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Sunday, June 1, 2008

Birds on the Williams' Back Porch

I think I have mentioned on previous posts that I'd be trying my hand at taking bird photos today. My in-laws Frank and Karen had told me about Jan and Wayne Williams and the abundance of birds on their back porch. The Williams' live in a "less citified" part of Austin and all kinds of wildlife roam about their area pretty much un-bothered by the humans living there. Jan and Wayne have been feeding the birds on their back porch for some time now, and they enjoy sitting on the sofa in the den and watching them out the picture window that leads to the porch/deck.

This being my first "real" attempt at capturing wild birds on photo chip, I decided to bring the biggest memory card I could find and stick to my motto "take 100 to get 1." I started out with the camera on a tripod pointing at the feeder, and used a cord remote trigger to take the shots. Two problems -- the cord wasn't long enough, and all the action with the birds was happening in the trees and birdbaths around the feeder! So I made an executive decision and tried the rest hand-held. Using my elbows as a "tripod" on the arms of the lawn chair, I did my best to stabilize the camera while carefully pressing the button. I was at pretty much maximum zoom on the telephoto lens, and I am very bad about camera shake when I take shots hand-held.

The first and boldest birds to hit the feeder after I settled back into the lawn chair were the finches. I had the camera set on auto exposure and auto focus, so it was difficult to get focused and set before they flew off. The leaves and surrounding foliage made the autofocus go a little crazy, so I switched to manual focus. Later shots came out much better, I think.

The next birds brave enough to get close to the feeder and birdbath were the whitewing doves. They mostly stayed in the trees and eyed me curiously, but never went to the birdbath or the deck floor to feed. Jan says they usually just pick the seeds that the finches and cardinals toss out of the feeder, but they didn't this time. I did see a young cardinal picking seeds off the porch floor, but no doves.

Next came the cardinals! These beautiful birds were the ones I was hoping to see. Jan said they were a little off their feeding schedule, as they are still parenting the fledgling babies, and as with human babies, it takes a lot of effort on the parents' part. She told me that the young birds are changing rapidly this week, and had just gotten the orange color in their beaks. I think she said that the beaks were black before they changed. I include a baby photo below:

Last to come around were the noisy aggressive blue jays. As soon as they arrived the finches and cardinals hit the road! They didn't stay away long, but they sure didn't want to tangle with the jays, either. The jays stayed at the birdbath, and up in the branches, and were particularly wary of me and the camera. I tried several times to get a clear photo of one, but if I moved even slightly, off they went. I got this one good photo (in my humble opinion of course...) after several attempts.

I end this post with another photo of the purple finch. This was the bird that I was surprised to learn about. There are no purple finches in my area, which may be because I live in a more urban area of Austin. Or, it may be because I don't have a bird feeder! Either way, I thought these were very unusual and pretty birds.

Wayne mentioned that there might be some deer passing by at the bottom of the hill behind their house. Sure enough, I spotted two does moving through the trees, but wasn't able to get a clear photo of either one. Maybe next time.

Thanks to everyone for visiting my 'blog. I sincerely appreciate you dropping by. Next post will probably be more flowers, since I have collected a few more flora photos in recent days. Stay tuned, more to come!

Best regards, Mike Z

PS Looking on Bob Zeller's wonderful website, I noticed that he calls the purple/red colored finch a house finch. It looks a lot like the purple finch in my photos, so I will have to do some more research to see which mine are. Will keep you posted.

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