Blue Heron, Youngs Point OntarioWater, Youngs Point, Ontario, fishing, Tai ChiGreat Blue Heron, Strike, fishingGreat Blue Heron, fish, fishing, Youngs Point, Ontario

Just returned from a trip from Ontario visiting family. My father and brother in law (who was visiting from South Africa) decided to go fishing at Youngs Point one night after supper. I went along with my camera.

Dad called me over to his fishing spot and told me that I had to check out the Great Blue Heron standing at the bottom of the dam. It was close to sunset so I had to set my ISO to 800 in order to get a fast shutter speed while using my telephoto lens.

Dad and my brother in law never caught a fish that night but while watching the Heron he had caught two. Looks like he had the better fishing spot picked out!

\
Pair of Theives: ISO 400, 163mm, f/4, 1/1500

I was sitting on our deck and noticed a pair of Blue Jays (Not from Toronto) flying to the feeder to find some food. Read More...

Pine Siskin, Nyger Seed Feeder, birding, Red Deer, Alberta, Canada
Pine Siskin: ISO 800, 200mm, f/5.6, 1/125

I have placed Nyger seed feeder sacs in our crab apple tree in hopes of luring goldfinches. When I noticed these birds enjoying the seed I thought I finally attracted female goldfinches.

Turns out this is a Pine Siskin. They seem to be getting used to me as I was able to get quite close to them without scaring them off.

Common Loon, Kerry Wood Nature Centre, Red Deer, Alberta
Common Loon: ISO 200, 380mm, f/8, 1/800

I went for a short walk from the house on Friday morning to the Kerry Wood Nature Centre. It is nice in a way that I can walk 10 minutes east and hit downtown Red Deer and 10 minutes north I can hit a nature sanctuary and feel as though I have left the city.

I moved to Alberta more than 15 years ago from Ontario, Canada. I spent most of my teenage/early adult life in "Cottage Country" where the loon is a common sight. The call of the loon is eerie and at the same time comforting. I was happy to see four Common Loons playing and calling to each other during my walk on the shores of the Gaetz Lakes in the Nature Centre. It was like I had walked home!

I was lucky enough to capture this one showing off.


Waxwings, Chris Bates, Photography, nature, Red Deer, Alberta, Canada
The Invasion: ISO 320, 200mm, f/8, 1/90

On my way home from work today I noticed the neighbour's crab apple tree was covered with a blanket of Waxwings. I finished my drive home, parked the car in the garage, ran into the house, said hello to my wife, headed downstairs to grab the camera, said I will be back to my wife and then walked to the end of the alley to get some pics of the birds and tree.

I was able to get quite close to these birds. A passerby by said to me that he heard the birds get a little intoxicated by the fermented apples so maybe that is why they are not as skitish as usual.

Click here to see a larger version of this picture.



Feeding Waxwing Bohemian Red Deer Alberta Canada Nature
Bohemian Waxwing: ISO 200, 200mm, f/4, 1/1500

Stepped out of the house last weekend and was surprised to see a large flock of waxwings had come to visit the neighbour's berry laden mountain ash tree. The tree branches out over our crab apple tree.

I rushed back inside and grabbed my camera which had a short telephoto on it. I took some shots from just outside the back door of the house and then proceeded to walk slowly towards the birds hoping to get some "up close shots." From my past encounters with these birds I found them to be very skittish. But this time I was able to get fairly close. They must have been hungry.

The video is from a few weeks ago. These same type of birds had visited the trees a street over. They fly in huge flocks in search of food. The neighbourhood fills with the sounds of these beautiful birds and is a sight to see. Canadian winters do have its charms.

Downy Woodpecker, nature, bird, Kerry Wood Nature Centre, Alberta
Preparing for the Storm: ISO 400, 200mm, f/4, 1/350

Went for a walk at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre yesterday while the weather was still relatively warm (Just below 0 degrees ceclius).

This was the only bird I could get close enough to photograph during my hike but I could hear chickadees and waxwings playing in the woods. My lens just couldn't reach far enough to catch them. This Downy Woodpecker was busy searching for food. He must sense the winter storm the weather people are predicting for this weekend.

American Robin, Chris Bates Photography, Red Deer, Alberta, Canada, nature, fall, spring
American Robin with Autumn Leaves: ISO 400, 270mm, f/6.7, 1/180


American Robin, Chris Bates Photography, Red Deer, Alberta, Canada, nature, fall, spring
American Robin: ISO 400, 270mm, f/6.7, 1/180

A sure sign of spring is when the Robins return to our yard.

Wait a minute, it's autumn!

We are still experiencing warm weather and it must be fooling the robins playing in our yard.

The parents may have returned with their spring babies to show them where they were born so that they will all return to us next spring.

Pushing my Luck






Open Wide: ISO 400, 100mm, f/5.6, 1/30 (Same Settings for Both Pics)

Well the baby wren's are getting bigger. Parents are flying around looking for bugs to feed them every 5-10 minutes it seems.

The parents are very agitated when I peer into the apple tree to snap shots. I don't want to push my luck too much. I noticed my settings weren't the greatest on my camera. I didn't check them before I peered in. I should have set my aperture to around 8 or 11 but then I might have had to push up my ISO to get the faster shutter speed.

I bought a Kodak Playsport Video Recorder and have set it up to record the feedings. Video will follow shortly. From what I seen yesterday there is 3 baby birds in the house.




Update: Here is the Video Link. I adjust the camera at the beginning and the babies hear the rustle of the leaves and pop their beaks out real quick then Mom comes and makes her warning call. At the end of the clip she comes back and feeds the kids.

Baby Jay


Baby Jay: ISO 400, 240mm, f/8, 1/1500



Proud Parent: ISO 400, 190mm, f/8, 1/500

I came home from work this evening and Angela told me we had company playing in our backyard.

We had from what we could see were three baby Blue Jays and the two proud parents. It seemed the babies were being taught to fly. The baby that was closest to the ground didn't seem to have the knack for flight yet. She needed some encouragement from her parents.

The bottom picture is of the protective parent keeping an eye on the situation from high above.

Gotcha!


Cedar Waxwing in Apple Tree: ISO 400, 380mm, f/8, 1/350



Waxwing Drinking: ISO 400, 380mm, f/8, 1/350

At long last I caught Cedar Waxwings in our yard!

It has been an unusually dry spring here. The bird bath has been a key attraction in our yard. The Cedar Waxwings have been in the Mountin Ash eating berries still on the tree from last year and then coming down for a drink.

I have spotted them the last few days but I was always in the house and when I go outside they flee. This morning I was working in the gardens and I guess they got used to me not being a threat and I was able to get some quick shots off.

What's for Supper?


Purple Finch: ISO 400, 400mm, f/8, 1/250


House Sparrow: ISO 400, 320mm, f/8, 1/180

The snow is gone from the yard. There is still some patches of snow in the region but the weather is finally warming again. The May Long Weekend is fast approaching and we should be able to say goodbye to winter for awhile.

The bird activity in the backyard is still pretty busy. Been watching the crows carry nest building materials to the neighbours pine tree. The sparrows and finches are busy feeding on whatever they can find.

Two nights ago I took the camera out to watch the House Sparrows forage for food on the ground. From the image above it looks like they are finding little bugs to eat. As the temperature at the time was in the mid teens the bugs were probably coming out of hiding to warm up.

As I was calling it a night I headed back to the house and spotted some Purple Finches high in the Mountain Ash tree feeding.

I wasn't sure the shots I took would turn out as I had the heavy zoom on and had to point it upwards through tree branches without a tripod. So I was fearful of blurry out of focus shots. I managed to get a few good images.

The top picture shows that the trees are finally starting to leaf. In a couple of weeks it will be nearly impossible to get this shot as I would have to shoot through leaves and branches.

It's May!


Sapsucker: ISO 400, 160mm, f/8, 1/350


Chickadee: ISO 400, 80mm, f/8, 1/500



Chickadee: ISO 400, 190mm, f/8, 1/250


House Sparrow: ISO 200, 250mm, f/8, 1/500

As mentioned in my previous post the birds are in abundance right now. They love playing and singing in our backyard. The finches and sparrows appear to be eating the flower buds on our Ornamental Flowering Plum and Japanese Cherry (I believe this is what the two shrubs are).

The top image is a Sapsucker/Woodpecker. I have yet to determine if it is a Yellow Bellied Sapsucker or a Red Naped Sapsucker. My guess is the Yellow Bellied variety as it does not appear to have the big red patch at the back of his neck. Both varieties are known to dwell in our area. Angela and I believe this is the same guy who pounds on the electrical pole outside our bedroom window in the early morning.

When I was composing the shot of the Sapsucker the chickadee flew right in front of me as if to see what I was doing. Maybe he was jealous as I was not taking his photo like I was the previous evenings. He flew so close that he got his wish and he quickly became the object of my affection.

The last picture is a female house sparrow on our Japanese Cherry. These are the most abundant birds that live and play in the backyard. She came out while I was cooking supper on the barbeque.

All these shots were taken today.

Birds, Birds, Birds


Chickadee: ISO 400, 150mm, f/8, 1/180

The last few days our backyard has been like an international airport. Bird traffic has been heavy. Spring is here and the birds are busy with mating, nesting and training the young.

Monday night I was feeding our pet turtle and noticed through the window a flock of waxwings in our trees. I had been waiting all winter for the waxwings to feed on the berries of the mountain ash high above our crab apple tree. They never came. When I finished feeding the turtle I grabbed the cameras and went outside to watch the birds. It was a rewarding night.

The Robins were out. I didn't manage to get a picture because they hid high on the mountain ash waiting til I departed.

The above photo is of a baby chickadee. He did more hoping from branch to branch than actual flying. Just like the baby wren from last summer, the chickadee hid in the thick brush. It was hard to get a clear shot through the many branches even though I was able to get close.


House Finch: ISO 400, 400mm, f/8, 1/250

The above photo is a House Finch. The birds have been feasting on our blooming shrubs. We are worried that they will all be eaten before they bloom.


Cedar Waxing: ISO 400, 260mm, f/8, 1/500

This is the reason why I ventured out. These waxwings travel in flocks. They come and go real fast. This one is on the look out in the mountain ash. Shortly after this photo this bird flew off with the flock to feed and play elsewhere.

Flight Path


Mallards in Flight: ISO 400, 290mm, f/11 1/500

I took a drive southeast of Red Deer last week scouting for photo opportunities. Currently migrating birds are visiting our area for a rest before they reach their final destinations to our north.

Ever since I moved to Alberta over 15 years ago I have always wanted to see Snow Geese. I thought this would be my lucky day as I seen a few white birds swimming in a small lake as I drove by. I quickly found a safe place to turn the car and headed back to where I spotted them.

As it turns out they were not Snow Geese. They were Tundra Swans. I had not seen a Tundra Swan before so all was not lost. The elusive Snow Goose still evades me. I wonder if they are related to the Abominable Snowman.


Tundra Swans: ISO 400, 400mm, f/11, 1/350

You Know You are Canadian When...


Two Geese: ISO 200, 263mm, f/5.6, 1/750


Morning on the Ice Flow: ISO 200, 263mm, F/5.6, 1/250

This is the last of the shots from last weekend. These Canadian Geese are in the Red Deer River.

Not sure how they do it as there is no warm down on their feet. I know if you or I were to attempt this we would be in the hospital getting treated for hypothermia and frostbite. This is their safe haven from predators. If anyone would get to close they would just launch themselves into the river and wait it out. BBbbbrrrrr!

On my drive home from work this evening I noticed the ice is almost gone. There are sections where it still might be 10 feet out from the shore. But on the most part the ice only remains where the sun doesn't shine on the river banks. I also noticed that the number of geese have diminished. They must have continued their journey north.

Returning Home


Flight: ISO 200, 81mm, f/4.5, 1/1000

The Canada Geese have returned to Canada from their vacation trip down to the USA. Like all Canadians, the geese like the warmer weather the USA has to offer in the winter.


The Chase: ISO 200, 149mm, f/4.5. 1/500

As my previous post has mentioned there still is ice on most of the ponds and lakes in the area I live. The Red Deer River is just starting to break up were the current is the strongest. During my early morning photo walk I found these geese waiting for the morning sun to warm them on the Bower Ponds' frozen surface. Canada Geese are monogomous. They don't like to share and the pair in this picture must not like the third wheel because whenever she became too close they would give chase.