Readers’ wildlife photos

December 8, 2021 • 8:00 am

Doug Hayes from Richmond, Virginia, is back with Edition #16 of “The Breakfast Crew”. Doug’s captions and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them. Thanks to all the readers who send in photos!

The 16th installment of the Breakfast Crew!  Things were quiet around the feeders for the past couple of months. With the end of summer and the arrival of fall, there was plenty of food in the wooded areas surrounding the Forest Hill (Richmond, Virginia) neighborhood.  Now with the weather getting cooler and food scarcer, the regulars have returned to the feeders. Sparrows, cardinals, house finches and robins are the most numerous birds, but Red-winged blackbirds have been showing up in large numbers for the last few weeks.

Northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) There are quite a few cardinals that visit the yard. They have nests in trees next door. The males spend much of their time chasing each other as they defend their territory.

Red-winged blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) usually stay in the marshy areas, sometimes turning up in the neighborhood during rainy weather. For the past few weeks, entire flocks have been showing up at the feeders even though the weather is fairly mild and dry. The flock seems to consist mostly of females and immature/non-breeding males with a few mature males in the group.

White-breasted nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis). These little guys are hit and run feeders. They rarely stay at the feeder longer than is necessary to snag a seed or peanut and fly off into the trees to enjoy their feast.

American Robin (Turdus migratorius). This one was hanging out near the fire pit.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Corthylio calendula). These little birds are frequent visitors to the yard.

Robin just hanging out enjoying the sunrise.

White-throated sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) waiting for traffic at the feeders to thin out on a cold morning.

Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) I’m just beginning to see these birds in the yard. They are fairly common in the more wooded areas around Forest Hill and Pony Pasture parks.

Tufted titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor) Another hit and run feeder. This one has snagged a peanut and is about to fly off with it.

Female red-winged blackbird waiting her turn at the bird bath.

Male and female red-winged blackbirds. Despite the cold, the bird bath seems to be more popular now with the crew than it was during the warmer months. Not as much bathing as taking long drinks from it. The bird bath gets washed and new water added every day.

Mourning dove (Zenaida macroura) On an especially cold morning, this dove seems a bit puzzled at its sudden ability to walk on water.

Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) Probably the least common bird in the yard, although there is a huge flock of them living in the trees a few blocks away.

Robins. This is not the biggest group I have seen drinking at the bird bath.

A Red-winged blackbird joins a pair of robins at the bird bath. Red-winged blackbirds are pretty territorial and will even attack eagles and hawks that stray into “their” areas. The feeders and bird bath must be neutral territory as the blackbirds seem to get along with the others.

There are the occasional squabbles among the robins though. The blackbird ignores them and continues drinking.

Camera info:  Sony A1 mirrorless body (bird eye autofocus on, aperture priority mode), Sony 200-600 zoom lens + 1.4X teleconverter, ISO 5000, f/8 – 14 depending on lighting conditions, shutter speed 1/320 – 1/2000 depending on lighting conditions, camera body and lens image stabilization on, all shots hand-held.

13 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Great images. Thank you, Doug. Interesting that during my several hours of today’s early AM insomnia, one of my many thoughts was that it was about time to see more of the “breakfast crew” (and BTW, PCC, how is your insomnia doing?).

  2. Thanks for another great Breakfast Crew. I’m jealous of your birds and bird feeder(s). We had a couple feeders up last spring and summer and it was a joy, but a month ago, the bears around here discovered them, and now we can’t keep them out anymore. (And it’s too much of a pain bringing the dirty feeders in every night.) It sucks…I even bought a new 500mm lens to photograph the birds. I love bears, but I’d rather have the birds and bird-feeders…oh well, that’s what we get, living in the boonies.

    1. Hi Mark, I think you live outside of Seattle. I lived in Renton for many years, mostly in a quiet wooded area up Sunset. There was a bear (or bears) in the ravine behind me; but they didn’t get my feeders.

      But the squirrels did. I had to hang the feeders well out of reach and I ended up having to use very thin (1/16 inch) steel cable to suspend them. The squirrels would chew through cords — and NOT where one would expect: out by the feeder. No, they chewed through them at the tree trunk where I anchored them! I think that shows some fairly impressive intelligence.

      When we retire to rural Klickitat County in about a year (doing our part to turn the county purple!), we will need to rig something against bears there — or perhaps have to forego bird feeders. We have everything there: Bears, cougars, bobcats, coyotes, (no wolves yet), rattlesnakes, all kinds of raptors, etc.

      1. Yes, we live 40 miles north east of Seattle. I’ve been thinking about a pulley system…looking online for solutions, that was the most common. Good luck with your feeders when you move up here. At least the bears haven’t figured out the hummingbird feeders (yet?).

  3. As a Brit might say, a proper tit! Handsome little birds, but those shark eyes are disturbing. Who couldn’t love a kinglet? Lovely photos.

  4. We raised a baby robin to adulthood, at which point it had developed a non-standard chirp, and flew off. The next year there was a semi-tame robin hopping around on our suburban porch emitting that same call.

    True story!

  5. Hi Doug, that Sony body does very impressive images at ISO 5000. A couple of questions:

    – What software do you use?
    – Is the Sony mount compatible with Olympus and Lumix mirrorless cameras (I’m off to check this now)?

    Thanks,

    1. The main software I use is Adobe Photoshop CS6 – a pretty old version, but I haven’t seen anything in the current version of Photoshop that makes me want to go with Adobe’s subscription scheme that they use for all of their software. You can no longer buy a physical disk or download a disk image of their software. I also use Affinity Photo, which is almost a clone of Photoshop. Best of all, it is a one time purchase with lifetime upgrades (about $50 – they even make an iPad version for $10!). One other piece of software that I use in extreme cases is Topaz Denoise AI. But with the A1’s 50 megapixel files and the A7RIV’s 61 megapixel files, it takes some pretty severe cropping to notice the noise in high ISO photos. I don’t think I have had to use noise reduction on any of the Breakfast Crew photos. If you remember the dance photos I posted a while back, the dancers were removed from the original background with Topaz ReMask 5 and the black background created in Photoshop. There is a newer version – Topaz ReMask AI. RedMask is a great program that makes removing even complex objects from the background easy. Much easier than background removal in Photoshop.

      Sony E-mount lenses are only compatible with Sony E and A mount cameras and some Konica-Minolta cameras (Sony acquired Konica-Minolta about 15 years ago and used their technology as their entry point into the DSLR market). Quite a few third parties make lenses in the Sony E mount. Sigma makes some outstanding prime and zoom lenses for Sony, Canon and Nikon. Sigma’s price point is usually about half of major brand lenses and image quality is nearly as good as the best Canon and Nikon glass.

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