Why do Birds Suddenly Appear…

…Every time – I am near?

OK – I stole that from my friend Honie. It was in her comment on my recent post about seeing a Northern Flicker for the first time. She’s clever like that.

Anyway, I don’t think they appear when I am near, I think I have just learned to notice them. I lived at the Stone House for 9 years before I really paid attention. I only took note because I bought a bird identifying app for my iPhone. It plays the birds calls and I wanted to see if I could call birds with my phone. I took an old crate out into the woods and played the cardinal call and was thrilled when they started talking back to me. I tried taking their photos, but I just didn’t have the patience or focus to catch them. A little over a year ago I decided to really work on shooting birds with the thought that it would improve my ability to make quick decisions behind the lens. I thought I would try it for the remainder of the calendar year, but I was hooked. I find shooting birds to be the most relaxing thing and I do it several times a week. I have come to know some of them personally and I think it has made me a better photog in ways I never imagined it would. I have learned to shoot better in weather and low light situations, I do a better job of getting a sharp focus, I’m more patient about getting the best shot.

I notice birds absolutely everywhere now and I use that same app to identify and learn about them all along my way. On my recent trip to the Pacific Northwest I got a chance to see some amazing birds, and some ordinary ones too – as if any bird is really ordinary…

The Raven

Although ravens have an amazing ability to fly and soar with the eagles, they often seemed content to walk around on the roadsides. Watching them I can see where the Looney Tunes got that silly bird walk from.

Although I can soar with eagles, I prefer to stalk park visitors and con them out of Apricots

I loved seeing so many ravens, I had no idea that they were such characters and that they could be so playful. I recently read that they can fly upside down for great distances – why, well because they seem to like to show off.

The American Robin

Don't even think of letting your dog out of the car...

Don’t even think of letting your dog out of the car…

I see robins everywhere – I almost don’t think of them as birds who really live in the wild away from people, but this was shot in the Hoh rainforest.

Barn Swallows

I picked out this stick just for you honey - do you love it? It'll look great right above the mantle...

I picked out this stick just for you honey – do you love it? It’ll look great right above the mantle…

...sigh

…sigh

Do you like this stick better?

Do you like this stick better?

I felt for this guy – he showed her several sticks and even tried to put them into the nest to please her – she never gave him the time of day.

Rufus Hummingbird

Against the wind

Against the wind…and the ocean, and the barn swallows with sticks…

This hummer was perched on a limb overlooking the Pacific Ocean – he was singing his heart out as barn swallows swooped by – the wind was howling, the waves were crashing, still he sang.

Stellar’s Jay

Nothing more natural in a National Park than a plumbing vent.

Nothing more natural in a National Park than a plumbing vent.

These remind me a lot of blue jays here in the Ozarks but they are not nearly so shy and skittish. This park office in the rainforest has a little path that is meant for them to feed on, when they have had enough of the tourists they hop up on the roof.

Cliff Swallows

No Vacancy!

No Vacancy!

There were probably over a thousand cliff swallows swirling around the facade of this building making nests – it looked like birds had to stake their claim or face eviction – their mates continuously added to the complex as they sat and watched.

Brewer’s Blackbird

Pants off - dance off!

Pants off – dance off!

Eek!

Eek!

Mating dance? War dance? Rut? I have no idea – but these birds are posers. I recently spotted some of them near my home, sometimes you gotta travel to appreciate what’s in your own backyard.

Tree Swallows

I've found the perfect apartment!

I’ve found the perfect apartment!

Talking to her is like talking to a rock...

Talking to her is like talking to a rock…

This female made dozens of trips to that barrel with twigs as her man sat by on the rail above her talking to that rock instead of helping. That’s what you get when you fall for a pretty boy.

An aside – I think the swallows were confused. I saw barn swallows gathering mud and sticks off ocean cliffs, cliff swallows nesting on the facade of an old building, and tree swallows nesting in a barrel – no one knows their place these days.

Red Bellied Sapsucker

Time to get to work...

Time to get to work…

...always remember to punch in.

…always remember to punch in.

I saw red and had to shoot. Such an adorable bird, my favorite of the trip. He actually checked each hole to see if there was more sap or insects. A bird watcher told me that they check these holes every day or so instead of drilling new ones constantly.

Killdeer

Doing the deception dance...

Doing the deception dance…

...maybe she'll think these rocks are my eggs.

…I’ll lead her over this way…

...maybe she'll believe these rocks are my eggs.

…maybe she’ll believe these rocks are my eggs.

Such amazing camouflage – killdeer can blend into a pile of rocks or leaves or roadside gravel like this. The male actually walked away from the nest and stopped to lure me away. When I looked back the female put on this show to try to convince me her nest was a few feet from its actual location. I respected her show and never approached the real nest.

Osprey

I'm so blindingly handsome...

I’m so blindingly handsome…

...I bet she doesn't even notice my nest.

…I bet she doesn’t even notice my nest.

I got to see a bald eagle pull a fish out of the ocean when we were crossing a narrow bridge – it was an amazing moment I will always remember, but was unable to photograph. I hoped I might see another bird of prey and this Osprey almost went unnoticed. The nest is high in the air – they place these platforms for them atop power poles. It wasn’t until I got home and checked this shot on my computer that I noticed the bird’s mate is in the nest. I was shooting this at midday and the glare was awful so I struggled to get something besides a silhouette. I tried to walk past the pole and get the light behind me and he flew – he was stunning and huge. He flew to another pole to divert our attention from the nest. I didn’t understand that at the time, but clearly he was keeping us away from his family.

I read a post a while back about birds and their “like ability factor” and the author made the case that birds of prey are more desirable. Now I disagreed at the time because I love my cardinals and hummingbirds or even my titmice — but having seen and photographed that osprey, I think Lyle is onto something – it was amazing. I was unable to get a great shot of it in flight, but that is something I plan on working on this year.

I’m sure that just like I ignored the birds in my backyard for years, that people visit these places and never notice these birds too. Maybe someday they will wake up and feel like birds are suddenly appearing in their path too.

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49 thoughts on “Why do Birds Suddenly Appear…

  1. Pingback: No Bird Left Behind | the eff stop

  2. Beautiful, beautiful post and photos, Lorri (and I’ve RT it on Twitter). Curiously, my husband spotted an Osprey flying over the field to the back of our house yesterday for the first time. (The farmer had sprayed his fields with some sort of fish manure which smelled evil to us but must’ve been a dream come true for various birds!) And we have a pair of Ravens that set up home in a nearby oak tree. However, I shoo them off when they visit our garden as I’m concerned that they might make some of my smaller winged friends their dinner!

    • Thanks so much for that Val. I read that osprey are fish eaters so that spray must be very attractive to them. I worry about my birds and the hawks in the area, but so far they have stayed away – perhaps hawks don’t like noisy dogs.

  3. It is amazing how different people do find different ways to both relax and yet communicate at the same time and you have certainly found it following birds and with your stunning photography you share with us. Another masterpiece spelling peace and tranquility. Thanks :)

    • Thank you, that is absolutely true. Photography is finding art in the things you see, and often there is so much right in front of us we haven’t noticed.

  4. Excellent bird shots, Lorri. I love the colours of the Rufus Hummingbird and the Barn Swallows (which is similar to our Welcome Swallow which I photographed just once).

    I think you’re right about the ‘noticing’ them now. I am the same. But I think many birds change location if their usual location is interrupted by human interference too (like my Botanic Gardens being re-landscaped with noisy bulldozers for a year or so).

    I remember watching a bird on my balcony pecking bits of my Thyme herb off my potted plant (to line a nest I assume). I wish more birds would come around my home (to photograph).

    What a great opportunity is was to photograph all the birds on your recent trip. That’s what I miss – the opportunity to jump in a car and drive to National Parks & the countryside.

    By the way, which lens were you using for the above photos? All shot with the same lens? And how did you manage to get the detail of the front of the Osprey when shooting into the sun? I think that’s one of my problems with always walking about the same time each afternoon. I did try going out earlier to the zoo once, but it was no different really. Walking paths here (that I use), always seem to have the sun in the way.

    • I used my new 75-300 (150-600 equivalent) it’s sharper than my old lens. I also began making my focus point very small when shooting birds, my camera lets me do this on a touch screen interface. That let’s me focus on the eyes, which usually makes the whole bird look more focused. The shot into the sun was a crapshoot. I decided to go with f/11 because I read that it gives optimal focus on landscapes, since I couldn’t really make out the details. I set the ISO as low as it would go and tried several speeds – this one was 1/640. It wasn’t exactly a silhouette right out of the camera, but the bird was dark. I thought I had nothing useable until I edited in in Photoshop – I totally pushed the exposure. The sky went from deep blue to almost white, but that was the best I could do. I had one flight shot that was almost salvageable in black and white, but I’m not happy with it. It was in focus, but noisy when I pushed the exposure.

      I hate seeing their micro habitats disturbed, I noticed at a local park that the building of a stage has upset the migration of my deer.

      • Thanks for the info. That new lens is excellent. 150-600 equiv. sounds like a nice long telephoto. As you say, shooting into the sun is crap and I wondered if you had to edit the image quite a bit to bring out the bird detail – seems you did.

        After photographing and identifying over 40 bird species back in 2010 in the Botanic Gardens and seeing 50-60 of a duck species on the lake in Spring at the one time, I am very disturbed to see so few birds in the area these days. I don’t like their habitats disturbed either. I really do hope they come back one day.

  5. I love birds too. I finally got my bird feeder from the other house, but haven’t set it up yet as it has rained almost every day all week! I can’t wait to see what will come so I can practice my bird picture taking. I know I have robins and magpies and have 3 hawks, but not sure what else I have yet. Your pictures are always beautiful. I smile every time I stop by. :-)

  6. Lorri I am so glad you took up birds. You do such an amazing job with them. Several are new to me as I am an easterner. I love birds — whatever one I am looking at is generally my favorite. Last summer my husband and I saw a bald eagle on the Potomac River dive into a flock of Coots looking for dinner. There were 30-40 Coots and the eagle came up empty handed somehow.

    We’re heading up to Maine in a few weeks where we always get to watch a nesting pair of Osprey — two years ago when we went, we watched Mama and Dad give flying lessons to their chick. It was seriously cool.

  7. The osprey is a wonderful bird in so many ways and watching it fly is just special. The down side of being swooned by the birds of prey is that your life is a lot easier when you can like all the smaller birds and pursue them in equal vigour. When given a choice I seem to make my life more difficult.

    • LOL – well that difficulty is a good one. I live in such thick woods that I rarely get to see open flight of a bird of prey like that. You really can’t get a sense of how huge that bird is when it is up so high, but when it soars over the top of you it’s just massive.

      • Yes, the birds of prey all seem to surprise me they spread out their wings. The proportions are really amazing but then I suppose that’s what lets them soar.

  8. Oh great – now THAT song will be in my head for a while!
    So cool that you saw so many new birds and we get the delight in seeing them too – love that little hummingbird – I’ve not seen one before – or the sap sucker or an osprey. Just wonderful photos – especially like all the swallows – such elegantly beautiful creatures!
    We are getting the hatches battened down for tonight – sounds like we really could be in for rough weather until noon tomorrow. Stay safe! K

    • That osprey was amazing, I just wish I had gotten a better shot. Sorry about the song, it’s all Honie’s fault.

      I spent much of last evening in my cellar, but it really didn’t add up to much, hardly any wind. Tonight looks a bit dicy though. I was planning on kayaking tomorrow, but I think I’ll cancel :)

    • You really captured his iridescence! It wasn’t a really sunny day when I shot mine – the female dive bombed me a couple of times. I use iBird Pro, I think it was featured on one of those commercials one time and I had to try it. I love it. I also have the Audubon app, but don’t use it much. Thanks for the link!

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