Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Learning Birds

For the past two weeks, I've been practicing both my bird identification, and my bird photography, especially on days when I didn't feel like going very far afield.  Most of these are shot through a window, but three of them are shot outside.  I think the photographs have benefited a lot from changing my focus from averaging to a spot focus, as suggested by a blog reader.

I've been particularly looking to make sure I could identify those little Pine Siskins, on whom the yellow bits don't show up very easily.  I think I have them clear in my mind now, and this was my best photographic result.  You can see what a small bit of yellow it is that makes the difference.

I stepped outside on the deck to get these two (and the Chickadee below), and it turns out that Siskins aren't very leery of people.  They hesitated, like the Chickadees, and then started coming right back to the feeder, even though I was only 4 feet away with my camera.  All the other birds flew away immediately.  I love how this one seems to be sauntering down the deck railing with a seed in its beak - note the tiny bit of yellow.

This is a more typical picture of the Pine Siskins, with the yellow showing up very faintly indeed.  But I have my binoculars sitting right beside the camera now, and work with them together so I don't shoot what I can't identify!

This Chickadee looks a little windswept, but I did get close enough to see the feathers and the eye.

And just today for the first time I can remember this winter, we had a White-breasted Nuthatch visit the feeder.  I hear them as I walk round the neighbourhood, but they haven't been spending time in our yard!

Just for comparison I think I've also learned to identify the female Purple Finch.  The alternating pattern of brown on top of the head, a white band behind the eye, a brown band and them a bit more white, with brown under the chin, is characteristic compared to the House Finch, and the large chunky bill is quite different from the sharp pointed bill of the Pine Siskin - even though all three are "little brown-striped birds".

I did find a Blue Jay that sat still for long enough to let me get a picture, at least to prove he was there.

And recently we've been getting a lot more Crows, even coming to gather seed off the ground beneath the feeders.  I hear a lot of them in the neighbourhood on my morning walk.  This one is sitting on our garden fence.

I've been able to look up Grey County bird records on eBird, so I can now predict that I will see ten new species in the next two weeks, now that milder weather is here.  I'll let you know how I do, but I'm predicting that I'll see or hear:
Turkey Vultures, 
Sandhill Cranes, 
Common Flickers, 
American Robins (though a few stay all winter), 
Song Sparrows, 
Red-winged Blackbirds, 
Common Grackles, 
Brown-headed Cowbirds, and  
European Starlings (though they’re apparently here all year) 
plus lots of waterfowl if I can get myself to places that have open water.

Linking to: 


  1. My favorite birds are the nuthatches, pine siskins and chickadees, along with goldfinch. You've got some great shots here, Stew. Love the pretty jay, too. :-)

  2. I haven't seen many of our Pine Siskins lately but we had a big group of them for several weeks. Great shots Stew. Blue Jays are among my favorite back yard birds.

  3. Love these photos of our feathered creatures. Great job. Continued good luck!

  4. Oh I am glad you have been practicing your birding and photos which by the way are awesome . I have been a birder for years and have been taking lots of photos of them for years as well I just love it . We have most of our spring birds back now which are on your list here we just need the Turkey Vultures and Sand Hill Cranes and some waterfowl as we already have some the rest which they wont be here till the end of April . Then By May I will have most of the summer birds to watch and take photos of . Thanks for sharing , have a good day !

  5. They are quite lovely company.

    My parents had a small platform.outside an upper floor window and would put peanuts out in winter. Even the small ones would fly up.

  6. Hi Furry...
    Awesome captures!
    I really should explore my settings on my camera more....but too timid!
    Don't you just love getting a great bird shot?
    Enjoy your week...
    Linda :o)

  7. Wow - terrific photos. I love the clarity. The Pine Siskins are among my favorites - such tiny cute little birds - your first photo is especially fabulous!!!

  8. I'm impressed. Great bird shots. I especially like number two. Great job!!

  9. It's fun to watch the birds on the feeders through the window. My hubby and I love to do this too.

  10. You've got some fine pictures there. A very experienced bird-watcher once told me that you should always make a list of all the species you see during the day. And, he added, it's not enough to glance at a common bird and scribble it down; you need to have a good long look at it, through binoculars. If you do that often enough then the common birds become so impressed upon your memory that anything unusual immediately jumps out at you. It seems to work too.

  11. Hello, pretty collection of birds. I do love the cute Pine Siskins! Great shots, enjoy your day!

  12. I would encourage you to use the full name of each species - e.g. Brown-headed Cowbird, American Robin etc. but especially to spell them correctly. It is Red-winged Blackbird not Red Wing Blackbird.

  13. More wonderful bird pictures, sure keeps you busy.

  14. birding is seriously one of the funnest, most relaxing things i do. (knitting, tops the list)!!!

    i have read, that it is always best to photograph everything you see, then take time at home to identify them. have FUN, you seem to have such a natural love for all things outdoors and nature....and that my friend is wonderful!!!! enjoy always!!!!

  15. Great photos. The photo of Blue Jay is my favorite.

  16. You got some great photos! It is tricky to identify all those brown striped birds isn't it? I still don't know them all. To me a sparrow is a sparrow. lol I am surprised to see the list of birds that will be arriving in your area in the next couple weeks. I think we'll be a bit behind you here but I'll be watching.

  17. Beautiful birds, my friend. I like the chickadee.

  18. What makes a purple finch a Purple Finch? They look like lbj's to me.

    1. Georgina, check my post of Feb. 26 on Birds at the Feeder, and you'll see the male Purple Finch. It's really a pinkish/red, but that where the name comes from. You're right, the females are just 'lbjs'.

  19. A wonderful selection of birds for this post today

  20. Ya done good! The photos of the siskns are really nice -- practice makes perfect.

  21. I had trouble identifying a small bird that came to the cabin deck. I used this website to narrow it down and then used the forum and they have volunteers to help you make the final identification if you can upload a picture. http://whatbird.com -- Margy

  22. Birds are such beautiful creatures, and I do enjoy my visits to yours, and other blogs, looking and learning a little more about them.

    All the best Jan

  23. Look at you conquering yet another hobby!

  24. In the summer months I have White Breasted Nuthatches and the Red...but, all winter I have only had the Red Breasted little guys...I wonder if ours go a bit further south for the winter.... I love the little guys... and I too have the Pine Siskins... but I usually have to wait til I see the tiny beaks to know which little stripey bird it is...

  25. Check your spelling on Brown-headed Cowbird too!