As with any project that takes almost daily attention, a feeding station is ever-changing on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis, even beyond the normal filling of feeders and providing fresh water. This is especially true during transitions between seasons. As problems arise, some are simple and require a moment of attention to remedy them; but others may require a complete change of foods or other options – for a week, or a season – but it’s important to be adaptable and see what works best, and easiest, when feeder problems arise.
“I’m so happy for #BlackBirdersWeek and happy to see that I’m not alone. Listening to and watching birds gives me peace and inspiration,” birder N. Fontane commented on Twitter at #BlackBirdersWeek. Ayanna Browne also shared “The outdoors bring me peace, and as much as I love the animals on the ground, the ones that soar the sky peak my interest more and more. Raptors are my new love. Wading birds are awesome. Songbirds are beautiful.” And Georgia birder Sheridan Alford shared: “Please don’t dismiss talk about the black birding experience as ‘political’.”
Recovery of the Eastern Migratory Population of Whooping Cranes continues to gain momentum as spring nesting winds down after at least 21 pairs nested in Wisconsin this spring. The current estimated Eastern Migratory Population size is 83, which includes 40 females, 40 males, 3 Whoopers of unknown sex to date. To the best of biologists’ knowledge, at least 75 Whooping Cranes are in Wisconsin, 4 are in Michigan, and 1 is in Illinois, while three other Whoopers’ locations have not been confirmed during the past month.
A small bird that died during the last Ice Age laid frozen in time for 46,000 years before it was found in Siberia permafrost by two Russian men searching for fossil mammoth tusks. The bird was in such good shape, it looked “like it died just a few days ago,” explained Dr. Love Dalén, professor of evolutionary genetics at the Centre for Palaeogenetics in Stockholm, Sweden, who was accompanying the ivory hunters, Boris Berezhnov and Spartak Khabrov, when they discovered the frozen bird.
Now you can draw a field sketch of a Long-billed Curlew and a Saltmarsh Sparrow with America’s premier birder and bird artist, David Sibley. By watching and listening to his videos on two of Audubon’s Facebook pages, you can sketch right along with him, line by line if you wish. It’s remarkable to watch how Sibley uses simple bird drawing methods, yet ends up with such impressive sketches of these birds. Even just viewing and listening to the videos is fun, and they only run 5 to 6 minutes each.
Usually the sun is a determining factor in my birding activities, but this spring the wind has been a concern way too often. Last week the wind was particularly terrible, with strong gusting wind from the west one day, from the north a couple other days, and the southeast over the weekend. We’re talking 25 to 35 miles per hour, with gusts reaching 45! But Thursday evening provided a calming break in the wind for a few hours, and I made the most of it by revisiting McKenzie for the sixth week in a row, then surveying Long Lake National Wildlife Refuge – what fun.
The unique Swarovski BTX Module Eyepiece is specially designed for the ATX and STX Modular Spotting Scope Series. The BTX Module Eyepiece reduces eye fatigue by allowing birders to keep both eyes open while viewing through the dual eyepieces. Of course, you will need to attach the BTX Module to either the Swarovski 65mm or 85mm Objective Module that results in a 30x spotting scope view; or attach it to the 95mm Objective Module that yields 35x magnification.
Need a bigger hummingbird feeder? The new 48-ounce Perky-Pet Top-Fill Grand Master Hummingbird Feeder is the answer. It’s a new variation on the beloved Grand Master feeder, now with Top-Fill technology. The fluted bottle with its wide-mouth opening and Top-Fill design ensure that filling is always easy and mess-free. The giant feeder’s life-like flower-inspired feeding ports are brightly colored, soft, and flexible. The 48-ounce feeder also features an ant moat and natural bee guards to keep insects out.
If you are looking for function and big style in a birding shoe, whether walking, hiking, or on the go – Nike leads the way. Choose from hundreds of styles and colors available from Nike, along with a variety of sport and casual clothing. Among the vast choices of women’s, men’s, and children’s footwear, a couple standouts include the Nike Air Max Axis for women and the Nike MX-720-818 for men. Also check out Nike’s sunglasses, hats, backpacks, light jackets, pullovers, and much more – for kids and adults.
An interesting variety of rare birds was reported last week, with two Rivoli’s Hummingbirds providing First State Records in Missouri and Oklahoma, plus a Neotropic Cormorant was documented as the First State Record for Georgia. Tropical Storm Cristobal appears to have “blown” some Sooty Terns far inland to provide a Second State Record Sooty Tern for Wisconsin along with a Second State Record for Indiana. Plus another Sooty Tern was sighted in Kentucky – and there’s more exciting rare bird records and sightings.

Timing, perfect sunlight, and calm water reflecting blue sky provided a simple photo opportunity and a series of 13 photos of an interesting bird. This Eared Grebe photo is also the product of editing – selecting the best two photos in the series, and doing some simple cropping to improve the image.

Let’s make things simple this week. No long lists of how-to information or a variety of photo applications. Let’s hold it down to one bird, in good light, on calm water, close. Simple; take a photo or two – right? Well, that’s the norm; but what’s your hurry? In this digital photo age, stick with this interesting subject as long as possible and take a series of photos that you can choose a few keepers from. The bird turns right (click), then left (click), turns broadside (click, click), and when it swims toward you (click, click, click). Then it dives into the water, and emerges in the cattails – photo session over. Nonetheless, that bird just provided you with a great opportunity to take a series of photos while sharing some moments with it one on one – Great! Experiences like that are what we all wish for.

Last Thursday, I had just that kind of experience when I stopped at an opening in an expansive area of cattails south of McKenzie, North Dakota. I was attracted to the open water by an American Coot feeding three downy hatchlings, two drake Blue-winged Teal, a displaying male Ruddy Duck, and two Eared Grebes. Moments after I stopped, the coot approached the grebes aggressively, making them dive underwater. One grebe surfaced a distance away, but the other popped up right in front of me; I couldn’t have positioned it better if I had placed it there myself. I took a series of 13 photos; then it dived again and resurfaced in the cover of cattails.

Editing – The photo session was over, but now I had a nice series of photographs taken under great field conditions recorded on my camera’s photo card. Next step: View and edit the photos in my laptop computer. Using my series of 13 photos as an example, after reviewing each one, you have a good idea of which image or images stand out. Take a second look, and narrow it down to the true keepers – one or two that are best in every way.

The grebe wasn’t very active, which made photo editing pretty simple. As I reviewed the photos, it became quickly obvious that although there was perfect light, as the bird turned its head, the color and brightness of the “ear” feathers that stream behind the bird’s eyes changed with the slightest move to the left and right. Similarly, the neck and body feathers were illuminated best when the ear feathers were brightest. This is best illustrated by the three photos provided in this article. The second photo shows the grebe in relatively poor lighting compared to the other two, simply due to a turn of its head.

This photo was not one of the two best photos selected from the series, but it illustrates how the slight turn of the grebe’s head can make a big difference in whether the light does or doesn’t fully illuminate the “eared” feathers and the rest of the bird. This image also illustrates the importance of cropping a photo, especially in the case of the reflection, which is rather distracting with its four-eyed reflection.

Cropping – The best two photos only needed to have the extra area of blue water cropped away. I left a pleasing area of water surrounding the Eared Grebe in each photo – a calm uncluttered beautifully colored background and foreground of blue.

An important aspect of cropping – eliminating extraneous background areas of a photo – is that you are effectively enlarging the relative size of the Eared Grebe.

A second element in these photos is the reflection of the grebe in the mirror-like water. The reflection is important enough to the image that you want to make sure it doesn’t detract or degrade the photo. For instance, in the non-keeper second photo used to illustrate this article, the reflection is distracting, especially the four-some of reflected eyes. By contrast, the first photo’s reflection was cropped so the grebe reflection adds to the image, instead of detracting from it.

While action photos are more dramatic, it’s always good to have a standard portrait image or two of each species. Simply photograph, edit, and crop.

In this case, it’s easy to keep things simple, which is not always the case. But using this simple example, when you have a larger series of photos with plenty of action involved, you can use this as a basis to begin with and expand upon. Enjoy the process – photographing, editing, and cropping – each is fulfilling, as is sharing your work with others. Good luck as we approach the beginning of summer; such a great time of the year for birders who enjoy bird photography.

Article and photos by Paul Konrad

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