For some reason, the wildlife photos that readers sent me are about 90% pictures of birds. Where are the mammals, the insects, the plants? Well, I can’t complain because I do love a good photo of our feathered friends.
Reader Bruce Lyons sent in some nice bird photos, and a description of where and how he took them:
I live at the base of campus at the University of California in Santa Cruz. The photographs were all taken from within my house, looking out an open window into the canopy of a hawthorn tree that brings in the birds. We call it Bird TV—just sit, watch and the activity come to us. We get lots of frugivores coming in to eat the berries—robins, waxwings, hermit thrushes, among others. Interestingly, waxwings are far more likely to hit the windows than any other species and we suspect it has to do with the way they leave the tree as a flock, perhaps as an anti-predation mechanism. Raptors learn that fruit trees are bird magnets and we occasionally see Cooper’s and sharp-shinned hawks going for birds in the hawthorn tree.
A hummingbird feeder near the window also brings in Anna’s Hummingbirds (you recently posted a video of a male courtship flight) and I will also include a couple of photos to show what a male Anna’s hummingbird looks like close up (short answer is spectacular). The hummingbird photos were taken on a rainy day so the bird was covered with tiny water drops and his gorget colors just glowed.
Anna’s hummingbird (Calypte anna; male). What female could resist such gorgeous plumage?
Male house finch (Haemorhous mexicanus). They get a lot of their red breast color from carotenoids in the food—as in the photo—and the females are attracted to redder males. Some theorize (and there are supporting data) that the females have evolved this “choice” because redder males are better-fed males, and would make better parents, feeding the young more frequently and, perhaps, being less susceptible to disease or parasites.
I asked Bruce, since readers like to know technical stuff, what equipment he used to take the pictures. He replied:
I use a Canon digital SLR. The robin and backlit waxwing were taken with a Canon 100-400mm zoom lens, excellent value for the moderate price. The hummingbird, finch and waxwing eating a berry were taken with my new Canon 500mm F4 lens (astonishingly good) with a 1.4 extender added (making the lens a 700mm lens). I also get extra magnification because my camera does not have full frame sensor camera (yielding a 1.6 magnification crop factor). Altogether, this setup gives me 23 times magnification—like a telescope—completely crazy and it opens up lots of opportunities.
Cedar waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum), one of my favorite birds because of its crest and cool color pattern:
American robin (Turdus migratorius):
And I’ll throw in as lagniappe a photo of a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) by regular contributor Stephen Barnard from Idaho: