Readers’ wildlife photos

January 8, 2021 • 8:00 am

Doug Hayes gives us part 11 of his “Breakfast Crew” series. His notes and IDs are indented; click on screenshot to make the pictures bigger.

All shots were taken in my backyard in Richmond, Virginia’s Forest Hill Park area. Bird activity has increased as the weather has turned cold and rainy. House finches and sparrows remain the most numerous, but we still get a variety of birds each day, driven out of the river and forested areas surrounding the neighborhood as food becomes scarce. Quite a few of my neighbors have feeders in their yards, so the birds have plenty to choose from. It is interesting to note that some species of birds tend to stay in certain parts of the neighborhood.  I see maybe one or two mockingbirds at my feeders, but there are whole flocks of them in the churchyard a few blocks over.  When it rains, dozens of red winged blackbirds show up in my backyard, but ignore my neighbor’s yard about four houses away even though she has feeders and a more heavily wooded yard.

The rain always brings out flocks of red-winged blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus). No matter how hard it pours, these guys will show up to eat!

A female northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) waiting in the rain for the morning rush to die down.

A male northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis), also waiting for the mob to thin out before he grabs breakfast.

This female red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) almost always goes for the seed feeders rather than the suet feeders that the other woodpeckers seem to prefer. She will dig around in the feeder until she locates a peanut, then quickly fly off with it.

Peanut located, the woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) executes a barrel roll as she takes off.

A blue jay (Cyanocitta cristata) scarfing down some suet. This one shows up almost every day now.

Ruby-crowned kinglets (Regulus calendula) are becoming regulars as the weather cools off.

A rather angry looking brown thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) enjoying breakfast.

A house finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) taking off after a leisurely meal.  The finches will perch and eat, then just hang out on the feeders until driven off by other birds.

A downy woodpecker (Picoides pubescens). There are several of these little birds that are regulars. I have seen two males show up at the same time and proceed to chase each other around the yard.

Female house finches (Haemorhous mexicanus) watching a demonstration of levitation by one of their crew. Actually, she is flapping her wings and hovering a bit, action frozen by the camera’s high shutter speed.

Fight! House finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) vs white-breasted nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)! Apparently this feeder isn’t big enough for the two of them.

Despite having the advantage of a longer beak, the nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) decides to retreat.

The nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) uses its superior clinging skills to elude the finch (Haemorhous mexicanus).

Victory! The nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) snags the best nut of them all – the peanut!

The eastern gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) are in a feeding frenzy right now. They must sense winter coming. They have been showing up in groups lately and frantically eat from the suet feeders, then leap over to the seed feeders and then down to the seeds spilled on the ground. Unless I manage to drive them away, they will feed all day long.

Camera info:  Sony A7R4 camera body set to crop sensor mode, Sony FE 200-600 zoom lens plus 1.4X teleconverter (with the 1.5X crop sensor mode added to the lens and teleconverter combo it gives the equivalent reach of a 1,260mm lens when zoomed to the 600mm mark), ISO 5000, all shots hand held with lens and camera body image stabilization.

21 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Doug, your photos are always wonderful, and your narrative is so informative.

    Even though I live in a completely different part of the country, in a high desert ecosystem which is so different from yours, my observations match yours so closely. I don’t have close neighbors, but we are only 3 miles from Quarai, which, in addition to being a national park, is on a migratory route for several bird species. We also get mountain birds wintering here in the foothills. Your observation about species which go to one place but not another close by matches mine. We see a few western bluebirds, and a few mountain bluebirds here at our feeders, but if I go to Quarai with my binoculars, they are everywhere. We get flocks of pine siskins in the winter, but they are hardly ever seen (at least, not by me) at Quarai. We have house finches here all year around.

    The squirrels here rarely come out during the winter, and they can’t get to the feeders because of the baffles on the posts, but they do just fine on the seed dropped by the birds. We are going to have a major war with them in the spring because they are doing a lot of damage to the garden and the ground, tunneling under the foundation of my office. We have plans to put up electronet around the whole area so that they can’t get in places where they cause trouble.

    Thank you again for the pix and all the information.


  2. ISO 5000 – Whoa! I thought Kodak 800 ISO was magical in my old Minolta. Great pix, Doug. Thanks for sharing.

      1. Good times! I used to mix my own developers from scratch as well as tried every speed boosting additive on the market in order to squeeze the last bit of speed out of Tri-X. I was able to get reliable results at ISO 3200 using a custom mix of D76 and fogging to reduce contast. I was a total darkroom geek back in the day.

        1. Woah, yeah, way beyond my geekhood! I just followed Kodak’s tables for pushing.

          My go-to development for Tri-X (at 400; 99% of the time) was Microdol-X, 1:3, 75°F (30-sec agitation; I forget the total time, though I have it in a notebook — somewhere). I used a large thermal bath to hold developer, tank, stop bath, and fixer all at 75°F. This resulted in an amazingly linear density curve and very little grain. The constant temp really helped with grain. No thermal shock.

          [Update: Found my notes, 13 minutes total time.]

          1. I didn’t like Microdol and some of the other fine grain developers because of the high amounts of sodium sulphite and other silver solvents they contained. They worked by partially dissolving and softening the silver grains in the emulsion so that grain was less apparent. I preferred the sharper look of D76 and Rodinal (when shooting at ISO 320 – 400). Adding a bit more sodium sulphite to D76 helped control the grain without going too soft.

  3. Jeezum Crow. 1200+ mm equivalent, ISO 5000, dual stabilization. That is some rig, and the photos prove it – they are SO impressive. Camera operator too! Great settings choices giving good depth of field at that zoom level. 🙂

  4. Jeezum Crow. 1200+ mm equivalent, ISO 5000, dual stabilization. That is some rig, and the photos prove it – they are SO impressive. Camera operator too! Great settings choices.

  5. I always like the Breakfast Crew photos. The cardinal is beautiful against the drab, winter background. Great action shots in this batch!

  6. They’re some pricey looking, beautiful birds. Like Jurassic Park.

    I always find the technical details about the cameras very intimidating. I have NO idea what they’re talking about though I’m sure brains better than mine do.
    If I submitted wildlife pictures (not likely 14 floors above Manhattan!) it’d be like “caught on shaky, cheap cell phone…”

Leave a Reply to Linda Calhoun Cancel reply