Getting the Shot

I remember growing up in a small town in northern Illinois in a typical neighborhood. Like us, many of our neighbors had your standard, concrete bird bath and a feeder or two to welcome the wild birds closer to home. Just outside the door to the screened-in porch, my mother had a hanging basket of some annual flowers where, nearly every summer a pair of House Finches would build a nest and my mom would allow the flowers to die so the birds could raise their brood. A Robin built her nest atop the porch light at the front door every year, too. I recall my mother holding a hand mirror over the nest where there were chicks so that we kids could see them develop. Thanks, Mom!

I learned about backyard birds by watching the ones that came to dine at our feeders in the backyard. Cardinals, Goldfinches, Grackles, Sparrows – the common species were, well, quite common. They were “city birds” that were well acclimated to the comings-and-goings of people.

Where we live now, there are those common birds, too. But, I refer to them as country birds. They are not all that used to people and our activities. In fact, some of the most frequently seen or heard species have become the most challenging for me to capture with a camera.

I know where the Cardinals hang out. They emit a constant little chirp to let me know they are around. I realize that they are probably “speaking” to each other, but my frustration to locate them has become a personal thing. I wonder if they are intentionally vocalizing while remaining hidden to keep me exasperated in my quest to film them. I scan in the direction of that chirp but mostly I cannot see them.

I am happy to say that I have finally captured both a male and female Northern Cardinal – in focus. Those last two words are critical to my story. I have dozens of images of blurry red birds. Although the Cardinals will let me know through sound their moment-to-moment location, they often hang deeper in the trees. Even now that the leaves have fallen, these birds hide behind barren branches. I am happy to share these few photos of the absolutely lovely, and quite common – but not obvious – Northern Cardinal.

Another bird that seems to taunt me is the Blue Jay. They caw and screech and communicate constantly. Still, they are even more elusive. I have dozens of images of their silhouette in the tops of the largest trees. I even have some photos of a Blue Jay with a large, round object (seed or berry?) in his beak and two others of the same bird in flight and landing in another tree, still with the nut(?) in his bill! What an awesome sequence of images that would have been, if they had been worthy of sharing! I have many photos that would be unrecognizable if the species didn’t don a nice, big crest on its head.

I know Blue Jays get a bad rap for being bullies. Still, for having that nasty label, you’d think they would be ever present and forward. They aren’t. At least not in my “backyard.” I have filmed some of the much less common or less obvious birds many times over. And, yet the bold Blue Jay constantly foiled my efforts to film him. That was until yesterday. I finally caught one in sufficient sunlight that I am willing to post the pictures here. He’s still hiding in the branches, but you will not wonder what species this is.

I have also spent the entire summer and autumn listening to, but not seeing the Carolina Wren. I did finally film it last week when I hung a suet feeder (peanut suet) in the Pond Meadow. Those first photos were not terribly good. It was very overcast that day. But I was so thrilled I wrote a blog page filled with those first images.

I prefer to film birds in their natural condition, rather than on a feeder. But, I was elated to finally get some photos of the Carolina Wren! Here, I’m posting a few superior shots (it was finally sunny for a few days.) Even better, I was able to catch this very quick, little bird in a more organic setting in the trees.

I am not very familiar with the Dark-eyed Junco, but in the past couple of weeks II have seen them a few times. I’ve been assured by a bird expert I will probably seem many more of them in coming months, as this is their winter place of residence. Until yesterday, I hadn’t captured a decent image. So, I’m including a couple here. I find these birds very lovely – perhaps stately would be a better description. They appear to be very well dressed.

The Northern Flicker isn’t a bird I knew much about (ok, strike that.) The Northern Flicker was a bird I knew nothing about until I saw one at the top of a tree a month or so, ago. I hadn’t a clue what it was, but it was obviously a woodpecker sort of animal. It has a sufficiently distinct appearance that it’s hard to confuse with other birds. I’ve filmed them several times, but only rarely with a final image of good clarity. I caught this one yesterday. The nice thing about Flickers is they do announce their position with an easy to distinguish vocalization. So, I was able to redirect my focus to this beauty and get a few shots, then a couple more (perhaps a different bird) the following day.

Now that we put out a feeding station in the Pond Meadow, the once elusive Red-bellied Woodpecker has been crashing the party on a regular basis. But, those photos aren’t terribly natural. Here are a few that are a bit more native in composition. My desire is to catch the glint in a bird’s eye and see some resolution in their incredible feathers. If I can see those little hair-type feathers under the beak, I feel like I did my best.

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