Saturday, February 12, 2011

A BUTTER BUTT KIND OF DAY - yellow rumped warblers

click pictures to enlarge
This is the second day off of four in a row and it was necessary for me to go back to the Harley dealership to finalize two customer sales.  I enjoy working with customers and it is rewarding to me when I make them happy.  I didn't get out of the store until 3PM.  That's pretty late to start the activities I enjoy.  But, I always enjoy taking the dogs to the ruins area for some quiet time.
I packed up Shade the black lab and Douglas the Retriever (golden dog) and headed to our favorite spot, the ruins.  A few weeks ago we encountered a quadrillion  robins at the ruins.  My guess is they are flocking in preparation to migrate North.  The ruins area was covered with them.  There wasn't a robin in sight today.  They were replaced by yellow rumped warblers.  They are called yellow butts down here in Tennessee.
I call the picture to the left "The Lookouts."
Yellow rumps are a delightful little bird.  They are also a quiet bird.  I did not hear a peep out of any of them.  They would silently come and go from tree to tree, landing on precarious perches and leaving again in an instance.

I was trying to determine what they were eating but couldn't make a positive determination.  They appeared to be shoving their bills under the loose bark.  I could see their beaks open and close but could not see what was for supper.  I'm not sure what insects would be about at this time of year.  But, it's certain they have keyed in on some insect critter as they were definitely finding food under the bark.

These birds are plenty tuff to photograph.  My subjects were fairly far away and taxed my ability to capture them even with the 500mm lens.  I'm shooting at 1 1/000th of a second where the light will allow.
In order to capture flight, I have to hold and aim that big heavy lens at the bird and try to anticipate the second of flight along with the direction I think he's going to go.  I rarely get it right.  I usually guess the direction the bird will fly will be in the direction he is facing while sitting on the limb.  Not always so!  The following photo is an example of what I mean.  That warbler flipped himself totally backward and upside down when he launched himself and flew straight up in the air.  I almost missed it.

Here is a unique shot below.  I found it funny at the time I shot it.  OK;  I got a warped sense of humor.

I like to photograph tiny birds.  If I can successfully capture a tiny, fast moving bird;  the big raptors are a cinch.  Actually, there are only a few shots here on this blog entry that are great pictures in my estimation.  I'm relying on cropping the shots to make them really interesting.  I can't get closer because Douglas and Shade are with me and birds and dogs just do not mix.  This afternoon is their afternoon more than mine.  I'll just deal with it.  The dogs simply force me to be more creative with my photography.

I like to play games also.  Can you find the bird in the photo to the right?

Yes;  there are two birds in the shot below:

Well, well, well;  there's a new guy on the block.  This is a red bellied woodpecker:
He is not to be confused with the red headed woodpecker.  The red headed woodpecker does not have the flecked back feathers.
Even this guy was difficult to shoot.  He kept his head in the shadows most of the time and I had to react quickly when he would raise his head for a look about.  Shooting birds in trees is a challenge due to the back lit sky.  Cameras adjust to the brightness of the sky and over compensate on the light adjustment for the subject that is between the camera and the sky.  When the woodpecker is eating;  his head is against the limb and in shadow.  The brightness of the sky is constant and there is no quick way to rapidly set the camera for that overcompensation for bright sky.  Of course I;m an amateur.  A pro probably has it down to a science.

Can you see how his head is shadowed?  The camera is compensating for the back light;  the sky.

Here is another example of the head of the woodpecker in shadow due to the camera meter adjusting to the bright sky behind the bird.

He is a handsome fellow.  Shade came tromping loudly through the dry leaves and the woodpecker took flight.  That's ok;  I have the entire Summer to photograph birds.

I will throw a few more shots of the yellow rumps up here.  Don't forget to click on the pictures to enlarge them.  Again;  not one robin made his debut today.  I believe they flocked and went North.

Above;  White Throated Sparrow

Of course I have to post pictures of my two best buddies Shade and Douglas.  Without them I am lost.  Or do I have that backward?
"I just know there's a squirrel up there!"

"He has to come outa there sometime and I'll be waiting."

Shade is really difficult to photograph.  She is black as shiny black coal and it's a problem to make the contours and highlights of her body show up in photographs.

"Hey Shade;  look here and smile."

Now What!  Great Caesars Ghost!;  they all find me at one time or another.  This little guy came out of the brush and simply started following us all around.  He had a collar on with a tag attached so I knew I had a lead as to where he belonged.  He was no trouble and was very friendly and likeable. 

The little fellow had intense eyes; one very light blue and the other dark brown.   I found myself refraining from making eye contact with him.  He had a strange way about him I couldn't put my finger on.   After an hour, an old man limped up the road that dissappears into the lake and the little brown dog ran to him quickly.  The old man came over and apologized if his dog bothered me.  I replied that he was a welcome visitor and I appreciated his company.  The old man grinned and said, "he's a good pup and my best friend."
I pointed to Douglas and Shade and said, "I know what you mean."
The old man moved his head up and down once indicating he got my drift.

Tomorrow I am taking the canoe to Indian Boundary Lake in search of Otter.  My friends will remain at home as otter and dogs certainly do not mix well.  Thank you again for your interest in my activities. I'll do my best to make this blog a nice distraction for you.  Stay tuned and please be kind to a dog.