Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Watching Flickers From A Natural Blind

I was on my way to a birding location when I decided to check a field that was along the way. I never made it to my intended destination. Instead, I spent the next couple of hours hiding in the bushes watching birds. While out birding , I've been trying to make a conscious effort to find areas where the birds are most active and try to get close to them without scaring them away. In this particular field which is located in Middletown, I noticed that many birds were landing on a dead tree snag which a large bush and other vegetation in back of it. I had to do a little bushwhacking to get into position but eventually settled into a good spot where most of my body was hidden. I even stuck a couple of branches in my hat to blend into my surroundings a little better.
I've tried this sort of thing before and a lot of times it doesn't work out but this time it worked like a charm. I did run into a couple of minor problems. I had difficulty getting my tripod legs to set flat on the ground because of all the roots and tangle. When I went to fold the tripod back up I noticed that the little rubber caps on the bottom of the legs had fallen off when I had to pull the legs back up out of the vines. I couldn't find them so I just bought new ones which were better anyway. The other problem was that I was often looking at the underside of the bird which wasn't always a good angle for taking photos but the birds put on a great show.
-At one point, there were 7 Northern Flickers stretching their wings, calling, climbing, and tapping on wood just a feet away from me. I read in the David Sibley book, The Sibley guide To Bird Life & Behavior, that Northern Flickers have a variable clutch size of 3-12 eggs. An experiment was done by a researcher who would remove one egg a day from a flicker nest but always leaving at least two in the nest. The female flicker ended up laying 70 eggs by the end of the season. I found that to be interesting. The whole section woodpeckers had good information.
I watched as young Eastern Bluebirds would land on the highest point of a branch only to be chased away by another bluebird which would land in the same spot.
A handful of Cedar Waxwings stopped to rest before moving on to other areas.
This Eastern Kingbird has a mouthful of something. It doesn't look very eastern kingbirdy from this picture but it was at the time I was there.
I believe this is an Eastern Wood Pewee. They're easier to identify when they're singing but this one was quiet. I couldn't get it in focus using the auto setting so I blindly turned the wheel to a different setting and tried the manual focus button. It did come into focus but who knows what kind of crazy setting I had it on.
This Blue Jay was last bird I saw before leaving. I plan to keep a record of places where I'm able to watch birds while hiding in the natural surroundings. Birds seem to behave differently when they're not threatened by human presence. This makes them more interesting to observe and easier to photograph.
click to play
Here is a video of some flickers in action.


Chris said...

Hi Larry,
Wow mate, what a splendid post! I've never seen flickers but I learn to love them after seeing them in many blogs. Your pictures are awesome and you saw so many birds. I was also impressed by the numbers of eggs a female flickers can lay in one season! You got also a nice picture of the cedar waxwing!

Glen Webber (NZ Wildlife Photography) said...

What a great story Larry. You must have really "had your eyes on" to pick that tree.

Your camera should have recorded the photo details in the "EXIF data". (If so) You will be able to read this in the properties of the photo on windows or in many other programs.

I curious to know what tripod you use to have had these problems with it?

The video is great too!

Lana Gramlich said...

Wow! What a nice, little diversity you saw--thanks for sharing. Interesting about the flicker & the eggs. I love those birds. So lovely.

The Zen Birdfeeder said...

What a day you had! 7 flickers is awesome.

FAB said...

A great opportunity well taken Larry.

Larry said...

Chris-Thanks-that is somethig about the egg laying ability of female flickers. I like flickers-they are unique among the other woodpeckers in our area-they do a lot of their feeding on the ground and eat more ants than any of the others.

Glenn-thanks-My comments about not knowing what settings I was using was more directed at my ignorance about using proper settings on cameras but I will take the opportunity to look at the data.The tripod is an Italian brand that starts with was the tripod that was the problem-it was the way I was jamming it in and out of the tanlged roots.

Lana, Zen, Early birder-thanks for the comments.

Ruth said...

Flickers are one of my favourite birds. They certainly have a distinctive call. Nice to have so many different visitors on the bare branches.

MaineBirder said...

WOW, what a great spot you found with a natural blind to boot. And the variety of birds are outstanding.

Awesome photo series Larry!

Dawn Fine said...

Howdee Larry,
I really would love a portable blind...but using natures blind works just as well.
I think patience in one spot pays off for observing and photographing nature..
See you soon!

Larry said...

Ruth-If I had a top tens list of my favorite lcoal birds then flickers would be on there for sure.

troutbirder-I don' think I could live up to that title but thanks-glad you liked the post.

Mainebirder-thanks-now if I could just find more natural blinds like that but it isn't that easy or I would have found them already.

dawn-I like the idea of a portable blind but they say it works best if you set the blind up in an area a day or two ahead of time-then what if someone takes it? I may give a portable blind another try if I can figure out how to best use it.

Harold Stiver said...

Its interesting how a lot of birds will favor a spot. Looks like they might have good visibility for looking out for predators there. Well done!!

Warren and Lisa Strobel said...

What a great way to go birding! I've never put twigs in my hat, but I am going to try it and see what happens! :)

Love the Flicker pictures. I'm pretty certain that flycatcher is indeed an Eastern Wood Peewee.

Warren (and Lisa)

Hilke Breder said...

I loved your pictures! I find flickers hard to get close to. Your solution was pretty ingenious and you managed to see a whole parade of nice active birds. It's hard to do any bushwacking like that here in VT - there's poison ivy everywhere.

Andy said...

You struck birding gold!

Larry said...

Harold-that may be it.It's interesting how birds will be attracted to certain spots that look good but a similar looking spot may get no action at all.

Warren & Lisa-Felt like I was on an episode of Hee haw with the twigs in my hat.Yeah-I believe its a pewee too.

Hilke-I'm very allergic to poison ivy and usually get it to some extent every year.

Andy-That's a good way to describe it-I hope its not the last time I strike gold.