A Well Designed Weed

I am a fan of great design. When something has a beautiful aesthetic design that is also completely functional – for me that’s the pinnacle of design. I know that to most homeowners, this weed is the bane of their existence, requiring bags of chemicals and funny-looking tools to tame. I have come to appreciate their amazing design – to see that from not only follows function, but that functionality can be truly beautiful.

It begins like this…

I have always marveled at the intricate detail of it's flower's structure.

I have always marveled at the intricate detail of it’s flower’s structure. So much geometry.

…and transforms into this…

The symmetrical seed ball is also filled with structure and geometry,

The symmetrical seed ball is also filled with structure and geometry, a nearly perfect circle made mostly of air.

To really appreciate the beauty and the geometry of the dandelion, you must get closer…

As you get closer you can see the almost engineered structure that holds the whole seed system together.

As you get closer you can see the almost engineered structure that holds the whole seed system together. Dimples as perfectly spaced as any man-made golf ball.

As you get even closer the structure of the seeds themselves becomes much more intricate than you might imagine…

Here you can begin to make out the structure of the seeds - quite intricate with symmetrical barbs holding seeds to center.

Here you can begin to make out the structure of the seeds – quite intricate with symmetrical barbs holding seeds to center.

Getting still closer, the center is revealed to be less like a golf ball with dimples and more like the ports of a futuristic space station…

Now we see that the holes in the center actually have structure too - they have small "latches" that hold onto those seeds until just the right gust of wind comes along.

Now we see that the holes in the center actually have structure too – they have small “latches” that hold onto those seeds until just the right gust of wind comes along.

Of course the flower is just the opening act. The seed itself has an ingenious design…

The seed of the dandelion suspended from the center of a pinwheel of very fine parachute. It not only keeps the seed airborne to scatter in the wind - it makes for a perfect landing with the seed down.

The seed of the dandelion suspended from the center of a pin wheel of very fine parachute. It not only keeps the seed airborne to scatter in the wind – it makes for a perfect landing with the seed down.

When I lived in the city I fought the good fight with the weed. I would even treat my lazy next-door-neighbor’s lawn to prevent more from invading my little green space. After all, if I failed to take care of my lawn I would be bringing a pestilence upon my neighborhood. When I moved to the woods I recall that my neighbors chuckled when they saw me unloading a bag of “weed-n-feed”. They gently told me that what I was calling a lawn was really about 10% bluegrass filled in with wild clover, dandelions and any other ground cover that would grow out in the open. Over the course of the next few days I thought about the deer and birds and finally about my own well water and decided to embrace the idea of a wild lawn with no chemicals added. That first summer I learned to appreciate the dandelion and over the years I have explored it with better and better glass.

The dandelion in all it's glory.

The dandelion in all it’s glory.

I have come to see the majesty in that well designed weed.

They’re Back…

Springtime has brought strange buzzing sound on the patios of the Stone House. It’s not safe to stand too close to anything red. Sometimes the buzzing comes from multiple directions and a black flash loops overhead. This can only mean one thing…the Hummers are back!

The first scout arrives.

The first scout arrives.

The local legend is that scouts arrive first and take word back to the glimmer that feeders are plentiful here or there. I don’t know if that’s true or not but I put out feeders two weeks ago. Last Saturday this female arrived and spend an hour looking around. By Wednesday I was inundated.

Perched...

Perched…

...and parched.

…parched…

...and perturbed

…and perturbed.

Males and females alike are staking their claim on the feeders. One will start feeding and suddenly they are taking cover…

Sitting tall..

Sitting tall..

...ducking for cover.

…ducking for cover.

It’s been cloudy all week so I’ve yet to get the kind of shots I love to take of these guys – ones where their feathers reflect in the sunlight. For now I will have to settle for low light shots.

Heavy Drinker

Heavy Drinker

Mowhawk

Mohawk

Of course the fun of shooting hummers is trying to catch them in flight. Sometimes I just point in the direction of the sound until I spot one in the viewfinder…

A 10 for style

A 10 for style

Hovercraft

Hovercraft

Soaring upward

Soaring upward

Coming in for a landing

Coming in for a landing

I’m fascinated by the iridescence of the throat feathers on the males…

Ruby throat

Ruby throat feather glow when they catch the light

The same male, turned away from the porch light

The same male, turned away from the porch light

He turns slightly and catches the light again

He turns slightly and catches the light again

And finally he turns back to feed - his back feathers are pretty impressive too

And finally he turns back to feed – his back feathers are pretty impressive too

So far I have counted 6 different hummers – and they’ve only been here a week.

This small female is very assertive about her feeder territory

This small female is very assertive about her feeder territory

This shy male waits for the others to leave before feeding

This shy female waits for the others to leave before feeding

They all are already putting on quite a show…

Squeegee's nap is interrupted by the arial display above

Squeegee’s nap is interrupted by the aerial display above

…and this is just the prelude. Spring is officially here!

I Told You to Put Your Toys Away…

Sunshine!

20130425-211335.jpg

I almost tripped over your silly soccer ball when I came home today!

Ooooo! This looks promising!

Ooooo! This looks promising!

It's soft - I think I can make this work - if only I could get to...

It’s soft – I think I can make this work – if only I could get to…

...that soft stuff inside. Bingo!

…that soft stuff inside. Bingo!

Success! Perfect for feathering my nest!

Success! Perfect for feathering my nest!

I told you to put your toys away!

Clash of the Siskins

There have been some brawls at the buffet lately. I don’t ordinarily tolerate fighting in my establishment – but if pine siskins are doing the fighting, it’s about as dangerous as kittens boxing. I decided to let it play out – birds should be able to work out their differences in a civilized manner, but tempers can get the best of just about any bird when fillet is on the line…

Make way for the boss of the sock!

Make way for the boss of the sock!

I'm coming for your perch!

I’m coming for your perch!

xetsgrfzcx

Flying in under the radar…

taWGFFZ

Don’t even think about taking my perch!

zcxbvfvSDGX

I’ll never give up this perch!

eshsdfgh:EUHF

I’m taking that perch!

ducxz huHG:

The air war is ongoing at the buffet…

hxisuGUI

Fast food…

My best impression of a cartoon bird flying...

My best impression of a cartoon bird flying…

Look out below!!

Look out below!!

This perch is mine!!

This perch is mine!!

No seeds for you, you filthy animal!

Back off – no seeds for you!

I'm coming for you...and you sunflower seeds!

I’m coming for you…and you sunflower seeds!

Hopefully a quick trip to the store for more fillet will reestablish the peace at the Stone House – maybe not…

Coming into Focus

A couple of years ago I bought my first “bird” lens. There were a couple of options for my camera set up and budget played a big part in my decision. I read a lot of reviews and there were some who leaned towards the more expensive option as being a bit sharper, while others said that the small increase in sharpness was not worth twice the price. I went for the budget option and it served me well – until recently.

I began to have focus glitches – the lens didn’t seem to be communicating with the camera. So I sent the lens in to the manufacturer who cleaned it and told me it was fine and sent it back. Perhaps the glitch was always there and I just didn’t notice it – perhaps I just got a less than great version of the lens – these things happen. I have read of people returning a lens and buying the same model and seeing a major improvement. I decided it was time to make a change.

The higher end lens I opted not to buy has been discontinued – but they have come out with a quieter and thankfully much more economical version. I went through my bag and reviewed all of my lenses – anything I hadn’t used in a year was fair game. I put a list together and sold them to fund the purchase of that new bird lens.

My new lens arrived last weekend and I am seeing a significant change in sharpness – maybe I am the only one who sees it – but I like the look of what I’m seeing so far…

Bird on a wire

Bird on a wire

Goldfinch face off

Goldfinch face off

Posing sparrow

Posing sparrow

Cowgirl at the feeder

Cow girl at the feeder

A cardinal ignoring me

A cardinal ignoring me

Out on a limb

Out on a limb

Woody in the myrtle

Woody in the myrtle

Bringing home the bacon

Bringing home the bacon

Bluejay in the walnut tree

Bluejay in the walnut tree

Titmouse in the house!

Titmouse in the house!

Up on a roof

Up on a roof

The biggest difference I see is that I am getting more sharp shots in the trees – shooting in the trees has not always gotten me good results because of the distance. I am fascinated by feathers so seeing this detail really encourages me. I started shooting birds to teach myself to make faster decisions and I it has grown into a genuine interest in birds and their habits – this new lens looks to let me look deeper into the world just off my porch.

The first of many

I don’t typically post multiple times a day, but this is important. Today on the way home I saw it. It was there in the woods waiting for me…

The first of many…

Today the first dogwood made it’s appearance in the woods. Spring is officially here.

Carry on.

Cowbird Dance-off

Last weekend I wrote a quick post about Cowbirds. At the time I thought I had a single pair of the odd creatures. Over the last couple of days it has become clear that I have a single female cowbird who is being courted by a group of males. Last night she was feeding in the lawn and they all followed right behind her. She couldn’t have cared less. She stayed at the front of the pack and her entourage followed. I noticed that they each took turns showing off for her, but she never gave any of them the time of day. It was at dusk so I didn’t get any good shots of this odd dance.

This morning as I got ready for work I saw the whole thing playing out in the walnut tree. It was a foggy morning at the Stone House, so I apologize for the photo quality in advance…

I spotted the makes on the swing - the third entered my frame as I snapped this shot.

I spotted the makes on the swing – the third entered my frame as I snapped this shot.

Where is the Cow-Girl? She’s way up in the top of the walnut tree ignoring these guys. They spot her and the competition begins. Who will win her favor – I think it will be the one who wins the Dance-off…

First the cow-boy on the right sounds a call - it sounds like dripping water in a tunnel - then he struts his stuff.

First the cow-boy on the right sounds a call – it sounds like dripping water in a tunnel – then he struts his stuff.

Round 1 of the dance-off – while one cow-boy struts his stuff the others watch the cow-girl to see if she takes note…

The male on the left does the cowbird version of the Electric Slide.

The cow-boy on the left does the cowbird version of the Electric Slide. He’s looking a little tipsy.

Round 2 – the male on the left takes his shot, the male on deck checks out his groove while the other keeps his eyes on the prize…

The center cow-boy sings his heart out and puffs himself out like a down jacket.

The center cow-boy sings his heart out and puffs himself out like a down jacket. Note the dramatic posture and twisting of his wings.

Round 3 – the center male sings louder than the others. He has been leading the charge since last night, but is his footwork fancy enough to keep him in the competition?

The cow-boy on the right answers his competitors with a dramatic song and sly stepping.

The cow-boy on the right answers his competitors with his best impression of an eagle. They seem unfazed.

Round 4 – the male on the right flexes his muscles, the others don’t bother watching…

The cow-boy on the left may not get any style points for this performance, but he does commit 100%.

The cow-boy on the left may not get any style points for this performance, but he does commit 100%.

Round 5 – the male on the left gives it his all. There are times when practicing in a mirror could really help a guy out, this is one of those times…

cgaxreagv

Not to be outdone, the cow-boy in the center answers in kind. What form!

Round 6 – the male in the middle throws down – he lunges forward and twists his wings like canoe paddles. The bar has officially been raised…

The cow-boy on the right answers with an amazing extension of plumage.

The cow-boy on the right answers with an amazing extension of plumage.

Round 7 – the male on the right completely takes his rival to the left out of the competition. The male on the right is no longer watching the female, he is transfixed by the grace of his better…

Who won the dance-off? Well, I had to go to work, so I don’t know. They could still be up in the tree strutting their stuff.