Backyard Birding Report – Aug. 9th, 2009

I was sleeping in on a Sunday. Cynthia was kind enough to close the bedroom door while she worked around the house and I was snoozing quite soundly when the bedroom door was flung open and Cynthia ran in, urgently telling me to get out of bed and saying “come quickly for birdage!”

There’s a tone Cynthia gets when it’s important. I respond on a very subconscious level to this tone. I knew something was up and it was important so I jumped out of bed and followed Cynthia to breakfast room.

She pointed to the window saying “It’s an Eagle or something!!”

I looked and there was no Eagle. But there was Hawk sitting on the fence that divides the back patio from the driveway. What a sight!

The blinds were down with the slats open so you could see out the window but it was not ideal for a photograph. I knew that if we were to raise the blinds the hawk would probably just fly away. If I had any hope of getting a photo of this guy I would need to do it through the blinds without moving them at all.

Fortunately for me, my camera was on the table and already mounted with my Sony SAL-70-300G lens. This lens is pretty remarkable and I was counting on it to be able to spot focus on the bird THROUGH the blinds. It was the only chance I would have.

I grabbed the camera, switched it on and quickly made the necessary adjustments and fired off two quick shots before the hawk flew off.

This is either a juvenile Red Shouldered Hawk or a Cooper’s Hawk. I am betting it’s a Cooper’s.

The blinds make the shot a little on the soft side but all in all, it came out pretty well I think. Especially considering I went from sleeping soundly to shooting this picture in probably less than 60 or so seconds.

The last time I got a shot of a Hawk was back in 2007 at West 11th St. Park in The Heights and I have been itching to get something like this ever since I noticed him flying around the neighborhood.

Backyard Birding Report – August 2nd, 2009

While watching the feeding frenzy that is the swarms of sparrows and doves along with the smattering of Blue Jay’s, Cardinals, House Finches (pictured above) and Grackles that visit the yard I noticed a bright, almost translucent orange streak zoom in and land on the patio.

I had initially thought it might be an Oriole or even a Scarlet Tanager but after some online research I am confident that what we have here is an Orange Bishop also known as the Red Bishop, Grenadier Weaver, Orange Bishop Weaver, and Orange Weaver.

The markings are a dead match from the black midsection to the sparrow-like markings of the wingtips.

The problem with this identification is that the Orange Bishop is a native of sub-Saharan Africa. Suffice to say, he’s not from around here. I am guessing he’s an escaped pet although I have heard there were reports of Orange Bishops at Storey County Park on West Belt by Bellaire a few years ago and that’s not too far from where I live.

Fortunatley I had the camera at the ready, though he didn’t hang around long enough to get as good a shot as I would have liked. Hopefully he’ll come back.

Squabble Of Wrens

Cynthia and I were in the TV room when we heard a commotion outside the front window. We looked out and spotted an adult Carolina Wren herding 3-4 fledglings through the front garden. After a bit they moved past the window and out of sight. I grabbed my camera and threw on the Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 lens.

When I opened the front door I was surprised to see the mamma wren on the Bottlebrush tree right next to the porch.

Right after I snapped her picture she chittered loudly and flew off only to be replaced by one of the fledglings

Who soon departed only to be replaced by another

And this went on as the family continued moving from one side of the front garden to the other. It was a sight to see and noisy! The adult Wrens were fussing at the babies and at us as we watched and the babies were making the usual “feed me” noises…

Backyard Birding Report

The baby Mockingbird I reported earlier is getting big enough to fly and turns out to be one of two babies living in the bushes in front of the house.

Still has some of his downy bird fuzz, but should be grown and on his way soon. We’re pretty tired of the incessant peeping. The mother Mockingbird does keep a watchful eye on the youngsters and goes to the backyard frequently for food.

Distressing that the Grackles have been showing up in greater numbers. We’ve even seen some babies being fed by their parents. They love the suet and the bread we put out and gunk up the birdbath dunking it.

I put out a larger feeder that is filled with a seed and corn cake. The bigger birds love it and the Blue Jay finally has a feeder that can accommodate his size.

Ricky the Cardinal was putting on a an odd show as I sat in the backyard this afternoon. Leaning from one side to another and making an insistant chirping noise he seemed to be confronting me.

Or showing off for the lady Cardinal…

Speaking of Ricky…a few weeks ago I noticed these two dark birds I had not seen before. Dull brown heads and smallish. About the size of the Cardinals and definitely not Blackbirds, Crows or Grackles. I didn’t really think much of it until this weekend when I saw this

It was obvious to me that the black bird was doing that little wing shake open mouth thing that baby birds do when they want their parents to feed them. Certainly Ricky was not going to feed this guy…WRONG!

What the heck? I watched Ricky feed this guy on and off all weekend. On Friday when I mentioned it to Cynthia she said “Oh, that’s a Cowbird!”

Turns out that Cowbirds lay their eggs in Cardinal nests and if the Cardinal doesn’t detect that a strange bird’s egg has been added the Cardinal will hatch the egg and raise the Cowbird as it’s own.

Poor Ricky! I can just imagine him thinking “Boy this kid’s ugly…and what an appetite! Guess he takes after his mother’s side of the family….”

Noisy Neighbor

There’s been a baby Mockingbird outside the front window and for the last few days he’s been cheeping and cheeping. He’s not in a nest and he’s super hard to find, especially since he stops cheeping when we go outside to look for him. I finally located him and was able to shoot the above picture using the nifty Sony 100mm Macro lens. He was pretty fearless and just watched me as I put the lens within a few inches of him. If you click to see the larger image you can see the intrepid photographer reflected in his eye.

To Photograph A Mockingbird

One of the more elusive visitors to the backyard feeders. This guy paused for a few photos before deciding that no amount of suet was worth risking an extended visit. Both shot with the vintage Minolta 500mm f/8 Reflex. Note the smoke ring-like circular bokeh in the second picture, a characteristic of this kind of lens that can either be really interesting or really annoying.

Backyard Bird Report – May 25, 2009

Gus (the guy over at who keeps “borrowing” content from has dubbed me the “Stay At Home Nature Photographer” which I suppose is in reference to the number of pics I take around the house of the birds and so forth. All in good fun, I’m sure.

This holiday weekend we had the usual suspects. House Finches, a mob of House Sparrows and numerous doves rule the day.

The Carolina Wren has been getting braver and braver, especially since we discovered his weakness for Orange Delight suet.

Mr Blue Jay continues to be elusive. He zips in and out pretty quickly. Seems awful skittish for such a well known bully of a bird.

In a revolting turn of events, a few lowly and undesirable Grackles have broken with the Westheimer tradition and have begun wandering into the residential areas and have found there way into our yard.

They seem to be raiding the neighbors dog food bowl and bringing the food to our birdbath for processing.

All of today’s shots were taken using the Sony 70-300G lens.