Backyard birds and ice crystals

I got a little behind again, so here are a couple of weeks worth of back yard and local pictures.

Backyard birds

OK, the first one isn’t a bird, but it doesn’t seem to care. Many of our gray squirrels are black, but this one even seems to have a tinge of red in it.

Black squirrrel
Black squirrel

These are the genuine article, blue jays.

Blue Jays
Blue Jay in flight

There was a strong south wind when I took the next one, enough to ruffle its crest feathers.

Blue jay
Blue jay

It has lots of friends.

Blue jays
Blue jays

These shots are of birds in the thorn bush in our back garden. It is related to the English hawthorn, but has much longer thorns. The flowers are similarly scented and the haws are quite similar too. The end twigs are red for their first year, but the cardinal’s feathers are still not camouflaged.

Male Cardinal
Male Cardinal

Below is another pair of red birds, the rosy finches.

Rosy finches
Rosy finches

The next bird in flight is a dark-eyed junco.

Junco
Dark-eyed Junco

The chickadee below has literally gone ballistic, with wings folded for a second.

Ballistic chickadee
Ballistic chickadee

The turkeys below only fly when alarmed or when they want to get up into a tree that has berries. It takes them a fair bit of energy to get to tree-top level. In this visit, they stayed on the ground. They were mostly hidden behind a bush from my perspective so just a couple of pictures of this handsome male.

Turkey 1
Turkey 1

Check out the stylish beard.

Turkey 2
Turkey, showing beard

Next is a downy woodpecker, taken when the north wind was strong and cold (-14ºC) so it sheltered on the south side of the tree and fluffed up its feathers.

Downy woodpecker
Downy woodpecker

Ice Crystals

Here are a few shots of ice crystals on top of the snow. They are about 1 cm (½”) across.

Ice crystals-1
Ice crystals-1

The next one is deliberately just out of focus to show the colours refracted off the surface (which is white snow – underexposed) so you can see the colours as I saw them through watery eyes (from cold wind). It was even better when they sparkled as I moved.

Ice crystals-2
Ice crystals-2

The next one is on a piece of coloured paper, to get a bit more contrast than the white snow background. The shadow shows the shape well, too.

Ice crystals-3
Ice crystals-3
Ice crystals-4
Ice crystals-4

The next one is a few crystals on top of the seed head of Queen Anne’s lace, which are just as pretty as any diamonds the Queen may have had in her tiara.

Queen Anne's Lace and Tiara
Queen Anne’s Lace and Tiara

Finally, ice in non-crystalline format, as our roof caught a little sun.

Icicles
Icicles

A bird in the bush

A couple of photos of birds in bushes in our garden

The small birds love the golden ninebark as it is so dense that even the sharp-shinned hawk can’t catch them in it. Your task is to count all the juncos, starting from the blurred one in the foreground which is not in the bush.

Juncos in Ninebark
Juncos in Ninebark

Next is a black-capped chickadee.  The dogwood provides some welcome winter colour and is even prettier in this shot with the ice covering from the storm.

Chickadee in dogwood
Chickadee in dogwood

Blue Jays and Chickadees

Today was dark and cooler so not great for photography, but here is a Chickadee and a Blue Jay.

Black-capped Chickadee
Black-capped Chickadee
Blue Jay
Blue Jay

These are both year-round denizens of our garden. Both are omnivorous. The jays eat other vertebrates but we still seem to have no shortage of birds, frogs and the like, so we still enjoy their visits.  We grow a lot of sunflowers (and the birds ‘plant‘ quite a lot of seeds themselves that I often leave to grow in random places) so that gives them something else to feed on.

On the other hand we don’t like neighbourhood cats eating the birds and other small animals. This one is particularly well disguised. Once I spotted it, I asked it to leave and not return. I suspect it will.

Notice the milkweed seed pods in the middle. I’m ever hopeful that the monarch butterflies will return.

Neighbourhood Cat
Neighbourhood Cat

Birds in flight

I decided to practice shooting birds in flight (camera, not gun).  Here are some of those practice shots.  We can see later if I learned anything other than “must be more patient”.  All these were shot at 1/1,000th of a second.

I am always fascinated by the degree of control by these birds.  Obviously there is a lot of independent control of parts of flight surfaces and landing gear in order to perform all these aerobatics.  It’s very far from just flapping up and down.

This blue jay is not being chased by robo-heron, just a trick of perspective.

Blue Jay
Blue Jay

The next two are the same chickadee, taken about 1/40th second apart, as it lands on the peanut feeder.

Chickadee 1
Chickadee 1
Chickadee 2
Chickadee 2

The lesson from those two, which are blurred from being magnified, is to be more patient.  Zoom in on a smaller spot and wait, rather than wider angle in the hopes of catching more in a shorter wait time.

Next are a pair of chickadees showing off their bush skills.  They don’t seem at all troubled at the challenge of zooming around in a dogwood bush in spite of the very limited clearance between branches.

Chickadees in dogwood
Chickadees in dogwood
Chickadees in dogwood 2
Chickadees in dogwood 2

Next are three shots of the same nuthatch, landing on a twig, from which the peanut feeder is suspended.

Nuthatch
Nuthatch
Nuthatch 2
Nuthatch 2
Nuthatch 3
Nuthatch 3

The birds don’t fight, but it is generally understood that when a bigger bird arrives, the smaller one leaves.

Nuthatch displaces chickadee
Nuthatch displaces chickadee
Woodpecker displaces nuthatch
Woodpecker displaces nuthatch

Finally, something I didn’t see startled a mixed flock of ground-feeding birds.  I’m not sure if the one junco that stayed put is going to win out by getting more food, or lose if the hawk catches it.

Juncos and sparrows
Juncos and sparrows

Which way is up? Bird feeding orientation

Here are some pictures of the birds that like suet and peanuts, mostly those that naturally make much of their living getting insects out of tree bark.

I’m not sure why, perhaps some people who know more about it can comment, but they differ in their preferred orientation while feeding.

The nuthatches prefer heads-down, at 180º from my preferred feeding orientation.

White-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch

Chickadees seem more sensible to me.

Chickadee
Chickadee

The small woodpeckers are often the “right way” up, but as the level goes down, they switch to a horizontal orientation.

Downy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker

The rose-breasted nuthatches are also upside-down feeders but here are shots as they get ready for dinner; nuthatches at least land the right-way up, before turning over. On trees, they also run downwards after landing. Do they ever crash, beak-first, into upwardly mobile woodpeckers?

Rose-breasted Nuthatch landing
Rose-breasted Nuthatch landing
Rose-breasted Nuthatch
Rose-breasted Nuthatch

It was -27ºC when I got up this morning, but as it was a nice sunny day, the temperature soon soared to -12. So the birds’ feathers were well fluffed-up.