Friday, January 31, 2014

American Goldfinch: Winter Photo Group #6

We have literally dozens of goldfinches hanging around right now, thus the reason I have taken so many photos of them.  They have been my little "subjects" for photography practice.  I've enjoyed having them around.

I've learned that during winter, the plumage of the male American Goldfinch is much more subdued.  His bright yellow colors have faded and he takes on olive-yellow feathers.  From October through April, males could easily become confused with females unless one looks at the flight feathers.  In nearly all males, the wing and tail are jet black, while in females they are almost a brownish-black. It's certainly in the best interest of the male American Goldfinch to be bright and showy during the breeding season. That's when he needs to impress the female. Males with the brightest plumage are good at finding lots of pigment-rich food, so they're probably healthiest and most likely to find even more food for their nestlings. But being brightly colored has its shortcomings. Just as female goldfinches notice males with brilliant plumage, so do bird-eaters such as Sharp-shinned Hawks. During the breeding season, it's apparently worth the risk of possibly attracting a predator, but in winter--when reproduction isn't feasible because of cold weather and unpredictable food supplies--the male is better off being as inconspicuous as possible. Thus, it's worth expending the energy of going through a fall feather molt that helps the male blend in with his surroundings.

Being inconspicuous is always in a female goldfinch's best interest. In late summer, when she's sitting on a nest full of eggs or chicks, being brightly colored would make her far more visible to many predators. And since the female goldfinch typically chooses her mate, rather than vice versa, she doesn't need to be brilliant yellow to attract the male's attention.

Interesting- humans are just the opposite.  In order to attract a mate, the females are the ones who often dress up and become "showy", just saying ;)

Video of a male goldfinch singing during mating season:

Love it!  :)

Thursday, January 30, 2014


It's been a pretty day today.  The sunshine melted much of the ice accumulations from Winter Storm Leon and by this afternoon it was fairly safe to drive again.  Patchy ice could still be seen in shaded areas.  I walked outdoors for a little while before noon, shooting a few photos of ice remnants.  

Photos of my car the night after:

I'm thankful the storm has cleared.   I hope it will be many, many years before we have another Leon.  Good riddance.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

American Goldfinch: Winter Photo Group #5

"God loved the birds and invented trees.
Man loved the birds and invented cages."
~ Jacques Deval

I love birds and will nurture them without bondage.

Monday, January 27, 2014

American Goldfinch: Winter Photo Group #4

It was another beautiful day yesterday...nearly perfect, in fact.  Skies were cloudy in the morning, but the sun made an appearance in the afternoon.  I've done much of nothing all weekend and really enjoyed it ;)))  I spent more time on the front porch than indoors, taking plenty of photos using a variation of camera settings. I'm experimenting...attempting to learn more about lighting and exposure.  I recovered an older camera lens from my bag and tried close up shots with it.  It's actually been years since I've used it because my previous experience with it has resulted in blurry photos.  I didn't take the time to examine the reasons for blurry photos, so the lens remained in my camera bag, neglected until now.  

While taking practice shots with it, I found that the lens worked better with action shots and close ups.  With a zoom up to 300 mm, it has the ability to get really close to most objects within the confines of our front yard.  The photos I shot with it still have some blur, but I didn't use a tripod with these.  The lens are standard rather than image stabilizers so the results would have been better if I had used a tripod.  I just didn't want to...I used the "lazy method" yesterday- sat in my lawn chair, sipped on coffee, and took random shots of birds that came within about 10 to 20 feet of where I positioned.  The photos aren't bad considering what little effort I put into them ;)))  I enjoyed just sitting and watching the birds, using the close up on my lens to focus in on their movements.  They are really cute, and funny too.  At the same time, they were observing me closely.  Their little heads bobbing around and giving me curious looks.  I knew why they questioned me...they wondered why I was trespassing on their feeding territory and staying so long. 

I did take enough time to prepare french toast at everyone's wish.  Tyler asked me specifically if I would make him some french toast.  Of course, Tyler...I'll be glad to.  It was delicious- I could hurt myself eating some french toast, oh goodness!  I also did some light housework...mostly washing the stacks of dishes that seem to accumulate when the boys are here.  Cherie does her share of dishes too...seems to take both of us to keep up.  

All in all, it was a relaxing weekend for me and it was long overdue.  It felt great to not have anything planned and just hang out at home for a couple of days.  I'll be on my long week of work starting tonight.  

According to weather reports, south Mississippi will get snow and icy rain beginning Tuesday morning and lasting into Wednesday morning.  Some say there could be up to 6 inches of snow accumulation in some places...imagine that!!!  It's been many years since we've seen snow like that.  It will be interesting to see just how much snow we actually get.

More later....

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Winter Sunshine

The icy rain fell for hours yesterday and last night, bringing a deep chill to all in its path. Temperatures dropped well below freezing and several counties had snow.  I would have liked to have a little snow, just for a short time, but it passed us by without leaving even a few small snowflakes.  However, it's still early winter, so chances are good that we'll have a little snow before April.  

The weather is so strange and unpredictable. We experienced a beautiful sunny day after the chilling rain we had earlier. Today the temperature reached about 60 degrees, still somewhat chilly, but tolerable. I spent a great portion of the afternoon outdoors, soaking in the sunshine while feeling at peace in my surroundings.

Sitting in my lawn chair in the wide open space, I sipped on coffee while daydreaming about being retired and having the freedom to do what I want to do, when I want to do it. For a moment, I coveted the freedom of birds...then I realized that they are confined to a degree- they must always be aware of their surroundings and potential predators. Who, or what, is completely free? We are all shackled in some way or another, whether it's because of worries, family troubles, financial problems or other reasons; none of us are completely free.

I quickly swept away those daydreams and remembered the reasons I am grateful for today...
          warmth and light given by the sun
                    water droplets glistening like diamonds on trees
                                leaves blowing in the gentle breeze
                                           pleasant songs from nearby birds
                                                        hearing bursts of laughter from Coby as he plays

For today, life is good.

I'm learning to embrace the good things in life and let go of the negative things.  I'm learning that it's okay to relax sometimes...sit outdoors in the sunshine, watch the birds, take an unplanned trip to anywhere or nowhere, or do absolutely nothing useful. 

The frail leaves gave in to the weight of icy water during the night and still they glisten. After the rain has cleared, they will perk up again..but only for a short time. Their days are numbered and their season of glory has come to an end; they will soon break free from that which constrains them. 

Embrace the good moments in life. Take an occasional break. Relax. Enjoy the winter sunshine and the summer rain. :))))

Saturday, January 25, 2014

American Goldfinch: Winter Photo Group #3

I'm beginning to think I have an obsession with bird photography ;))) Actually, I have an obsession with photography in general.  Everyone who knows me knows that. The birds don't know it, but they've assisted me greatly with the urge to satisfy this obsession.

Yesterday morning I filled both bird feeders to the brim with seeds.  I then made coffee, grabbed my camera and positioned my car close to the feeders.  I intended to try a tip I read online- attempt to shoot bird photos from your automobile because they are accustomed to being around cars.  Hmmm, this may just work, I thought.

It was me, my cup of coffee and my camera.  On the driver side of the car, the window was down for a clearer view of the bird feeders within ten feet of me.  The early morning temperature was about 30 degrees and there were reports of snow fall in nearby towns.  I thought to myself how crazy this is...but, oh how I enjoy it so!  

I wonder if the birds heard the sounds of the feeders being filled, because within minutes they gathered around them.  I'm not talking about a few little birds- no, I'm talking dozens of birds!  They flocked from the trees to the feeders to the ground, interrupted occasionally by the repeated clicking sounds of my shutter release or my movement inside the car.  They perched in nearby trees only momentarily, waiting until they felt secure enough to return.  I continued to photograph them, even while they were trying to hide in the trees, which would have been impossible anyway. 

It is difficult to focus the camera on objects in the trees-  the camera becomes "confused" with the presence of multiple leaves and branches.  I took several photos anyway, just for practice. 

It was also difficult to capture images without the presence of a window or porch rails in the background.  I scanned the yard and tried to find another angle to park but that wasn't possible. Additionally, the tan, yellow and gold plumage of  the goldfinches melted into the pale yellow paint on our front porch and the hues of gold and green from the wooden porch rails.  Many of the digital images were filled with too much gold.  I hoped that I would get a few good photos out of this group.

The images posted today have been heavily edited using black & white, sepia or holga. The subtle background allows images of the goldfinches to stand out. Editing these photos was time consuming, but I like the final outcome- the variation from traditional photos makes it more interesting ;)

I also have images of cardinals to edit and plan to post them at a later date.  Since goldfinches are presently so abundant in our area, they have stolen the show for now.

I huddled inside my car for about an hour, capturing several hundreds of images. Naturally I canned most of them and kept what I considered the best ones.  That's one of the greatest advantages of digital photography- no wasted film or pictures, meaning less money spent overall.  I love it!  More to come...

Thursday, January 23, 2014

American Goldfinch: Winter Photo Group #2

I enjoy watching birds in flight...I can only imagine the feeling of such freedom.

It's probably a good thing that I don't have wings...I would be a rambler for sure ;) 

American Goldfinch: Winter Photo Group #1

“Some birds are not meant to be caged, that's all. Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild. So you let them go, or when you open the cage to feed them they somehow fly out past you. And the part of you that knows it was wrong to imprison them in the first place rejoices, but still, the place where you live is that much more drab and empty for their departure.” ~ Stephen King

Tuesday morning was beautiful.  I was awake by seven-thirty and had a pot of coffee brewing soon after.   While sipping on our coffee, Ryan and I set up my camera and tripod on the front porch.  With camera remote in hand, I sat in the living room and waited.  The birds would arrive for breakfast soon...

By eight o'clock, they began their winter morning ritual- flying back and forth from the large tree near the front porch to the feeder and/or wooden hand rails and back to the tree.  They were spooked a couple times and disappeared, but returned within a few minutes.  

It was quite windy that morning and at times the feeder rocked gently, but the birds didn't mind.  They continued their meal as usual.  For about thirty minutes or so, there was a large crowd of them flocking around the feeder and fence posts.  I captured numerous photos using my, click, click, one after another and another.  I was afraid the sound would frighten them, but they didn't seem to pay attention to it.  

I think the photos turned out pretty good, considering that I have limited photography experience and inexpensive camera lenses.  More importantly, I enjoyed the photo shooting adventure ;)  As I've said many times before, my second career choice would have been professional photography. 

Enjoy :))))