Seeing Red

Figured it was about time to tear myself away from robotics and animatronics for a bit to at least get a quick post out.  I’ve been spending a lot of time working up some new Halloween prop structures to add to my Haunted Trail collection next year.  I know, I know it is a long way from now (Linda reminded me of just that fact earlier today), but my new PVC form structures design is now fully jointed and just begging to have some servos added to it.  I haven’t worked with this stuff since college so a little rusty on – watching a lot of videos and reading what I can to figure out what options are out there.  Tomorrow is a run to Menards to get some materials to make a few motion sensors as a start.  When I noticed it was suppose to snow (again) tomorrow including our first accumulation. I thought it was fitting to feature a post on one of my favorite Winter subjects.

Cardinal

That’s right, the Northern Cardinal.  There are a few things I always find very pleasing from a composition perspective and one of them is photographs of Cardinals in the Winter months.  Typically the Winter days can range from a rather drab day to an all out white out depending on how the season is going.. oh sorry, maybe I should refer to it as “how the ‘climate change’ is going” just to fit into the cool crowd that doesn’t realize climate is suppose changes when you move out of California.  The best part of photographing Cardinals is it doesn’t matter how bad the weather is, the Cardinal always stands out against whatever backdrop you happen to be around.

Cardinal

These happened to be taken in our backyard a year or so back.  If there is one bird we have plenty of here in the Midwest it is the Cardinal.  I think my record for number of those fiery birds is 26 at one time.  They definitely like our feeders with Sunflowers.  By nature, these birds tend to hit the feeders, grab some seed and then fly back to the safety of the branches in the trees just off the porch – definitely not at the same skittish degree as the Nuthatches or Chickadees).  It is always better for us nature photographers when you have a predictable subject.

Cardinal

Hit the jump to see some more shots of this beautiful bird .. and maybe I’ll throw in bonus bird!

Continue reading Seeing Red

Project Chekov: Cedar Waxwing and Cardinal

We have reached day three of Project Chekov and to switch it up just a little we have two birds featured today (yeah!).  To be completely honest, the second one was kind of thrown in because I figured it was a good way to get them out of the way quickly.  But let’s get to that in a minute and get right into the featured bird.  I Actually thought this would be a new bird to the blog, however, a quick verification through the blog search capability proved differently.  The Cedar Waxwing actually made its presence known back in Nov 2012 (link here).  Those previous shots were not exactly the best execution and even coined the term crispiless to acknowledge that they were on the fuzzy side (I still like that word).  These first few turned out a lot better in my humble opinion.

The above one is clearly my favorite with the berry in the beak.  These are one of the easier birds to identify thanks to their thick black eye eyeliner and cropped back Mohawk.  Just call them the punk rockers of the birding world.  There are actually two types of these birds, one being Cedar and the other the Bohemian.  Unfortunately, there isn’t a shot showing their back coloring or it would be very obvious since the Bohemian has more colorful highlights.  The Bohemian also hangs out predominantly in the Northwest where the Cedar has a much broader range.

Pretty confident this is the Cedar based on where it was taken (Midwest) and I would have noted it if I saw the prettier highlights so I could make the extra check mark in the bird list.  These are pretty cool birds

Hit the jump to see more shots of the Waxwing and a more common bird to the area

Continue reading Project Chekov: Cedar Waxwing and Cardinal

Yep, They Also Have Those in Cheeseland

It’s officially time to close out the first Birds of Wisconsin series. Following previous series endings I thought I would throw up some miscellaneous birds captured over the course of our stay in the Dells area. I tend to highlight the unusual or more flamboyant birds on the blog, but I try not to discriminate against the more common aviary when out on a shoot. Hell, sometimes that is all that comes back in the tin based on what we were able to find out in the wild on any given day. There are definitely times when the more common bird shot ends up being my favorite of the shoot but I know my readers are not generally here to read about birds they can experience in the backyard any day of the week. Regardless, I still like to end with random shots that caught my attention in post processing.

For starters, here is …. a bird

It’s brown dominant with vertical striping with a white breast which basically translates to a near impossible bird to identify with any confidence.  Primarily I liked the composition and of course the glint in the eye.  I could take the normal stab and say it might be from a sparrow family say maybe a Song Sparrow but I usually rely on what I call the eye triangle to really classify a sparrow – it is hard to explain in text, but if you happen to see a picture of a sparrow, look at the side of the eye and you will see a about a 30 degree triangle (per eye side) that is pretty solid in coloring.  This specimen does not really have that which pushed me to the finch options but this one was too large for that class.  Next up was a juvenile Common Redpoll but they tend to have more stripping in the breast area.  20 minutes later of thumbing through the guides brought on the conclusion it was “a bird”  Feel free to take a guess if you would like.

In stark contrast, the following bird is easily identifiable and one we are fortunate to have in abundance where we live.  I have always liked the Cardinal but it does tend to bring a small feeling of remorse thanks to an errant shot with a BB gun when I was growing up.  As you can tell that event has never faded but I’m ahead of the game having saved a number of them since then (example here).

Again, I really liked the composition of this one (and another successful glint capture), but the other aspect you cannot tell from this shot is how far away it was.  We had just returned from to the car after walking a trail when I heard that all too familiar song.  Eventually it was spotted sitting in mass of branches in a far away tree.  I had the Beast out and somehow managed to keep it still enough to get a decent shot.

Hit the jump to see the rest of the set

Continue reading Yep, They Also Have Those in Cheeseland

When Man and Nature Collide

looking back, I have probably shot at least a thousand birds over my life.  Luckily for my winged friends (with the exception of two) these shots have all been with a shutter release and not with projectiles.  However, I must confess that indirectly I have shortened the life of a few.  Call me a softie, but this always saddens me a little when I think about how much pleasure I get from watching them gather around my feeders.  The irony of it all is that the feeders are often the catalyst for their accidental demise.  To fully experience living in the country, we architected our house to provide nice views into the surrounding woods.  This translated into a large amount of glass, the evil nemesis of all Aves.  Every once in awhile we hear a loud bang in the living room.  Being familiar with the common cause of this startling noise, I reluctantly head towards the windows.  Inevitably, this is the typical scene:

A perfectly good bird cut down by the magic of sand and a small cavity for brain matter.  Actually, I’ve seen humans walk into glass doors as well, so not sure how much the brain size plays into this particular situation.  By a general rule of thumb, the survival rate is directly proportional to the volume of the impact.  Through extensive trial and error, I’ve been able to improve this rate at least a little bit.  The success is dependent on how quick you can come to the aid of the injured bird.   Upon impact, the bird often loses consciousness and drops backwards onto the porch – the reasoning behind this still needs further research.  If the bird doesn’t snap it’s neck, it will show signs of convulsions both with fluttering wings and spastic feet.  This is exactly the state I found the bird pictured above (note I had the camera in my hand already taking pictures of some other subjects).  If you can get to the bird in this state, you must immediately flip it back over on its feet/belly.  If you leave it upside down, it will die every time (my apologies to all the failed experiments before this was figured out).  Kind of reminds me of my mode of operation with my drunk friends in college, but let’s stay on topic.

Hit the jump for some good news!

Continue reading When Man and Nature Collide

The Yang and the Um Day

EyeFirst off, I have to admit I am currently on a major sugar high.  My wife and I tried out the new ice cream establishment in Peoria Heights – the previous home of delicious Spotted Cow.  Unfortunately, I cannot remember the name of the establishment (two uncommon names), but apparently it is a small ice cream boutique chain out of Boston.  We both decided to splurge and get the dipped waffle cones.  Linda chose the nestle crunch with cake batter ice cream and I went with the dark chocolate cone with seriously chocolate ice cream flavor.  Wow, that was tasty.  Needless to say, my sugar level is through the roof, but it was totally worth it.  A tad expensive, but we both agreed it was far better than our previous favorite Cold Stone.

On to the topic of the day.  Yesterday morning I had my one year check up on my LASIK surgery.  Nothing like an 8:25am appointment on a cold, snowy and windy Saturday morning to get the day started.  Being that early, I figured there would only be few people there and I’d be in and out quickly.  I was totally shocked when I entered the building and there was a line of people waiting to get checked in.  Faster than expected, I made it up to the counter and noticed once again a large number of flowers behind the desk.  Every single time I have had an appointment, there have been a large number of wrapped up flowers with various names on it.  First thought was there must be a large number of birthdays or possibly births or the doctors were extremely appreciative of their helpers.  After validating all my insurance information, I proceeded to the waiting area where about 30 people were sitting.  Somewhat stunned, I took a seat in the socially acceptable location – translated, maximized distance from existing customers, much like the bathroom principle with the exception you are still allowed to talk to people and make eye contact.  Pondering the situation, it clicked that Fridays were a primary LASIK surgery day and they always had a followup the day after.  This gave and explanation to the large number of people.  My name was eventually called and the nurse began verifying my vision.  She started asking me if I was taking my steroid and anti-inflammatory drops and how everything was going.  This was not processing correctly so mentioned that I stopped taking the drops over a year ago which resulted in a strange look.  Remembering the deduction in the waiting room, I mentioned that I was in for my 1 year checkup.  With that cleared up, she took down all my powers (dual eye 20/15) and moved me to another room to get checked out by my doctor.  Good News!  Everything is fine and the eye healed up perfectly.  Definitely one of the best decisions I’ve made in a long time.

Another quandary was resolved at the checkout desk.  An older lady was completing her exit papers ahead of me and trying to plan her next followup a few days later.  Guessing with the fact she was not wearing any glasses and needed such a quick followup, the assumption was she just had cataract surgery (too old for LASIK) and was in for her post-surgery followup.  As she was getting ready to go, the receptionist handed her one of the flowers (with her name on it) and said it was a gift from her doctor.  That made a lot more sense than my original thought.  What a nice thing to do, it is relatively cheap compared to the cost of the surgery and it sure made the lady very happy.  Kudos to the doctor for a very nice touch.

But life is based on the Yang and the Um (for the non-Koreans, the Ying and the Yang).  The dualism of life; the good and the bad, sweet and the sour, life and death.  It is this constant opposition that keeps us grounded (morality) and leads to our character definition.  I came home from the appointment elated that my surgery was a complete success.  Later that day, there was a large crack against our great room window.  Typically this indicates a bird had just realized the concept of glass.  I didn’t think much of it since this tends to happen 2 or 3 times a week usually leaving the bird somewhat stunned, but able to fly off once the webs clear.  About an hour later I happened to look out the window and saw a beautiful cardinal sitting under our porch furniture below our large picture windows.  He looked alert, but was just sitting there opening and closing his beak.  It was still pretty cold out and the wind was gusting causing him to continually adjust his balance.  I pondered the situation for a few minutes while observing the bird.  Typically, if the birds don’t initially break their necks, they are able to recover and fly off.  Rarely do their wings get seriously injured since the impact is typically on the beak/head.  But this bird was alert, but wasn’t really moving that much other than adjusting to keep from being blown over.  It didn’t appear any sound was coming out of his beak movements but it was a steady opening and closing motion.  I could try to shield him from the wind or possibly get a box and move him to the basement until he recovered, but eventually decided to let it be hoping he would pull through.  If he was seriously injured, there was nothing I could anyway.  I also didn’t know what the laws were pertaining to a state bird (other than I think they are protected in some manner).  Going on with my daily tasks, eventually the situation left my thoughts.  I checked to see if the bird was still there later in the night and I am sorry to report, the little guy didn’t make it.  He had succumbed to the cold so he must have badly injured himself.  Yes, it was just a bird, but it did trigger memories from the teachings in the dojo.  The happiness of clarified sight in the morning paired with the reality of death in the evening.  The good news is one of the local farm cats will find a special treat when the show up to get out of the cold.

Life is a circle (see the pupil)