Old Man Winter has been giving us all he’s got this year. He started in Autumn and it looks like it’s doing his best to drag things out into Spring. Here in the Ozarks, we typically get a light snow before Christmas and we have a cold and sometimes snowy January. This year we’ve been pounded by storm after storm. I’m tired of shoveling and I miss the sunshine. It’s hard on us humans, but I have to tell you that the birds at the Stonehouse are over it. Yesterday when forecasted “light afternoon flurries” turned into 7 inches of wet sticky snow, I did what I always do. I took out my camera. My friends at the feeders have lost their sweet Christmassy look – gone are the noble poses with perfectly coiffed tufts and wings. Haggard cards and finches continue to feed, but clearly they are over this whole “polar vortex” thing. Don’t worry, my little feathered friends, Spring is on the way – it’s supposed to arrive on Thursday, but don’t count your chicks before they’re hatched.
Click through to see what the diners at the Stonehouse Buffet have to say about Winter 2014:
Next year I’m flying south…South America
Any chance you could heat this up for me?
It has finally happened – Hell has frozen over.
I can’t feel my feet.
Donner – Party of two.
My supper is getting cold.
Frozen dinners again?
I’m seeing red
Next year I’m not giving up the condo in Jamaica until after Easter.
I’m thinking the Caribbean sounds nice about now.
I need to get me some of those Smartwool Sox
Snowed in again
Schools are closed again tomorrow – my chicks will be in school until the fall migration.
I think I have frostbite
Enough already…Winter, you win.
I have a weather sealed camera, but my bird lens is not sealed – I use a sandwich bag to give it a bit of protection, while still allowing me to focus in the weather. Shooting birds in falling snow is tricky, your AF will try to lock onto snowflakes so try focussing first on something at the same distance as your subject – I find that nearby branches work well – this makes it easier to fine tune your focus on your subject. When shooting birds I always focus on their eyes and I use the smallest AF target box that by camera has. I think the eyes help to capture their personalities. A motion blur on a wing can add to a shot, but a face out of focus is not a keeper for me.
Winter Storm Cleon has moved east and it’s finally possible to get out of the Stone House and get back to work. It’s still unseasonably cold, and today I got my first mail delivery in almost a week. During the storm I worked from home and stayed warm and mostly dry by the fire. By day two the symptoms of cabin fever were starting to set in. I was getting up every thirty minutes and walking up and down my hallway several times. I constantly stocked the indoor firewood pile. I starting to feel restless and cooped up. I decided that to clear my head that I would take a walk outside over my “lunch hour”.
I put on my Carharts and tucked my weatherproof camera and lens inside my jacket. The activity around the house was extraordinary. Cardinals were hanging onto the branches of the crepe myrtle for dear life. A fallen tree limb over the pergola was a lifeline to a small woodpecker as winds blew snow almost sideways. Birds that typically dart away held fast in hopes of spotting fallen seed below on the patio.
Posing for next year’s Christmas card
I wonder if I can tunnel to my favorite feeder
I feel like I’m living in a snow globe
Got a little pirate in him
I was here first – get off my limb
Is it ever gonna stop?
Redbird in the myrtle
I think I need electric socks
I came in almost soaked through and freezing, but invigorated and ready to focus – on work.
Shooting birds in the snow can be tricky. Your camera’s autofocus wants to focus on the nearest object in your field of view – I found that if I made my focus point as small as possible and tried to get it to lock onto a bird’s eyes or beak that I could eventually get a focus between flakes. I took all of these shots in shutter mode at 1/400 second and an ISO of 1000. The white of the snow added ambient light that made a moderate ISO setting sufficient. A slower shutter speed would make the flakes look more like streaks – a faster one would require a higher ISO and would create unnecessary noise in a limited light situation.
After seeing a Facebook Post by the Norberta Philbook Gallery I decided it was time for an upgrade at the buffet. The Gallery is owned by a friend and neighbor. She had been looking for pottery for the Gallery when she came across the work of Julie Windler. She makes these adorable hand thrown bird feeders. They have real elm limbs for perches.
I bought one and hung it pretty close to my shooting spot last Saturday. I filled it with some clean feed and black oil sunflower seeds. I barely finished before it started to rain. Once the rain stop I settled into my spot to see who might check out this new addition.
One brave little chickadee checked it out right away.
He hopped from perch to perch until he found a spot that was perfect.