Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Ojibway Prarie Reserve Bluebirds

Ruby Crowned Kinglet in a Pussywillow Tree

The last two days have been so beautiful out weather-wise, I couldn't help but get out there and take some photos. I have a new camera body and I'm still trying to learn its ways before May arrives. There will come a day where I will go birding without my camera but I guess for now, lots of pictures will be taken! :-) I think the reason I take photos was because when I started birding almost 2 years ago, I did not know one bird from another, so I would take photos then post-identify. I didn't even have binoculars or a field guide till about 1 year into the hobby. It started off with just a Camera and Blake Mann's blog as well as Paul Pratt's blog and nature tours really spawned my interest in nature. I thought about this question: "when did I start birding?" recently and the answer is the day I saw a Green Heron at Ojibway on May 2nd, 2009.

Birder or Photographer?
One or two people have told me that I'm a photographer, not a birder! One woman at Pointe Mouillee told me that without even knowing me! I found it odd that she said that because she had a white-bodied Canon "L" lens, and I was rockin' a Sigma! I think I'm a birder that loves to photograph nature. A photo-naturalist? But, I concede, I'm not an ornithologist. I would like to take the Ornithology course at the University of Windsor with Dr Mennill but I don't know if people working 9-5s can have the luxury of taking such courses.

 Tufted Titmouse just singing his heart out. This is one of my favorite birds. Rare in most of Canada but common at Ojibway. Many Carolinian species are slowly having there northern bounds creep further north.
 I really hit a nice pocket of birds in the Ojibway forest on Tuesday. I saw Kinglets, Yellow Rumps, Thrushes, Tufted Titmouse in the span of 20 minutes.

 My first Mourning Cloak butterfly. I did not feel like venturing far off the path. They are easily seen at Black Oak Heritage Park at this time of year. I've also seen many Eastern Comma butterflies this week as well. These two species are the first to appear in early spring, so its easy to ID them. It's funny, I've learn so much about butterflies as well from the many excellent blogs in the area. In mid summer when the breeding birds of May have left for the Boreal Forests, the butterflies get more attention. This spring and summer, I will also make more of an effort to identify trees and plants.

Today I saw three separate pairs of Bluebirds in the park. I typically find them by first hearing them.Listen for a depressing sounding mur-mur like warble.

See the above photo in full size!

I don't think I'll ever tire of seeing these wonderful birds. Today, I just leaned against a giant Oak tree for 10 or so minutes watching the above pair sallying and flycatching in a beautiful meadow. I put the camera away and just quietly watched from a safe distance of 30-40m. Very cool!

In the Tallgrass Praire park of Ojibway, I saw/heard some really strange mating behaviors from three treetop Northern Flickers. The photo below shows the Flickers with their tails spread out and they were barking up a storm.(This photo reminds me of John James Audubon's drawings of them). I tried to take video of them, but of course, they were quiet by the time I started recording.

This was a beautiful Yellow Bellied Sap Sucker but it was foraging Aspen Catkins and difficult to photograph.

 Yellow-rumped Warblers were seen several times on both Tuesday and Wednesday this week. I had my first Ruby Crowned Kinglet as well (see first photo in this posting).

 Lastly, I finally saw an Eastern Towhee, although he was being shy in a thicket and refused to entertain my vocalizations. I also found a Winter Wren near the Milk Ponds of the Tallgrass area. Almost not worth posting. Almost! The Winter Wren holds a special place in my birding memoirs. I would almost say it is a better bird to see than say, a Painted Bunting. Sure the Painted Bunting is colorful and mind-blowing. But the Winter Wren is understated and tiny. It's local. Canadian. Hard to find unless you understand its habitat.
Winter Wren...
Good birding!

Bonus Video: (sorry, its shaky... its at 500mm x1.6 magnification, handheld)


  1. Dwayne, the photos are looking good (and so are the birds!) You'll no doubt feel comfortable enough with the 7D when the fireworks happen in a month.

    I might make a few minor suggestions which could improve IQ: The bluebird pic is f/6.3, ISO 500, shutter 1/1000 for example. The big Sigmas are great, but stopping the aperture down to f/8 makes a huge difference in sharpness. You have more than enough shutter speed in that light. There are also some theories about controlling noise by sticking to whole ISOs (100, 200, 400, 800...), so you might find the minor gains you make for exposure at 500 might be cancelled by increased noise. I'm not 100% convinced of this, BTW, but the numbers are out there.

    Looking good! Keep them coming.

  2. More: I think I posted this link for you before. It's a good place to start for 7D settings:

    Apart from flight shots, I usually use just the centre AF point, aimed at the eye. You can enable custom function CF III 6 to allow super-precise central point AF, but unless you're right on top of the bird, it's unlikely to be useful. Centre point with expansion (+) is good for moving subjects.

    I worry less about metering, but typically use partial or spot and make corrections later with Photoshop's RAW editor, usually up to a stop in one direction or the other.

  3. Stuart, thanks for the generous information here. Yes, I recall seeing this site, but now with my new 7d body, this is much more applicable and I will implement it.

    I think that without sitting in a blind and luring birds with recordings, that my photos can improve much-much more, but basic things like having a reasonable ISO setting and use well-thought-out presetings will make a step in the right direction.

    I like how the bird with sky behind it is naturally overexposed because the bird generally gets underexposed. Again... well thought out. A great resource for any camera body really.

  4. Hi Dwayne,
    I am still learning how to use my camera and lens. There are so many things to learn!
    You are doing better at spring sightings than I am. I took today (Friday) off since the weekend was coming (i.e. bad weather AGAIN!).

  5. Hey, you are famous. I got my Festival of Birds calendar (in PDF) today, and I'm pretty sure that's a photo of you peering through your binoculars on it.

  6. Yes Kiki, that is me, but no, I'm not famous.

    I've told a few friends that "I'm a model" and they chuckle at the idea.


  7. I get the same thing all the time...I don't even carry bins! I just look at everything through the lens. It's nice to be able to go back to the pics, or else I start questioning myself after. Let them think what they want to think...they should know better than to judge!
    PS...I still haven't seen a tufted titmouse...they look so cool!



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