I came to bird photography accidently several years ago. I started photography as a hobby after I retired. During the winter there wasn’t a lot to photograph. One day during a blizzard I noticed some Northern Cardinals by my bird feeder and tried to photograph them from my front window but they were a little too far away. After watching them for a while I decided that I might be able to get some shots from my basement window which was a little closer to the birds. I grabbed a step ladder and climbed up to the window which was at ground level. I managed this photography of a cardinal which was later published in Birds and Blooms.
It has been a hard winter for the birds. We had an early December Blizzard that dumped over a foot of snow along with high winds. This was followed by rain which created a crust on the snow. During January we saw at least one clipper each week that dumped several inches of snow each on top of what we had. Many of the seeds that the bird world normally feed on were buried in the snow.
Each year is a little different that this year was no exception. When I started writing this blog I hadn’t reflected on how few species of birds I’ve photographed at my feeder. In actuality it has only been ten. I’ve presented the birds in order by the numbers I’ve seen this winter.
American Goldfinch – in an earlier post I called this the year of the American Goldfinch because I had so many of them. One year I didn’t have any but normally I have a few around. This year it was not uncommon to have thirty or forty at my the feeder at any given time. They seem to come in flocks. A few turn up then the rest of them fly in then all of a sudden they are gone.
Black capped Chickadee
The Black-capped Chickadee is the old standby. They show-up late in the fall and at the birdfeeder throughout the winter. They seem to be the hummingbird of winter in constant motion an continuously feeding. I think this year I’ve managed to get more pictures of them than in past years. They are friendly but are in constant motion. By the time you focus on them they have moved to a new location. When they are perched they are constantly in motion eating seeds pinned to the branch they are feeding on.
Dark-eyed Juncos are another bird that frequents my feeder although I’ve not seen as many of them this year as in past years and they arrived a little later than usual. I much prefer to photograph the females because they seem to have much more interesting color.
The Blue Jay has been a rare visitor to my bird feeder although I frequently see them flying around in the woods in large numbers. If they did come to the feeder they were so skittish that I was rarely able get a shot of them. For some unknown reason this year I’ve had a large number of them at my bird feeder. It is not uncommon to see six or eight of them at a time. Most of the time they are cleaning up the seeds that fall on the ground and making a racket.
Northern Cardinal male
Northern Cardinal female
The Northern Cardinal is a frequent visitor throughout the year but they really stand out during the winter. I love to photograph them during snow storms when they come to the feeder in greater numbers. Their bright reds contrast with the greens of the pine trees and the white of the snow.
Red-bellied Woodpeckers also frequent the feeder during the winter. this year for the first time I build a feeder out of some small logs by drilling holes in the log and filling them with peanut suet. The log provides a better prop than the wire suet holder that I had been using. Even better they much prefer this type of feeder.
Coopers Hawk – I have been plagued the past several years by one or more Coopers Hawks that seems to be hanging around the feeder. At first I thought it was great because I was able to get some nice photographs but I got a little old when they started scaring away the other birds. It got to the point that the Cardinals would only come to the feeder early in the morning and late in the evening to avoid the hawks. Then just after Christmas the hawks disappeared. All of a sudden the cardinals started returning to the feeder. In February a smaller version of the Coopers Hawk came to the feeder a few times but it only hung around for a few weeks before leaving for good.
Downey Woodpecker female
Downey Woodpecker male
Downey Woodpeckers also come to the feeder generally to feed on suit. They are another bird that really likes my new log feeders.
Hairy Woodpecker male
Hairy Woodpeckers occasionally turn up at the feeder. This photo was taken on a very cold morning. It is the first time I’ve ever seen a birds breath.
This year for the first time I’ve had Pileated Woodpeckers at my feeder. In the past I’ve plenty of signs of them in the woods and had seen they fly by the house on occasion but they never stopped at my feeder. One day while reading I noticed a large shadow passing the window and looked up to see a pair of them fly right by the feeder. Several times this winter I have been photographing from my blind when they have stopped to feed. They are very skittish so I haven’t been able to get many photos but I’m hoping they will continue to return.
More winter bird photos can be found on my website.