Saturday, March 23, 2013

Birds of Spring

The birds in my yard seem a little more patient with me than usual this spring.  Some even seem to be posing tolerantly to allow me to get better-than-my-normal photos of them.  (I have no special set-up for photographing birds or anything else - no blinds or special long lenses.  I don't even use a tripod, just a handheld zoom telephoto lens which I point and shoot as I walk around.)

Here are a couple not-so-common yard photos of relatively common spring birds from the last week or two....

One of the most tolerant was this northern flicker, hanging out in a honeylocust on the edge of our restoring prairie.  At first I thought it was a yellow-shafted, which is much more common here, but as I looked at the head markings more closely, I realized that it is technically a red-shafted flicker.  The lining of the tail feathers still looks more yellow to me, so it probably qualifies as an intermediary between the two, which is common.

For the last week, I've noticed up to a dozen flickers feeding in the prairie each morning when I walk with the dogs.  I didn't think they were a migratory species, but I've come to realize that they are.  Each winter I see a couple hanging around occasionally, but then in the spring I see larger groups that are especially noticeable in burned areas.  Funny to realize that this "woodpecker" is a ground feeder, particularly enjoying ants!

Eastern meadowlarks are common around here, but fairly wary about actually being approached closely.  Most of my meadowlark photos therefore show tiny birds, seemingly far off in the distance. 

While this picture isn't precisely up-close-and-personal, it's still a lot closer than I am normally able to get!

As I went out to get the paper a few mornings ago, I noticed a flock of birds in the top of a honeylocust south of our garage.  They didn't flush as I walked by...and I suddenly realized they were cedar waxwings, not the Harris sparrows that I had expected.  It was a cloudy morning and the light was terrible, but I got a couple quick photos without spooking them. 

I think they were still asleep, actually.  Once they all woke up, they disappeared in a flash, but not until I had gone back inside and then come back out to feed the rest of the birds in the backyard.

I am often able to get okay photos of red-bellied woodpeckers at my feeders, but I was particularly pleased to get this shot of a red-bellied female in the top of a tall cottonwood in our draw, even if it is a rather distant view. 

The tree, a male, is just beginning to bud out.  Its red catkin flowers will emerge soon, then the leaves will begin to appear as the catkins drop off.  Since it's a male, this tree doesn't produce the long "necklaces" of seeds that break open into the cotton of spring which we love to deplore here on the prairie.  Secretly, though, I rather wish it was a female tree.  I think the cotton floating on the breeze is graceful, almost as beautiful as the shimmer of cottonwood leaves, dancing in summer breezes.

Each year brings a different cast of characters that pose for my camera.  This year is certainly off to a whiz-bang start!


Jason said...

We have a Northern Flicker who shows up in our garden pretty regularly. I think they are fantastic birds! The Meadowlarks are also beautiful, but you do not see them here in the suburbs.

Gardener on Sherlock Street said...

You really got some great photos. I've seen a few of the first one you showed pecking at the ground and always thought it seemed odd for a woodpecker to be on the ground. Your meadowlark photo is really nice. His yellow just pops. Meadowlarks must not like coming into town. I've never seen one in our garden.
Getting some moisture today. Small snowflakes and sleet mostly.

ProfessorRoush said...

Man, that meadowlark is bright!

Melanie said...

I saw four cedar waxwings a couple springs ago at our place. .they are so much prettier in person!! Never have seen them again since! Lucky for you to have such a huge group of them!