Birds of Edmonds, WA. 2020

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Bill Anderson

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Staff member
I have gotten e-mails from several people telling me how they enjoy my backyard photos. Thanks, as I am always afraid photos of such a limited area will start to get repetitive and boring.
 

Bill Anderson

Super Moderator
Staff member
A sunny Wednesday afternoon (4-29-2020) on the back deck.

Juncos are the Bird of the Year at my seed feeders.

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After grabbing a seed at the feeder, the juncos will often hide in nearby shrubbery such as my backyard neighbors' rhododendron bush.

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I hope to get a photo of a junco atop the bush before the flowers wither and/or it starts raining again.

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Bill Anderson

Super Moderator
Staff member
Friday afternoon my next door neighbors to the south had a small May Day wine tasting and dinner gathering for the families that live on either side of them. Proper social distancing was observed by all the family units.

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I did not attend, preferring to maintain proper anti-social distancing from the comfort of my back deck while I photographed birds and sipped water from my official WSU water bottle (Go Cougs!)

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Instead of bemoaning the lack of unusual birds visiting my backyard, I decided to take a more positive approach and experiment with different photographic techniques (mostly shooting modes, camera settings, and camera/lens/teleconverter combos) using the everyday backyard birds. I'll let my good friend Mr. Delete Key deal with the shots that don't turn out to my liking.

It turned out Mr. Delete Key was quite busy the following day. I was not worried about lost opportunities as the same birds will be back again tomorrow. They know a good deal when they feed on it.

Because I was experimenting, I'll include that info in the narrative. For those not interested in the techno-photo babble, just skip the narrative and enjoy the photos. I have been told by some readers that my photos in conjunction with their favorite adult beverage help them get through the Covid-19 quarantine.
 
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Bill Anderson

Super Moderator
Staff member
The flock of band-tailed pigeons that roost in the backyard tree two doors north were perching on a branch not yet hidden by foliage, so I photographed them using the 5DIII + 600L telephoto. These shots were all taken in TV mode @ 1/1000. Auto aperture settings varied from f/4.0-4.5 and auto ISO settings varied from 500-640.

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The plumage of the bird on the left appeared darker than that of the others.

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Maybe it is a form of breeding coloration as he appeared to be in an amorous mood

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I attached the 1.4x teleconverter which have me an effective reach of 820mm. I was still shooting in TV mode @ 1/1000. This knocked the aperture setting up to 6.3 and the auto ISO to 1000. Altogether I'm not sure if the added reach of the 1.4x TC really improved the shot, but that is the purpose of experimentation. Given the overcast lighting, I didn't bother with the 2x TC.

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Bill Anderson

Super Moderator
Staff member
A red-breasted nuthatch was digging around one of the habitiat trees. I had to use the hand-held 1DxII + 100-400L II telephoto zoom as the camera with the 600L telephoto (tripod mounted) was out of position. The bird may have been too small and too quick for that lens anyway.

I feel the 100-400L telephoto zoom has adequate reach for the back yard; but if time and weather permit, I might as well use the 600L fixed telephoto since I paid for it.

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Bill Anderson

Super Moderator
Staff member
The lone male house finch returned to the feeder with the safflower seeds. I stayed with the 1.4x TC, but switched to AV mode. I thought that using higher aperture settings might alleviate some of the depth of field problems associated with shooting through the wire cages of the seed feeders.

Aperture settings varied from f/5.6-8.0 @ 1/800-1000 and auto ISO settings from 640-1600. I would not use four digit ISO settings with a crop-frame sensor camera such as my 7DII. The full frame sensor 5DIII will usually handle the higher ISO settings as long as I don't have to resort to extreme cropping, hence the use of the 600L telephoto + 1.4x TC.

Initially the finch pulled out seeds and let them fall to the ground. My first thought was, "Are you in partnership with the squirrels?"

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There was method to his madness, as he dropped to the ground and began foraging seeds from there.

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He was joined by a spotted towhee.

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I tried to get both birds in focus in one shot, but it proved futile with the lens + TC combo in this light, even when shooting at f/8.0. Given the low light level, I did not want to go up to a higher aperture setting.

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Bill Anderson

Super Moderator
Staff member
Chickadees are another regular visitor to the feeders. We have two species of chickadees up here in the PNW, the black-capped chickadee and the chestnut-backed chickadee. Both are very pretty birds that I should not take for granted just because they are daily visitors to my feeders. I have noticed that the black-caps are year-round residents and local cavity nesters. I could be wrong, but it appears the chestnut-backs are seasonal visitors.

A black-capped chickadee perched on my fence. It may have been a spy sent by Big Brother to check up on my anti-social distancing. Shot hand held with the 1DxII + 100-400L II telephoto zoom.

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Chestnut-backed chickadee. Back to the 5DIII + 600L telephoto with 1.4x TC. Still shooting in AV mode with aperture settings of f/5.6-8.0 @ 1/1000 and auto ISO settings of 1600-2500.

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Bill Anderson

Super Moderator
Staff member
In the early evening the sun finally peeked from beneath the cloud layer. I finished the day with shots of a male black-eyed junco perched on the fence. Juncos are this year's backyard bird de jouer.

I removed the teleconverter for a wider field of view, but stayed in AV mode and off-set the focal point in anticipation of the direction I thought he would fly off.

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Naturally the bird kept changing positions to make me to work for any flight shots. I had to change focal points accordingly.

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I would not have known the sound I was hearing in the background emanated from this bird if I had not been photographing it while it was singing.

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The sound echoed off my storage shed and seemed to be originating from elsewhere in the backyard. Very strange.

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All my work to set up for the perfect take-off shot, which included changing focal points and aperture settings, was rewarded by an out of focus butt shot. I can try again another day as I know he and his buddies will return for more free meals as long as my son keeps the feeders stocked.

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Terry O

Active Member
Wow, Bill. You were really busy. I love that you are seeing the band-tailed pigeons. We haven't seen them for at least 4 years. Also, I think the one instantly colored 'house' finch is actually a Purple Finch. Not positive, but I think its likely. Also, I like that you are putting in the EXIF data. Its so helpful to know what camera, lenses, and exposure/shutter settings. A really nice log for today.
 

Bill Anderson

Super Moderator
Staff member
I would like that bird to be a purple finch as I have never seen one, but I think there is just too much brown and too much streaking. I'll search the internet for photos as I can always hope. If any birders viewing this thread have an opinion as to the identity of the finch, please send me an e-mail.
 
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Bill Anderson

Super Moderator
Staff member
Terry raised my hopes that my backyard mystery finch is the elusive purple finch by sending me a link to the Audubon site that compares the two birds. Coloration aside, the shape of the head of the mystery finch matches that of the purple finch more so than that of the house finch.

 
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Bill Anderson

Super Moderator
Staff member
Monday afternoon (5-4-2020) Scriber supervised Daren filling the bird feeders.

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The mystery finch made an appearance on the back fence.

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As did the pair of bushtits at the suet feeder.

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A red-tailed hawk and its crow-tourage flew over the neighborhood. I believe the hawk is hanging around the neighborhood.

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Bill Anderson

Super Moderator
Staff member
Cinco de Mayo from the back deck, but no Corona for me.

Swallow.

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You can see an insect in its mouth.

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The mystery finch returned. It comes in the late afternoon by itself.

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Terry O

Active Member
Hmmmmm, I'm not so sure on this finch, either, Bill. But at least you got some shots today. Better than me! :(
 

Bill Anderson

Super Moderator
Staff member
I don't know if I will make it outside today, so here are a few shots from yesterday (5-6-2020).

The mystery finch shows up every day around 4:00pm.

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I think it is the same bird.

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Bill Anderson

Super Moderator
Staff member
The birds must have heard me complaining about the lack of avian variety in my back yard as Friday (5-8-2020) several unusual ones showed up.
A turkey vulture flew south over town.

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Wilson's warbler. I don't know why my photos didn't come out better with the 1DxII + 100-400L II telephoto zoom. I didn't have time to use the 600L telephoto.

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