Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Digital Photography Or How To Shoot In The .Raw

When I made the switch from film to digital cameras I had a lot of learning to do. My world as I knew it had changed and I needed to change as well. ISO? What the heck was that? Mega pixels? RAW? I beg your pardon!

OK, now to get back to today's world. As with most change, you've got to understand the terminology. Translate, if you will, into something you can understand. ISO is the new ASA. Mega pixels, well lets just say the more the better. Although, that's really not true but that's for another blog. AND RAW. That's what I hope to shed a little light on with this blog entry.

I only have experience with Canon cameras so it may be a little different with other camera makers. But, I think most of the information will be relevant.

Think of the .RAW file as the negative(or film) in the film days. This file contains all the information that was captured by your cameras' sensor when you clicked the shutter release. It contains everything, the good and the bad for that frame, in one file. Because of that, the file is very large. That's where the mega pixels comes into play... but I'm not going there in this post.

My raw files are 13-15 meg each, depending on the shot. That's why it is important to get a large CF card to store more frames. I use a 4-gig card. Not very big in today's terms but I get bored when reviewing a days shooting so I use a smaller CF. 

You can only shoot in the .RAW format (Canon cameras) in what they call the 'creative zone'. That's in the Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and manual modes. When I first started in digital I didn't venture into those settings... I just configured my camera to take large JPEG files. That was OK but I was missing out on the post production adjustments. Darkroom in the film days. Half of the quality of the picture is created in the 'darkroom'. Again, another argument/discussion for another post!

With the .RAW file and software you can make up for any shortcomings of the photo. Don't get me wrong, you have to have a quality photo to begin with, but with post processing, you can make the exposure be all that it can be! A second chance if you will, to make it a perfect picture.

If you only shoot in JPEG you have really limited yourself. You cannot easily edit your photos and if you should get lucky enough to have someone interested in publishing your photo, you will need to have a .RAW file (or high resolution) photo to give to your publisher!

I took a few 'once in a lifetime' shots in JPEG format only and now I'm sick about it! Can't really do much with them because the resolution is so low. Still kicking myself for that!! That's the reason for this post. To save you from having a constant reminder of what could have been!

To shoot in .RAW (Canon cameras) you will need to be in the 'creative zones'. Set your camera to AV, TV or M. (see manual for instructions). You will also need to install software on your computer to read and convert the .RAW files. I'm using the software that came with my camera... "Canon Photo Professional". That software will display your .RAW files and allow you to tweak your shots and then convert them to JPEG and a host of other formats.

Photoshop also has a FREE plug-in that supports the Canon .RAW format. Oh, I forgot to mention that camera makers have made it tough, .RAW files are not standardized. Nikon has a different format of .RAW files. But I think Photoshop supports most camera makers formats. Also, the newer versions of Photoshop may already support .RAW files (no plug-in required).

All of this sounds confusing, but once you get the hang of it, it's really easy.

I hope you will at least set your camera to capture in both JPEG and .RAW. It may seem like mumbo-jumbo now but when you learn more about your camera and how to take photos... you'll be glad you did!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

No Look Photography

Have you ever tried to take a picture without looking? 

In this age of digital photography if you aren't experimenting with your camera you are missing out on a lot of photo opportunities. When I finally switched to digital, a whole new world was opened to my eyes and more importantly, my camera!

In the film age, each shot was thoughtfully and carefully composed. I treated each shot as if it were made of gold (or silver to be more precise). Film was expensive and the time it took to process a roll of film was too long. By the time a shot was processed, I had forgotten what I did and why I did it! As a result, I took each exposure very seriously because it was time AND money. Because of this I didn't experiment as much as I should have. It really slowed my learning and creativity with the camera. I just didn't want to risk wasting a single frame on a hunch or an experiment.

Enter Digital:
With the advent of the digital camera all of the old and I dare say bad 'thinking' were thrown out of the window. Now, I could shoot as many and as often as I wanted. It does take almost as long to go through a days' shooting but it is not as time sensitive. I can go through a few dozen frames at a time and stop to watch a football game or whatever and then return to editing. I no longer have to worry about a darkroom, timers, chemicals, disposals or odors (except maybe my feet).

I now can shoot literally hundreds of frames without caring about how much it will cost or how long it will take to process. Also, I can see a 'contact sheet' version of the picture the second I take the shot. This really helps in the 'pre-editing' process. Depending on what I'm shooting, I can preview and delete or save the shot right from the camera. Most of the time I don't do any deleting from the camera because the eyes aren't what they used to be so I need a large view before I do any deleting.

So, if you aren't shooting lots of shots and experimenting with different exposures, angles, depth of fields etc... you are really missing the boat!

Here's a few experiments and shots that I would have never tried or captured if not for Digital Photography. The trick here is to take MANY, MANY shots. It really boils down to being lucky. But, you increase your 'luck' by the number of shots you take. For these shots I pre-focused on a spot:

This is a single raindrop on the handrail of my deck. The camera was mounted on a tripod with an off-shoe flash and I used a cable release. I pre-focused on a spot on the rail and took over 200 photos to get this one shot. I just kept clicking and clicking, checking each shot and deleting if I didn't get anything. I almost burned out my flash unit trying for this shot. That was the only thing that was of concern. Keeping the flash unit cool.

A larger version of the raindrop can be found here: http://www.virginiabird.com/Other/Other/1257669_tRpCH#104053004_sj93P-L-LB

Here's another example:

Larger Version:
For this shot I again used a tripod (I always use a tripod) with an off shoe flash unit.
I pre-focused on a spot at about 25 feet away. I was lucky because the bats were feeding on insects that were attracted to the flood lights on my house. I was standing on my deck and just kept taking shots. The hardest part was following the flight of the bats. I didn't look through the view finder, I just pointed the lens in the direction of the bat and clicked. I was amazed that most of the time I could capture the bat somewhere in the frame! I was actually laughing out loud while taking the shots! Really! It was a blast!

In this last example I tried low/no light shots:
Larger Version:
Again, the trick is to take LOTS of shots! Adjusting the settings on the camera until you get something you like. It would have taken me years to get a shot like this in the film days! Oh I do love digital cameras!

So, I hope I have convinced you to start experimenting with your Digital Camera. It's a lot of  fun and really helps you learn how to adjust the camera settings for different lighting and conditions. You can let your creativity flow without worrying about the cost of all the shots you take. If you don't like it.... delete it!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Cat Vs. Cat

This week I will be introducing a new cat to my house. I have had an established cat in the house for the last 3 years. She has been the Queen of in the household for that time.

Tale of the tape:

Kato: named after the character in the Pink Panther Movies, she attacks me without warning
Height: 11 inches
Length:12 1/2 inches
Weight: 5 pounds
Reach: 17 inches
History: She was a feral cat that I had seen roam and hunt in my yard for a couple of years. I enticed her into my house on a cold winter night. She had been hanging around my yard for months. I think because of the bird feeders... good hunting. Anyway, one very cold night I decided she needed some shelter so I threw a tarp over my patio chairs for some shelter for her to get out of the snow and wind. I added a kitty bed under the tarp. She spent several nights there and I was pleased. After about a week I decided to add a little food in the shelter. She returned each night to her shelter for warmth and food. I then began hand-feeding her cheddar cheese. She seemed to enjoy it but was still very on guard.

Then, one night I heard some movement on the deck. I looked out to find a raccoon had cornered the cat in the shelter I had built for her. Feeling responsible for her situation, I chased the raccoon off and lured the cat into my house with cheese. It took almost an hour but I finally got her into the house.

The next 2 weeks I didn't see her. I knew she was in the house but didn't know where. I knew she was inside because I would leave food out and it would be gone overnight. Also, I put out a litter tray and I knew something was there (that really amazed me!).

For the last three years I've been trying to earn her trust. It was a real treat when she allowed me to pet her without trying to bite or scratch me. I had finally earned her trust! Now, she is almost like a domesticated cat. She still will bite or scratch me but for the most part she allows me to pet her without inflicting pain!

Enter the new cat.....
No photo available at this time: Bailey: (named for her coloring, colored like a Bailey's Bristol Cream drink)
Height: 11 inches
Weight: 8 pounds
Reach: 17.5 inches
History: Bailey is a four year old female cat. She has been with my sister for the last 2 years. Similar background as far as one owner. One person that she sees on a daily basis. Every time I have visited my sister, Bailey would run under her bed. My cat does the same thing anytime anyone else is in my house.

This week my sister will be moving in with me. So, we will have two cats who are used to running the household, in the same house. Oh woe is me! I don't know how this will go but I hope to be able to report the experience with this blog. I'll try to get pictures but I don't know what to expect!  My sister and I should be able to get along fine, but our children, I fear, is a whole different story!

I think Friday 10/01/2010 will be D-Day!

Here's our plan:
We will keep them separated for the first few weeks. Each having their own room and food and litter tray.
Let one roam the house, one day. The next day, let the other roam.

Thursday 09/30/2010
We had to cancel the last move because of heavy rain in the forecast for Wednesday through Thursday night. When I arrived home Thursday night I found that Fedex had delivered the new Router from Hugesnet that I had ordered last weekend. I was happy that I had the entire night not having to worry about my feline so I decided to install the router so I wouldn't have to worry about it during the last move and the Cat Vs. Cat spectacle.

I'll make a long story short.... I spent all night on the phone with Hugesnet support. Went to bed a little after 1:00am without the internet. VERY FRUSTRATED! The last thing the customer support supervisor told me was, it should be up in the morning and if it wasn't, to call back. Oh, yeah, that made me feel better!

Friday 10/01/2010
I woke up and went straight to the router. Yep, same as I had left it 6 hours ago. The heck with it, Off to work I go. My sister had paid for the day on Friday so we had until midnight to get the rest of her stuff out of the apartment. After work, we got the rest of  her stuff and the challenger to the throne and headed home.
By the time we made it home it was close to 9:30. Both of us were so tired we didn't want to make any cat introductions so we both put our cats in their rooms and closed the door. I did take the cat carrier into the room where my cat was hiding under the bed so she did hear that there was another cat in the house.

I had to call Hughes again to get that resolved. Finally, after another hour I had a working router! Next step was to reconfigure my wireless network. My old configuration was for a static IP and my wireless was configured for that. So, after another 40 minutes I had my internet connection fully operational!!!

Sunday 10/03/2010
A very interesting thing happened last night. KatoHmmmmm

Sunday morning Bailey was outside of my bedroom door. She is getting a little more comfortable with her new home. I actually saw her twice. She didn't run away at the sight of me! So, I guess that's a little progress.

Last night while Kato was sitting on my bed I opened the bedroom door. Bailey was sitting just outside the door in the hallway. Kato saw her but Bailey was looking at me and didn't notice the cat on the bed. My cat just watched very intently but didn't react in any other way.

Monday 10/04/2010
Off to work early so I left my three girls home alone! (my sister and two cats) I don't know what to expect when I get home! But, knowing my sister, she'll try to get them together. Oh well, It's her skin! I'll add more when I get home and assess the damage!

I'm home and everything is OK. Kato is still hiding under my bed. Bailey was at the stairs and quickly vanished into the bedroom when she saw me. Looks like this is going to take a little time for all to get accustomed to each other.

Friday 10/08/2010
Tonight we had our first true encounter! Nose to Nose. Only lasted a second but no hissing or scratching. Both cats tails were 3 times the normal size. My cat retreated to her spot under my bed. Bailey ran out of the room, down the hall to her bedroom. Not very bad for the first real encounter! This may turn out alright after all.

I tried letting my sister feed my cat figuring if Kato associated a good thing with my sister it would help bring her out. It didn't work this time but we'll continue to try to get Kato out from under my bed!

All in all I would consider this a step forward!

Friday 11/05/2010
Sorry for not updating this blog for almost a month! I've had a time of it and haven't been able to keep it updated. I've had 'issues' with tweetdeck, hughesnet, my computer, work and truck.... won't go into everything to save time. But, it looks like things will finally settle down enough to do a little blogging!

For those of you that still care.... Thank you! All seems to be going well but I've put the brakes on the cat integration for the last three weeks or so. I've kept Kato in my room for the most part. She is about half the size of Bailey so I guess I'm trying to protect my little girl! With all the other stuff that's been going on I don't need any other headaches (or vet bills). Anyway, my sister is making headway, she's been feeding Kato so that is helping her to earn Kato's trust. Bailey on the other hand is almost my pal. She doesn't run away when she sees me anymore so I guess that's a step forward!

We've had a few meetings of the cats but they still hiss and growl at each other. One 'fight', which was a draw and no blood letting. I think this weekend we'll push it a little farther with the two of them but we'll play that one by ear.

I'm still trying to get a good photo of Bailey but she's not cooperating... maybe soon though!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Hummingbirds … Attracting Those Little Flying Powerhouses

Hummingbirds … Attracting Those Little Flying Powerhouses
by Bonnie Carrier

It’s early in May a beautiful fairly warm day so I’ve decided to enjoy it and sit on the front porch.
While relaxing in a rocking chair with my eyes closed, just enjoying the sun and early warmth I begin to hear a sound off in the distance. At first it’s not recognizable, sounds almost like a hum from a model airplane.
As it begins to get louder I’m beginning to think I know what the source of this strange noise is.
I open my eyes and sure enough just as I thought there is a small green colored Hummer hovering right at the edge of the porch – coincidentally right where a feeder normally hangs – now I’m not certain but he appears to be looking right at me like he’s trying to tell me “Hey, I’m back, where’s the food”.
Every year it’s the same, they show up around Mothers Day and every year I’m always a little surprised to see them and of course not prepared.  Well so much for my relaxing afternoon, it’s time to get out the feeders, clean them and make up some food then get them hung. And so begins another season with these marvelous entertaining little birds.
Attracting Hummingbirds:
Hummers have a good memory they can remember where to find food sources from previous years. However, in order for them to remember your home you will first need to let them know about it.
There are two ways to accomplish this, first by planting or hanging flowers that will attract them, second is to have an additional food source such as a hanging feeder that you keep filled with a syrup solution.
Flowers that have red to orange blossom colors are known to attract them but they will visit any color if they discover sufficient nectar.
Blossom shape is also important as this little birds beak is long and tapered, so downward-hanging blossom – Honeysuckle is a good example – are a favorite.
Several other varieties are as follows. These particular flowers are geared for the Northeast – where I happen to live – so you will want to check within your region for appropriate blooms.
· Bee Balm

· Salvia

· Foxglove

· Lilac

· Hollyhock

· Forsythia
There are several Annuals that will also satisfy their little palettes.
· Fuchsia

· Impatiens

· Petunia
As these are favorites in the use of hanging baskets each summer try hanging several around your home. The most common place of course is on your front porch or on hooks around a deck or patio; another idea is to hang some right from tree branches. I’ve done this and not only do the Hummers like them; it also adds color and interest out in the yard.
Putting Up A Feeder:
From elaborately decorated glass to simple plastic there are numerous types of feeders to choose from.
I will tell you from experience, I’ve used both – the decorated one just because it was pretty, the Hummers really didn’t care – and I ended up with a simple teardrop shaped clear glass container with perches around the base, it was easy to tell when the solution was low and simple to take apart.
Where to hang your feeder or feeders – once you start, guaranteed you’ll have to have more than one – is up to you and the layout of your home and yard. If you have an open porch this is a great place or from tree branches. Most people look for spots where the birds can be seen; after all half the fun comes from watching these little dynamites. Feeders that mount to windows with suction cups are another alternative.
What To Fill Them With:
Two choices here, pre-made solution or hand made, the choice is up to you. I personally have done both but if you prefer to make your own the following is the standard recipe.
· One part ordinary white cane sugar to four parts water

· Boil the water if you wish however it is not really necessary

· Store unused syrup in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
If you choose to make your own solution, do not add honey as it ferments very rapidly and can be fatal to the birds. Also the addition of red food coloring is not necessary, they will find the food without it.
Maintenance of Feeder:
Sugar and water mixed together will ferment – not good for the birds – which limits it’s usability, this can happen very quickly during hot summer months.
Therefore, when temperatures range between 60-85 degrees – or higher – the mixture really should be changed about every three days, of course if you happen to have a few Hummingbirds visiting your outdoor diner then you will be refilling about this amount of time anyway. If you should notice any cloudiness in the mixture change it right away.
Before refilling feeder be sure to thoroughly clean the feeder with warm soapy water and rinse very thoroughly. This is where having a feeder that comes apart easily is important.
Attracting these wonderful little birds is not only entertaining it’s also beneficial as they also eat insects.
Plant some Bee Balm, hang a container filled with a beautiful Fuchsia plant and last but not least put up a feeder.  You’ll find that having your peaceful afternoon snooze on the porch interrupted is worth it.
If you would like to learn more about the Hummingbird the following web site are filled with lots of great information.
· The Hummingbird Society - www.hummingbirdsociety.org

· The Hummingbird Web Site - www.portalproductions.com
This is a share ware article. Give this article away for free on your site, or include it as part of any paid package as long as the entire article is left intact including this notice.   Copyright © 2005 bonnie carrier.
Bonnie P. Carrier is the creator of Savvy Home Decorating & Savvy Outdoor Decorating.  She is the mother to two grown daughters and a very spoiled 4yr old Blue Merle Sheltie named Toby. Stop by for information and ideas for both inside and outside your home.


Source: http://www.PopularArticles.com/article13180.html

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Learning about Hummingbirds

Learning about Hummingbirds
by Brian Ramsey

Hummingbirds are a joy for a birdwatcher to observe. They are
found only in the Western Hemisphere, from as far north as
Southeastern Alaska and the Maritimes of Canada and as far south
as Southern Chile. There are approximately 350 species of
hummingbirds with 320 species found in the tropics. Within the
family of hummingbirds is found the smallest bird in the world,
the Bee Hummingbird of Cuba at 2.17 inches (5.5 cm) and weight
1.95gm (0.07 oz). Hummingbirds range in size from 2 inches to 8

The hummingbird derives its name from the humming sound that is
produced by its rapid wingbeat. Generally the wingbeat is so
rapid that the individual only sees a blur as most of these
birds flap their wings about 50 times per second. The speed of
the wingbeat depends on the size of the bird, the largest the
Giant Hummingbird, has a wingbeat rate of 10-15 times per
second. The fastest recorded rate was about 80 times per second,
on a tiny Amethyst Woodstar, and the slightly smaller Bee
Hummingbird - the world's smallest bird - may have an even
faster rate. A hummingbird's wing is flexible at the shoulder,
but inflexible at the wrist, this enables them to fly in many
different directions. They can fly right, left, up, down,
backwards and even upside down. To move away from the flowers on
which they feed hummingbirds fly backwards and are the only bird
able to fly backwards. While other birds get their flight power
from the downstroke only, hummingbirds also have strength on the
up-stroke. Though they fly very fast, they can suddenly stop and
make a soft landing. They are so light they do not build up much
momentum. Hummingbirds have poorly developed feet, so that
although they are able to perch and will do so when feeding or
resting, they do not walk. In order to move, even along a
branch, they fly. Hummingbirds lift from perches without pushing
off; they rise entirely on their own power, flapping their wings
at almost full speed before lifting off. Hummingbirds sleep
perched on branches with their neck retracted and their head
forward, the bill pointed up at a sharp angle, and the feathers

It is believed that hummingbirds live for only 3 to 4 years.
They have a fast heartbeat with a rate of 1260 beats per minute
having been measured in a Blue-throated Hummingbird. In torpid
hummingbirds, the heart rate can drop to 50-180 per minute.
Their fast heart rate and rapid wing motion require them to feed
regularly throughout the day. It is reported that they must feed
every 10 minutes and they may consume 2/3 of their body weight
in a single day. A major part of a hummingbird's diet is the
nectar they obtain from flowers and their bills are perfectly
adapted to the various types of flowers that they feed on. Some
hummingbirds have especially curved or elongated bills that
allow them to feed on special flowers, eg the White-tipped
Sicklebill hummingbird who'se downward curving bill allows it to
draw nectar from heliconias. Copper-rumped Hummingbird has a straight
long bill that allows it to feed on medium sized tube shaped
flowers such as the allamanda. In feeding, hummingbirds use
their tongue to lap the nectar in a similar manner to cats
lapping milk. Their tongue can extend a distance equal to their
beak length. As they feed hummingbirds accidentally collect
pollen and as they move from flower to flower, they help the
flowers to reproduce.

Hummingbirds have little or no sense of smell, so colour is
important to a hummingbird's search process for locating flowers
containing nectar. While they will visit any flower that has
sufficient nectar they prefer flowers that are red to orange in
colour. It is believed that there are several reasons for this
colour preference. Red flowers standout in a green
background and so are more easily seen by the hummingbird. It is
also believed that because hummingbirds compete with insects for
nectar they choose flowers that are less likely to be visited by
insects. Most insects do not see well at the red end of the
colour spectrum and so may not visit red flowers while
hummingbirds see the full visible spectrum.

Hummingbirds also need protein in order to build muscles, so
they eat insects. They prefer to feed on small spiders and
slow-flying insects such as gnats, small wasps and leafhoppers,
which are rather buoyant in air and easy to catch. They also
probe the bark and foliage for insects such as aphids, spiders,
caterpillars and insect eggs. It is believed that up to one-half
of their diet is made up of small insects. Hummingbirds are
capable of living for extended periods without nectar as a
component of their diet. They can quickly convert fat reserves
and recently ingested insects to energy when deprived of nectar.
Hummingbirds compete for nectar and insects and so they develop
territories, which they guard aggressively. They will fight with
other hummingbirds that enter their territory but serious harm
is seldom inflicted during these fights. Also when food sources
are scarce they fight to protect their source.

Most hummingbirds are green except hermits, which are mainly
brown, and are known for the iridescence. These brilliant,
iridescent colors of the hummingbird plumage are caused by the
refraction of incident light by the structures of certain
feathers. These structures split light into its component
colors, and only certain frequencies are refracted back to the
viewer. The brown colour in some hummingbirds is the result
however of pigmentation. Hummingbirds groom themselves with
their bills and claws, using oil from a gland near their tail.
They also use their claws like a comb to groom their heads and
necks. They sunbathe positioning their breast towards the sun
and fluffing out, extending their neck and spreading their tail.
Hummingbirds also take water baths using the water in shallow
pools or cupped leaves. They flutter their wings or pull them
straight back while lifting and spreading their tail; they dip
their chins and bellies into the water. At times they can be
seen sitting on a bare branch allowing the rain to soak through
to their skin. After bathing they will preen and dry their

Hummingbirds build cup shaped nests, however hermits build long
hanging nests usually attached to foliage. Male hummingbirds do
not contribute to the building of nests or the care of young.
All feeding is therefore left to the female. When feeding the
female perches on the side of the nest, arches her back,
stretches her neck, lifts her head, and holds her bill down to
regurgitate nectar and half-digested insects to her babies. Her
throat swells and she pumps her beak like a sewing needle.

Although various larger birds, snakes, and mammals raid
hummingbird nests for eggs and chicks, this is not a major cause
of death.

Source: http://www.PopularArticles.com/article1768.html

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tough Question for you Birders out there.

Tell me the one bird that you don't care if you ever see again. I don't mean that you would want them to become extinct or anything like that. But, what bird would you not mind if you ever saw again. Think about it and let me know what bird and why. I know there will be some votes for Starlings and maybe Vultures but I can't honestly say that I wouldn't want to see them ever again. I happen to think that Turkey Vultures are beautiful! Well, maybe a little homely in the face, but the feathers are beautiful!

This question came to mind because I'm always saying that a bird (whatever kind) is one of my favorites or beautiful. Surely they can't all be beautiful! I'm just curious.

Outdoor Bird Houses--What Birds They Can Attract into Your Yard

Outdoor Bird Houses--What Birds They Can Attract into Your Yard
by Mary Fesio

The American Robin is the largest thrush.  Robins prefer to build their nest in the crotch of a tree.  You can offer a nesting platform if you don’t have an appropriate tree.  You should pick a spot that is, at least, six feet above the ground on a shaded tree trunk or under the overhang of a shed or porch.  A created mud puddle in the vicinity, also, offers additional enticement, as robins use mud to hold their nests together.

 Bluebirds can be attracted by putting up a bluebird house near an old field,  golf course, park or orchard.   The most consideration must be given to the hole diameter.  A hole that is an inch and a half in diameter is small enough to deter starlings, which along with house sparrows, are known to kill bluebirds while sitting on the nest.  Other animals are problematic to bluebirds, also.  Cats, snakes, chipmunks and raccoons can be discouraged from bluebird nests by mounting the bluebird home on a metal pole or by using a metal predator guard on a wood post.

 Purple Martins are a welcomed bird in many a yard because they are known to eat nearly 2,000 mosquitoes a day.  While it is true purple martins eat flying insects, don’t expect them to eliminate all the mosquitoes in your yard.  The martins prefer dragonflies which prey on the larvae of mosquitoes.  If you want to rid your yard of mosquitoes, you would have better luck if you put up a bat roosting box.  One bat can eat thousands of mosquitoes in one night.

 Martins, however, are entertaining birds.  You will enjoy watching their antics in your yard.  The best way of attracting martins is if you put a house on the edge of a river or pond, surrounded by a lawn or field.  A nearby telephone wire gives them a place to congregate, as martins are sociable birds.  

 Purple martins, being sociable birds, nest in groups, also.  Therefore, you will need a house with a minimum of four large rooms, six or more inches on all sides, with a 2 ½ inch entrance hole about 1 ½ inches above the floor.  Drainage and ventilation are major factors in the design of a martin house.  Porches with porch dividers, railings and supplemental roof perches like a TV antenna make any house more appealing.

 Houses can, also, be constructed from gourds by fashioning an entrance hole and small holes at the bottom to permit drainage.  If you make homes from gourds, it is not necessary to add railings and perches because adult martins will perch on the wire used to hang the house.  Before you choose a house, you must think about what kind of pole you are going to put it on.  Martins like their houses to be ten to twenty feet off the ground.  Some poles are less cumbersome than others.

 Wrens are not very choosy about their nesting place.  Nest boxes with a 1 inch X 2 inch horizontal slot are enticing to the wrens.  The Carolina wren requires a slot a little larger, 1 ½ in X 2 ½ inches.  However, the large the opening, the better the chances that house sparrows will occupy the box.  Wrens are known to fill the nest cavity with twigs, regardless of the fact they use the home to raise their young or not.  Since male wrens build several houses so that the female can have her choice of a home, you should hang several nest boxes at eye level on tree limbs that are partly sunlit.  Wrens are sociable.  Consequently, they will not shy away from a nest close to your house.

 Brown creepers and Prothonotary warblers like nesting behind the curved bark of tree trunks.  Slab bark houses appeal to creepers in heavily wooded yards.  Prothonotary warblers, also, prefer slab bark houses or bluebird boxes attached to a tree trunk.  But their houses must be place over water such as a like, swamp or river with a good canopy of trees overhead.

 Chickadees, Nuthatches and Titmice share the same habitat—feeders and food.  If you put a properly designed nest box in a wooded yard, at least one of these species is bound to check it out.  Chickadee houses should be placed at eye level.  They can be secured to tree trunks or hung from tree limbs.  The entrance h ole should be 1 1/8 inches in order to attract chickadees and exclude house sparrows.  Nuthatch houses should be anchored five to six feet off the ground.

 Barn Swallows and Phoebes are easy to attract if you have the right habitat like an old shed or open barn.  Their nesting behavior, not their song or plumage, which at will catch your attention.  But they tend to nest where you rather not have them — on a ledge directly over your front door.  You can offer them a nesting shelf near the front door to prevent a mess right at the door.

 Violet green and Tree Swallows prefer nest boxes attached to dead trees.  You should place the boxes about seven feet apart for these birds with white bellies and iridescent blue-green backs and wings.  These insect-eating birds like to be on the edge of a large field that has a river or lake nearby.

 Violet-green swallows, generally, nest in the forested mountains of the West.  Boxes placed on large trees in a semi-open woodland will tend to attract them. Woodpeckers of all types can be attracted with a suet feeder.  But, only, the flicker is likely to use a bird house.  They prefer a box with a roughened interior and a floor covered with two inches of layered wood chips or sawdust.  Flickers are, especially, fond of nest boxes filled with sawdust because they pile it up to suit themselves.  The box should be placed high up on a tree trunk, exposed to direct sunlight for best results.

 Flycatchers—the great crested and its western cousin, the ash-throated flycatcher, are commonly, found in rural areas that have wooded lots and in wooded suburbs.  They use abandoned woodpecker holes for nesting sites.  Flycatchers tend to nest in a bird house if it is placed ten feet high in a tree in an orchard or at the edge of a field with a stream.  

 Owls very rarely build their own nests.  Great-horned and long-eared owls like abandoned crow and hawk nests.   Most other species nest in tree cavities and bird houses.  Barn owls like selecting nesting sites near farms.  These birds will nest in barns, silos and church steeples where trees are sparse.  You can try fastening a nest box for owls about fifteen feet up on a tree trunk if you live near a golf course or farm.

 Screech owls prefer abandoned woodpecker holes at the edge of a neglected orchard or field.  They will love boxes lined with an inch or two of wood shavings.  You may attract a second tenant in one season—a kestrel, if you clean out the box in late spring after the young owls have fledged.

 You need to provide drainage, ventilation and easy access for monitoring and maintenance for the boxes.  A mixture of concrete and sawdust offers protection other houses cannot provide—squirrels cannot chew their way in.

Source: http://www.PopularArticles.com/article201475.html

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Birds, Birdwatching, And What To Feed Them

Birds, Birdwatching, And What To Feed Them
Birds. Alfred Hitchcock did his best to scare the heck out of us in regard to our fine feathered friends but birds are still about the safest of all animals to be around. Even the least attractive bird has a beauty to it. Maybe that's why so many people take up bird watching.

If you're thinking that the only thing involved with bird watching is going outside, making your way to a park and opening your eyes then you need to think again. Bird watching can actually be very involved. There are many techniques bird watchers use to just get the birds to come.

Starting with feeding.

What is it that birds want? Well, if you're trying to attract birds in the winter time to stare at from the confines of your nice warm home, the first thing you need to know is that most birds you will see in the winter are seed eating birds. So if you have a bird feeder in your backyard then what you simply want to do is make sure it is supplied with seeds and water. Do this regularly and eventually the birds will know that this is a consistent source of food and will come back regularly. Assuming that your bird feeder is close to a window you can get a, forgive the pun, bird's eye view of your dinner guests.

The best seeds to provide for your dinner guests are sunflower seeds. These seeds attract cardinals, woodpeckers, blue jays, goldfinches, purple finches, chickadees, titmice, and nuthatches.

Another really good seed is niger. Goldfinches absolutely love niger You can easily have as many as a dozen goldfinches visiting your feeder at one time. However, be forewarned, niger is very expensive. How expensive? Over $1 a pound expensive. So you want to be very careful with niger and don't waste it. The best thing to do is buy a hanging tube with tiny holes designed especially for it. Then hang it where you can see it from your window with the best view.

Another great seed to buy is safflower. This is a white seed that is smaller than a black sunflower seed. What's great about this seed is that squirrels won't touch it, which leaves more for the birds. These seeds are great for cardinals, titmice, chickadees, and downy woodpeckers.

White millet is another important seed to get for your feathered friends. This is a very cheap seed and you can scatter it on the ground for sparrows, juncos, and mourning doves. You can get a 50 pound bag of these for close to nothing. Very, very cheap seeds.

One thing you should never buy is bags of mixed birdseed. The reason is that there are going to be seeds in the bag that some birds will eat and some won't. Ultimately, because a bird will stumble upon a seed it doesn't like, the bird will fly away. In the end, all the birds will fly away and not come back. So stick to a seed that you want to use to attract the bird you're looking for.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Tornado in MN.

I normally post birds or about birds but I saw this video of a tornado and had to post it. As I understand the family pet was killed but all others made it through the tornado.

Monday, July 12, 2010

"So You Thought You Couldn't Cut It; A beginner's guide to woodcarving" August 2011 update

I am very excited to tell you that I have agreed to do the Photo illustrations for Jim Calder's and Jen Coate's new book, "So You Thought You Couldn't Cut It; A beginner's guide to woodcarving". I am proud and humbled to be asked to contribute to this collaboration of such talented artists.

Jim Calder is a world renowned master carver and has been profiled on "ABC's World News Tonight" and "Master Carver" magazine. Jen Coate has just won First Place in the Schizophrenic Writer's “Speaking of Getting Paid for Writing” contest.

Bobbi Carducci, Founder/Director of the Young Voices Foundation has brought Jim and Jen together to collaborate on the wood carving book for children and kids at heart!

This morning we met to discuss the business details of the book. But a full scale teaching lesson broke out! Bobbi supplied Sweet Potato's and Jim supplied his talent and skill. Within an hour "I" had carved a Viking from the sweet potato! Jim really made the whole thing easy... really! I must say that I have a lot of practicing to do but his method of teaching really gives you the confidence to cut it up!

Above: Bobbi Carducci, Jen Coate and Jim Calder. The orange sweet potato lower right is my first attempt at carving... not bad huh?
Tomorrow, we begin shooting for the book. It should be fun but challenging. Lots of macro work for me and the lighting will be a tough thing to set up. I'll try to keep updating this entry to show the progress of the project.

Tuesday July 13, 2010:

Well, shooting began a little after 10:00am this morning. As I said yesterday, it was a challenge with the lighting but I think after a couple of hundred shots we've got some keepers! And the best thing is that with the lesson from yesterday, I could actually follow what Jim was doing! I know I've said this before but it really does pay off to do some homework before a shoot. I am so glad that Jim worked with us yesterday, teaching us before we attempted to do anything for the book. It really made a BIG difference for today's shoot!

Here's a few of the photos from today, I don't know if they will make the book but you can see some of the carving process:

Sketching the carving. (click on any photo to enlarge)

Pencil marks for my benefit.

The face is taking shape

Almost complete!

Thursday July 15, 2010
Tonight Jim held a class for children on how to carve a sweet potato. 11 kids and their parents took part in the class. From a photographers stand point, it was really difficult to shoot. I have always found it hard to shoot children. I can't seem to anticipate what they are going to do and when they will do it! Very unpredictable! But, as always, the smiles are genuine, and all the kids were fantastic photo ops!  I just had a hard time getting to the right angle at the right time to capture that BIG smile when they saw what they were creating! Here are a few shots from last night's class.

Jim started the class by showing what the kids were going to create.

Admiring her work!

The Kids were very serious learners!

The new carvers display their works of art!

I didn't post a lot of the pictures from the class. You'll have to buy the book for that! I can tell you that everybody had fun and learned a new skill!

Saturday July 24, 2010
Most of my work is done. I took about 800 photos all told. The next step is for Jim and Jen. They have the hard part of laying out the book. I'm not sure how long this will take but I'm really excited to see what they come up with. Once they have chosen the photos for the book I will then have to make them print ready. That will take some time to complete. The book will be mostly pictures showing the work flow on how to create the face both on a sweet potato and on wood. Then some pictures of Jim's work, for a little inspiration of what you can do with a LOT of practice!

The Young Voices Foundation was established as a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational charity to help finance our outreach to young writers.

Facebook Fan page

Follow Bobbi on Twitter: @bobbicarducci

Jim Calder, The Wizzard of Wood

To Order: "So You Thought You Couldn't Cut It; A beginner's guide to woodcarving"

August 30, 2011 Update
The book is finally in print! After more than a year after we first started the first shipment of books arrived today!
If you've ever wanted to carve the is the book for you. Step by step instructions from the Master Wood Carver... Jim Calder! It was such a pleasure to work with such talented people. I was happy to add a little something to the book!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

My take on the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill:

I've been watching the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations hearing with BP CEO, Tony Hayward on C-SPAN.

First let me state that I have no political affiliation or agenda. I'm just a normal Joe who is tired of all this mess. I think that most people in Washington are really missing the mark. I've spent the last 2 hours listening to our lawmakers on their soapboxes slamming BP with no retort.

Hear me out, I'm not defending BP. They are to blame for this disaster. But I think our representatives and WE are again missing the REAL problem. Don't they remember Exxon? We are always looking to blame someone but, I think, if you really look at this for what it is, WE are to blame.

The root of the problem is really OUR unending thirst for oil and its by-products. BP, EXXON, SHELL and all the other Oil companies are only trying to profit from our insatiable need for oil.

This disaster would have happened even if BP was not drilling. Some other company would be drilling and would try to cut costs in any way they could. The real root of the problem is US. We demand fuels. As long as that demand exists there will be a company that is willing to do whatever it takes to bring that product to market.

Do you think that all the wildlife that are being killed are blaming BP? NO, they are being killed by Humans. We all have to take a little credit for this disaster. Each one of us are contributing to this vicious cycle of selfishness and greed.

So what should I do? Boycott BP? That will do nothing. Remember EXXON? They seem to be doing fine. The only thing I can see that will help end this craziness is to reduce MY requirements of oil and oil products. To use the cleche' : reduce my carbon footprint. Where there is no demand there is no product. I'm not naive enough to believe that this will solve the problem but if we all reduce just a little bit, maybe it will have a little impact. I seem to remember that the U.S. had a population of a little over 307 million as of 2009. If we each can reduce our fuel requirements by one barrel (42 gallons) a year, that would really hit the oil companies where it hurts! 42 gallons (if I can make that leap) is maybe two fill-ups. Combine chores, take mass transit one day a week. It doesn't seem that difficult to save a little on our use of gas.

Since the economy has really hit me hard, I have no money to give to help the effort to try to clean up this mess. I can't travel to the Gulf Coast to volunteer with the clean-up. The only thing I can do is try to reduce my use of fossil fuels and energy in general. It's the least I can do,  to a least try....

Here's a GREAT video from twitter! Very hard to watch but still great!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Hand Feeding a Tufted Titmouse

I got such a nice response from my 'Hand Fed Titmouse' photo that I posted on Twitter I thought I'd give you more information on how the photo came about.

I know that you probably will not believe half of what I'm going to write but, I assure you that it all is true and not enhanced to make a better story.

Ok, here's how it went...
I had, for years, tried to get a Chickadee to eat from my hand. I tried everything, I even made a 'dummy' using an old shirt with a glove that contained seed to entice the little buggers. Nothing seemed to work. I would stand on my deck with upraised palms full of seed for hours to entice them to eat. No luck. Not even close. I have seen many pictures on the internet of Chickadees eating out of peoples hands but couldn't get any interest out of the Chickadees in my backyard. I soon gave up.

One morning last year, I went out to my deck to have my morning smoke.. I know.. a nasty habit but that's what I was doing. A Titmouse landed on the deck railing about 3 feet from me hollering like crazy. It was looking directly at me raising a fit!

I normally refill my feeders in the morning because the Raccoons empty them out at night. On this morning, I didn't refill the feeders first thing. So, I figured that the little Titmouse was miffed that I had neglected them! I went straight inside and got the seed to refill the feeders. I no sooner filled the feeder when the Titmouse was there feasting away on the new seed. I could walk right up to the feeder and he didn't mind at all. I could almost reach out and touch him!

The next day the same thing happened. That started me to think that I may have a chance to hand feed this boisterous little bird.

On the third day, I went out to the deck in the morning and the same thing played out. This pushy little Titmouse landed about 3 feet from me and was yelling his head off and looking directly at me. I thought to myself that this was the morning I'd see if it would take seed from my hand. I went back inside and grabbed a handful of sunflower seeds and went back out to the deck. I placed my hand, full of sunflower seeds, palm up, with the back of my hand resting on the rail. I could see that it wanted to get the seed but it still was hesitant to grab the seed from my hand. After a few false starts he jumped onto my finger and grabbed a seed and then flew off like a flash! VERY COOL! He came two more times to get seed and I was delighted that a WILD bird was eating out of my hand. Albeit, resting on the rail.

The next morning I decided to see if I could raise my hand off of the railing and have him really eating out of my hand. Well, to my surprise, he did. Again, it took a couple of false starts before he landed on my outstretched hand! Very, Very, cool!

Ok, now here's the part I know you will not believe but it really did happen. I'm not making this up and not hallucinating! I know, I did the blog on remembering the 60's and 70's, but this really did happen.

The next morning I got out of bed and went into the bathroom. My bathroom is on the second floor right above the deck where I'd been feeding the Titmouse. I did my normal routine (no details). I got out of the shower and went to the sink to shave. While I was shaving I noticed a flutter out of the corner of my eye (in the mirror). Since I didn't have my glasses on I figured it was just the old 'morning vision' playing with me. Then I saw it again. This time I turned around and looked out of the window that faces the deck. There was the Titmouse 'hovering' outside of my window looking in! I am not going crazy, this REALLY HAPPENED! It was chirping like crazy and hovering just outside the window. I WAS FLOORED!

I quickly finished shaving and ran downstairs and grabbed some sunflower seed and hit the deck. He came almost instantly to my hand and had his feast! It was just INCREDIBLE!

I hand fed my little buddy for about a month. I could tell him from all the other Titmice because he had a black smudge on his cheek. Plus, he was the only one bold enough to eat out of my hand!

I never have seen him again but I've kept looking. I only hope he is alive and well but I know the mortality rate of birds. I loved every second of feeding that little guy. I know he was only there for the easy food source but I still feel a little Male bonding was going on!

Anyway, That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

Here's a few photo's of me and my little buddy:

To see larger photos go to my web site:

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Funny Stuff

Found this video on youtube.  This bird really loves Ray Charles! Frostie the Cockatoo dancing to "Shake your tailfeather"

Monday, April 12, 2010

5 sure fire tips for better Bird photography

Being There
I know this is stating the obvious but if you aren't there, you can't get the shot.... profound! Let me expand on that before you click away from me! Most people that look at my photos say "you must be outside a lot" or "you must have a lot of patience". Well, yes to both statements! Although I call it laziness rather than patience.

I spend a lot of time outside, even in my own backyard. If you are inside watching TV you won't get very many pictures of birds!

The other things that go into being "there" is to be aware of what is around you. This can be anywhere you go. I got a nice picture of a Red-shouldered Hawk while waiting in the parking lot at the mall. I got a Bald Eagle on my way to the gas station. I take my camera with me everywhere I go!

Be Ready
Always have fully charged batteries and a freshly formatted CF or Sans disk. Again, another obvious tip but overlooked by most casual photographers. And, take your camera everywhere! How many times have you said to yourself "I wish I had my camera". If we could predict when there will be a photo op then everybody would be a professional photographer! The key to getting great photos is to do your prep work. Then, when you see that Pileated Woodpecker in the tree 30 feet away, you just need to click!

Use a tripod
This is the one tip that I will always put in any "tips list" I make about photography. It is especially important with bird photography since most of the time you will probably be using the longest/heaviest lens in your bag. My camera is very rarely off a tripod or monopod.

I've heard of and seen many photos that where taken by hand-holding a camera. Most have been great photos and the photographers are very pleased and proud to tell me they were handheld shots. As well they should be! But most people don't share the missed/blurry shots and boast that they handheld for this blur!

I know my limitations and would not go out in the field without a tripod or monopod. I would rather miss a shot entirely than to have a blurry reminder of what might have been! The other benefit of a tripod; you don't have to carry that heavy camera/lens all day long! I will normally find a promising spot, set up the tripod and just wait for the birds to show up. The tripod is doing the heavy lifting and I'm enjoying the surroundings! My tripod adds about 3lbs. to my carrying load. About the same as a few bottles of water. Not a very high price to pay in my opinion.

Take lots of shots
I think most people that look at my photos think that I only take one shot and that's the one that they are buying/looking at. Far from the truth! I take at least 6 shots of each subject at a time. Rapid fire is my friend! It does make it boring when going through a days shooting but I like having the odds on my side. On a good day my 'keeper' ratio is maybe 1:75. Really, the more the better! You will become more critical and not want to save as many photos as you gain experience.

Get Close
Just as in Real Estate, Location, Location, Location! The closer the better! I have a 500mm lens and I thought that would be enough to get the shots I wanted. Well, it did get me closer but not with the clarity I was striving for. I have that 500mm lens on the camera most of the time and still use blinds to get as close a possible. I don't think I've ever said that I was too close to a bird. I try to get so close that I have to adjust my lens or position to be able to focus. Try to fill that frame with nothing but bird! You'll love the results!

I hope these tips have helped you a bit. I know they are pretty basic but you must start with the basics to get a good base line to start with. Just remember to Be There, Be Ready, Use a tripod, Take Lots of shots and GET CLOSE!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Northern Flicker Nest

I watched a Northern Flicker working on a dead tree in my front yard for about an hour and a half today. I am hoping that it will complete the nest and I'll get to see some youngsters! The tree is about 50 feet from my computer room (on the second floor of my house). The nest cavity is a little above eye level from that window.

 In the picture above you can see the wood chips it was scooping out of the cavity. This cavity faces almost exactly west. Lots of afternoon sun! The only thing I'm concerned about is that Crows and Hawks like to perch in the tree right next to this one. I hope they nest there but I'm afraid they will abandon it. I'll just have to see how this plays out. For now I'm just enjoying watching the work!

Check back here to keep an eye on the progress of the nest. I'll try to post pictures everyday but that will depend on a lot of things that are out of my control. At any rate I'll be posting more.....

Sunday April 11, 2010
Ok, I've got good news and bad news.
The good news is that the Flicker is still working on the tree. The even better news is that today it's the female. It's the first time I've seen her there! Although I've only been watching the nest since yesterday! I'm almost ready to call it a nest for sure!

The bad news is the lighting. I'm looking almost directly into the morning sun. That will make getting photos very difficult in the morning. I'm hoping that when the sun gets higher in the sky it will shine on the nest for most of the afternoon.

I've removed the screen on the window of my computer room and will have a perfect line of site to the cavity. It also allows me to be about 20 feet closer and 10 feet higher. Should be perfect! I'm going to try to get some flash units out there to help with the lighting conditions. I don't know how well that will work but it's worth the effort!

Here's some pictures from this morning of the Female at the cavity. As I said, the lighting conditions were tough so I did a little fooling around with Photoshop to try to get them a little clearer.

You can see her tongue in the photo below:

Both Flickers have been working on the nest all day. I've mostly seen the Female but the male was working a little also. I can see that this is going to disrupt a lot of things I really should be doing! I didn't want to scare them off today so I'll just have to find another time to mow the lawn! Hmmmm, do I have the right priorities? Yep!

Here's a couple of photos from this afternoon. I used a 1.4x converter to get a little closer. I don't really like to use the converter but this is a more controlled and consistent subject so I get a little more time to get things set right! Below are the shots, both of the female:

Monday April 12, 2010
Not much to report today as I was out all day and didn't get home until after sunset. I did see the male this morning, perched in an adjacent tree. I've done a little research on the internet and will share the information with you. I did a cut-n-paste from other web sites which I give credit and links to for further reading if you are so inclined:

"Nest Sites and Shelter
Northern flickers excavate nest sites in dead or dying trees, aging utility poles, fence posts, and house siding. They will also use specially designed nest boxes.

The birds use their stout beaks to chisel down 6-18 inches, making a wide bottom for the egg chamber.

Nest holes may be started but never completed, possibly due to poor location or quality of the wood. Occasionally flickers will re-use a nest hole after doing some minor work to it.

Both male and female flickers excavate the nest, the male doing substantially more than the female. Complete excavation may take only a few days in soft wood, but averages 14 days.

Eggs are laid on wood chips created during excavation of the nest.
The breeding season for Northern flickers is from March to June, with young leaving the nest as late as mid-July.
Both male and female flickers incubate the 5 to 8 eggs for about 11 days, then brood the newly hatched young for about 4 days.

Both sexes feed the young, which leave the nest after 24 to 27 days.

The parents continue to feed the young once they fledge, and soon the young begin to follow the adults to foraging sites and gather their own food.

Individual flickers return to the same area to breed year after year. " ~ Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Tuesday April 13, 2010
This morning I didn't see any activity at the nest but the Female was perched in the adjacent tree keeping watch over the nest (I guess).

This evening when I returned home there was still no activity at the cavity but the male was watching over the nest. I guess the construction has been completed (I hope so anyway!)

Here's a shot I really like for some reason. It's a silhouette of the male keeping watch over his home!

Wednesday April 14, 2010
I'm going to call it a nest! I just got home and checked out the tree. The male (I think) was sitting in the opening. Unfortunately, it was too dark to get any photos. But I think the fact that it was in the hole tells me that it's going to be their nest. Either the male or female have been there or perched in the tree somewhere for the last two days.  If they are successful, I hope to see some youngsters. I probably won't be able to see them until they are about ready to fledge but I'll keep watching! If all goes well it should be about a month.

Saturday April 17, 2010
Work continues on the nest. I've only seen the male working on the nest today. He was working most of the day on digging out the nest cavity. He would go into the nest and grab some wood chips and drop them out of the nest. As seen in the drawing above he appears to be digging down in the trunk of the thee. It must be getting pretty deep in there as I cannot see any movement in hole after he goes in. I can see his tail feathers occasionally while he is digging out the bottom of the nest. Here is a shot of the male with a mouth full of wood chips he is about to drop out of the nest cavity.

He then drops the wood chips out of the nest. The picture below shows the wood chips falling from the tree.

If anyone can identify the tree I would be greatly thankful! I'm not the best a tree identification but would love to know what this tree is/was.

I've also entered this nest into Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Nest Watch program. If you have seen any nesting activity in your area, you might want to enter the information into this database. The more data the better! They are at http://watch.birds.cornell.edu/nest/home/index

You can also follow them on twitter at: @NestWatch

Saturday May 01, 2010
Not much to report on for the last few days. I haven't seen (but have heard) the Flickers. I'm hoping this is a good sign as they may be deep in the nest cavity. But I sure would like to see one of them somewhere around the nest cavity! I'll keep looking and hoping!

Monday May 10, 2010
Well, I haven't seen any Flickers at the nest cavity for the last 9 days. I think they may have abandoned it! I'll keep watching but my fears of them abandoning it may be coming true. Bummer! I still have a little hope though... why, I don't know!

Sunday May 23, 2010
Fantastic NEWS!
I've been watching the Flickers nest cavity for any activity for the last three weeks without seeing any activity. I was almost going to declare the nest abandoned but, kept hoping!

Well, today when I got home I saw the male and female at the nest! The most activity I've seen in three weeks! I guess things are happening deep in the cavity where I can't see. Here's a few shots from this evening. First one is the female flying out with the male keeping guard.

the next photo is mom and dad in the adjacent tree

Mom in the nest

Mom at the entrance of the nest cavity

I am very happy to see that they didn't abandon the nest! I'll try to keep posting picutres of the progress!

Larger versions of most photos can be seen on my web site in the Flicker Gallery:

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Do as I say, Not as I do!

First off, let me thank the patient and very nice people at Ampcus and the entire Ampcus Metro Tigers team for a great time on Sunday! The weather couldn't have been better and you couldn't have been more welcoming. THANK YOU ALL!

Having said that, I owe you all a big apology! I should have done my HOMEWORK!

When I was asked to take pictures at a Cricket game (or is it a match?), I jumped at the offer. I didn't know the first thing about Cricket but I did know it was a sport and I've always heard it was a lot like baseball. Here's the kicker, I always preach, "DO YOUR HOMEWORK BEFORE YOU TRY TO SHOOT ANYTHING". I didn't do this for my Sunday shoot. I figured, it was "a lot like baseball" so how hard could it be to figure out where to stand for the best angles of the action. I learned very quickly that I was WAY out of my comfort zone on this shoot!

First off, when someone tells you that Cricket is a lot like baseball, look them straight in the eyes and give them one, quick, slap in the face while saying, "Are you on drugs?". Just kidding, but the only similar thing I saw was, a ball and a bat (not even shaped the same way).

When I arrived at the field I saw 'my team' out warming up in the middle of the field. I quickly went out to say my good mornings and announce I was ready to shoot. We took a team photo and they went back to warming up. I was making sure all my camera settings where set and started to scout out the perfect angles for the shoot. I checked the angle of the sun, the backgrounds and looked for any annoying structures to try to avoid. OK, now I was set for the days shooting. I ploped myself down just outside a blue line painted on the grass just about a three quarters angle to the main 'deck' (where the pitcher and batter stood). PERFECT spot! Beautiful dark green background with no other structures or annoying objects. I began clicking away at the team warming up. It was great! I was sure to capture all the action from this vantage point!

About 5 minutes before the scheduled start of the game (or is it match? I still don't know) the manager of the Metro Tigers came over and told me that they were going to be the ballers or maybe he said bowlers. I said, "OK", not knowing what that meant. He then informed me that I needed to be on the outside of the cones.

I had noticed a man had come by earlier placing cones about 10 feet behind me in a big circle around the entire field. I said, "OK" and moved my camera bag behind the big circle made by the cones. I'd be about 10 feet further away from the action but I brought the big lens so it was not that big of deal. He then politely said, "No, behind those cones", pointing to another set of cones that were set up about 50 yards farther back. I sheepishly said, "Oh". I knew I was not in Kansas (make that Virginia) anymore. Way out of my comfort zone now!

The Tigers took the field, 11 of them I think. In a huge circle around that main deck in the center. Then a few more people from the other team came out with the bats and I guess the game was on. I won't try to go into too much depth of the game (because I can't) but I saw the pitcher and the batter so I started shooting that interaction.  The pitcher would throw the ball and the batter would try to hit it. The fielders would catch the ball and throw it back to the center. Every now and then the batters would run from one side of the center deck to the other. I had no idea of what was going on! This went on for over an hour and a half.

Then, all the players ran off the field and sat on picnic tables that were scattered around the field. I walked over to where the Tigers were sitting on the table, drinking water and talking about the game. They saw me walking up and started asking me if I got any good shots. I said, I think so, but I didn't know what I was shooting. The manager said that they were not playing well and they where down by 123 runs! 123 runs???? Where was I when all these runs were scored. Did I get a picture of a run being scored? MAN, I wish I had done my homework!

Anyway, the next time they went out on the field they were the batters. This went on for about another hour. I took pictures of them batting from the opposite side of the field. I wasn't very happy with the background or back lighting but what can you do? A great cheer went up and the two teams went to the center of the field and shook hands. The game appeared to be over. I went out to the celebration and was informed that the Tigers had won! Was this a great comeback? Or is that the way it goes? I have no idea.

Let this be a lesson, Do as I say, Not as I do! I can't help but feel I let the team down. I didn't do my homework. I know I missed lots of shots because I had no idea of what I was shooting. The rest of this week I'm going to study up on Cricket! The next time I shoot at a Cricket match (or is it called a game?) I'm going to get a shot of a run being scored!

As I said, everyone was very nice and welcoming. They seem to like the shots that I got but I can't help but feel I could have done so much better if I would have known what was going on!

If you would like to see what I shot, here's the link to the gallery. I can only get better! And I WILL practice what I preach from now on!!!!!


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Kid-Vention - Charlottesville, Virginia

About three years ago my sister (@suewalls1 on twitter)and myself (@dwmaiden) decided to collaborate on a wildlife book series for children. She was the writer and I was the photographer. We wanted to expose children to the wonders of the fascinating world of animals around us as well as encourage the beginning reader.

The project had three goals.
1)expose children to wildlife & nature all around them
2)help the beginning reader
3)teach kids reading and learning can be fun!

As a result we have completed A-Child's-Book series.

This morning, armed with our book series we traveled down to Charlottesville, Virginia for the Kid-Vention day. It was an event sponsored by the Virginia Discovery Museum - a hands on children's museum. http://www.vadm.org/

We had a great time and sold a few books! It was a free event and had lots of activities for the kids! All in all, a wonderful day was had by all! Lots to do for the tots and great weather, although it was a bit cool!

If you would like to see (and hear) samples of our books go to: http://www.a-childs-book.com/ to see and hear samples of the the series! Click on the graphic of the book at the bottom of each page to hear Lauren (my great niece, my sister's granddaughter) read a page from the book. She also was our 'editor' for the book. She made sure the words we used were age appropriate for the beginning reader. To round things off and make this series a family affair, my nephew (my sister's son) designed the covers.

We are currently working on A Child's book for the Loudoun County Sheriff's Department. Working with Sheriff Simpson we will try to explain the daily duties and responsibilities of the department and how these everyday heroes keep us safe. Stay tuned!

To order prints of the pictures in the books, go to my website: http://www.virginiabird.com/