Obscured

Birds live in trees. I get it. But, why do those branches have to get in the way of a pretty photo?

Yesterday, after several days of overcast skies, rain and then snow, I endured the cold in order to take advantage of a brilliant blue sky and sunshine. It was a glorious day – except for the frigid temperature. Yet, with very little wind, I survived.

I was excited to refill the feeders for my avian friends…well, I don’t think they believe we are friends. But, I do think that some of them associate me with the goodies. It didn’t take long before most of the regulars showed up for a snack.

I was happy with the photos, albeit they were of the same subjects that I’ve enjoyed for most of the winter. With that incredible, clear blue sky as a backdrop, even the most common models looked great. Once back indoors, to the warmth and comfort of my office (which at this time has the special energy of baby puppies!) I sat down to review the images.

Dang! If that branch wasn’t in front of that bird’s head….

Oh, man… another twig across the beak….

After some time, the subject of the new blog page came to absolute clarity: photos of birds that were almost perfect except for that tree limb. The photos that would normally not be mentioned became the purpose and mainstay of this “obscure” blog. When available, I have thrown in a nice shot (or a few) because, heck, why not share the good stuff, too!

The Blue Jay – OBSCURED!

I am elated that the local Blue Jays are getting a bit more bold when I am around. I credit peanuts for this advancement in their bravery. When I put out the seed on the platform feeder, as long as there are ample peanuts, the Blue Jays will show up. But, they don’t land on the feeder until they have performed a couple of fly-over maneuvers, which require that they perched in the trees for a few seconds before taking the low flight over the feeder to evaluate the goods. That behavior has helped me to capture the beauty of these birds – but only if I am quick on the trigger.

The Northern Cardinal – OBSCURED!

Like the Blue Jay, the Cardinals took a while to boldly land on the feeder in my presence. Still, they spend quite a bit ofof time simply perching in the branches of the hedgerow on either side of the feeder. Many of my photos of Cardinals are complete failures because my auto-focus catches a branch in the foreground, rather than the bird. To my human eyes, it’s hard not to see such a radiant, crimson bird and completley disregard the tree. But, that’s not how electronic auto-focus works. My camera is more interested in contrast than color. And, it hones in on the first thing it “sees.”

The Carolina Wren – OBSCURED!

To reduce the European Starlings from considering our property a good place to hang out, I purchased a suet feeder cage (designed to keep squirrels away) that removes that food source from their long, slender beaks. You can read about that HERE. The Carolina Wrens (yes, I have recently seen two at the same time!) love suet. They began entering the caged suet feeder as soon as I erected it. The good thing is that the little wrens are getting the energy they need in the cold weather. The bad thing is that it’s very challenging to take a good photo of a little, brown bird that is inside of a cage! They also enjoy the peanut-nugget suet, which I’ve added back since the big flock of Starlings moved on. But, it hangs on a shepherd’s crook which can obscure the image of the birds, too.

The Chickadee – OBSCURED!

The (Carolina / Black-capped) Chickadee is a challenging subject to capture, as it flits in and out quite quickly. The most stationary moments that I observe are when it has taken a seed to a nearby branch for “processing.” It holds the item in its feet against the branch upon which it is perched. Then, it chips away at the little meal with quick trusts of its beak. Most often, these cute little birds take the seed out of my range. But, on occasion I get the opportunity to snap away. However, most of the images end up looking like a black blob, while the chickadee’s head is bowed down as it drills away. Sometimes I am lucky and capture something worth saving. That is, of course, only if branches don’t get in the way!

The Downy Woodpecker

These adorable, diminutive woodpeckers are quite frequently visitors to the feeder. Suet is their jam. When they arrive, they tend to land in a nearby tree – most often partially hidden around the back side. When they are clinging to the trunk, or branch, they tend to hop upwards which can make filming them a challenge for me. Then, when they settle on the suet feeder, it seems they are either on the back side or there’s a shadow in the way of their handsome faces. Here are some of my not-so perfect captures of the Downy woodpecker.

The American Goldfinch – OBSCURED!

During the summer months, I see many Goldfinches around the property. This winter began with a good number as well. However, in recent weeks I realized I hadn’t filmed very many of these lovely birds. Yesterday, they were very plentiful. I don’t know if that’s because I hung a sock feeder filled with thistle seed – but, they seemed to be excited to take part in that meal option. Some of the best photos aren’t (best) due to – yes, the branches!

The House Sparrow – OBSCURED!

The House Sparrow is not a subject of my affection, as they are an invasive species that I have personally seen create challenges for the native species that use cavities for nest sites (like my beloved Bluebirds and Tree Swallows.) But, I still film them at times, especially if I am not absolutely certain whether the “standard brownish sparrow” is actually a species I have never seen before. As a subject, they are a pretty, little bird. The House Sparrows are as likely as any species to end up obscured by a branch – even if the shot otherwise promised to be a nicely composed photo.

The Red-bellied Woodpecker – OBSCURED!

I have said this before – this species is one of the most photogenic. I think their colors simply are striking and the lighter hues on their face allow their eyes to sparkle. Although the branches are getting in the way of this lovely bird, the often “obscured” red belly is quite obvious in many of these shots.

In reviewing this blog article, I had the idea that it would be better titled “Good and Bad” because the images I’ve included of the non-obscured birds are quite nice (if I must say so myself.) But, there are other fish to fry still today on the home front. So, I will refrain from trying to tweak this one to some higher level of perfection and hope you enjoy the wild birds.

2 Comments on “Obscured

  1. Tammie, the photos are beautiful. We have bird feeders also and my husband loves feeding the cardinals. He says they are his Mom and Dad visiting. I hope you won’t mind but I’d like to share these pics with a special friend of him who enjoys birds as much as we do. Look forward to your next post.

    • Thank you, Donna. I would be happy if you shared my post with your friends. In the summer, I frequently see butterflies that I think are a reminder of my mother and dragonflies are my father’s way to stay connected.

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