Thursday, November 11, 2010

Nature Notes: A Few Feathered Friends

Quick Get-Away

Have the birds at your feeders changed with the season? Mine have.

All summer, a pair of cardinals arrived every morning and landed as soon as I stepped far enough away. They obviously watched and waited for me, no doubt cursing my tendency to sleep in. Haven't seen them in weeks now, though I saw cardinals in the woods all last winter.

The daily traffic was mostly goldfinches, various native sparrows, and mourning doves. There are a few goldfinches still, but they are wearing their drab winter colors. House finches are still here, too.

The summer crowd has been replaced by juncos and chickadees, with a tufted titmouse or two jostling them aside. I love that the chickadees are so dainty and tame. They dart in and grab one seed while I'm sitting only a few feet away, and dart away again. The juncos travel in flocks, and they remind me of little chickens in tuxedos as they peck at fallen seed on the deck.

Red Bellied Woodpecker

Woodpeckers are new arrivals. The red-bellied woodpecker above is a daily visitor now, and just today a hairy woodpecker stopped by too. The red-bellied ones use their tails for stability while they feed, something I hadn't seen before. There are pileated peckers in the south woods, but they haven't ventured near the house yet.

Though they are beautiful, I'm not all that happy about woodpeckers because they're hell on the trees. You wouldn't believe the size of the holes they make.

Bluebird Hunting

For the last couple of weeks I had three eastern bluebirds swooping in daily to the birdbath around 10:00 AM. Oddly, they showed no interest in it when the weather was hot. I managed to grab my camera and snap a few shots the last time I saw them, and the pics might have been keepers had I not left the setting on monochrome.

White-Crowned Sparrow

The only sparrow I'm seeing now is my favorite, the white-crowned, and that one not often. I actually like sparrows as long as they're not the non-native English sparrows, which kill bluebirds.

Flocks of migrating starlings, literally a thousand strong, often alight in the woods or even on the lawn. It's loud, and it's amazing in an Alfred Hitchcock sort of way. Thankfully, they have never noticed the feeder.

I'm including a few recent photos, just to spice up the page. That tack-sharp thing still eludes me. Part of the problem is that, except for the chickadees, I have to shoot from an upstairs window that is much too far away from the edge of the deck for my modest little lens. The other issue is that I still haven't found quite the right combination of shutter speed/ISO/and picture and focus modes. I'm working on it.

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Saturday, November 6, 2010

Nature Notes: Seasons Change

Seasons Change

What a difference a day makes. The shot above was early yesterday, with just the tops of the trees catching the light. I did not expect the snow, so these first flakes came as a delightful surprise.

Winter Dawn

By this morning, the bronze and gold shades had turned to silver, the treetops tipped in copper by the dawn.

People at the supermarket were either shaking their heads in dismay or cheerfully humming Christmas carols. Me, I have that Sleigh Ride song stuck in my head.

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Friday, November 5, 2010

About That Camera...


The last time I posted here, I had stumbled head first into the "gray market" rabbit hole, where some things are not what they seem.

I was freaking out because my new Canon Rebel T2i came without warranty cards in the box and Canon was telling me scary things about that. The company I bought if from, Central Digital, insisted I had nothing to worry about and wanted a ton of money plus my firstborn grandchild to return the kit.

This is where you, dear friends, came in. Your unanimous advice was to return the camera and run. So I packed it all up - luckily, I still had all the packaging and had not even tried to take a photo with it yet - and intended to send it off the next day.

Then The Hubby got involved. Ever the white knight, he saddled up and went to war with both Canon and Central. Under duress, Canon admitted that they would honor the manufacturer warranty wherever the camera was purchased, provided we had the receipt and registered the product. The serial numbers on the box matched the camera and lens, and everything that was supposed to be in the box was there. Central sent an extended warranty package for free (which may or may not be worth anything, but who knows). I was able to register the camera online at Canon, and it appears to be the US version.

So bottom line: I kept it. And it seems to be OK. As for the warranty, I guess we'll see. What with all the drama, I just haven't felt like using it until now and I still haven't much of a clue about how to use it.

When I ordered it, I had visions of tack-sharp telephoto action shots of birds and deer, and glorious fall landscapes. I have yet to take a bird shot that's even in focus, let alone tack sharp, though I have tried every combination of settings and focus options in the book. And the colors are odd on the landscapes.

However, the photo above is a severe crop from a shot taken with the telephoto in a dim hallway, using full auto everything and flash. It came out pretty well, I think, so I suspect the issue is with me and not the machine.

Thanks so much for all your comments in the previous post about this. I did take it to heart, and I do appreciate your taking the time to help.

P.S. - The Mother/Son road trip was awesome. Would have been better if I'd had a camera for all the fall scenery, but still a great time.