Duck, duck, goose!

I took a break this week from spying on my “yard birds,” and found some water birds at Joyner Park. We spied them while walking, and after we were through, I picked up the camera and was happy to see the flock of geese, and a mallard duck and his mate.

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Mama duck blends in with the leaves so well, I didn’t even see her until I started editing my photos!

It’s easy to lose track of time when taking pictures. But birds are so much prettier up close!

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This is one of many Canadian geese we saw this week.
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We see lots of these Canadian geese in this part of North Carolina.

Birds, old and new

I guess I can count myself as an official amateur birder, now, since feathered critters seem to be all I’m taking pictures of nowadays. I’m overdue for a zoo trip, but until then, I’m honing my picture-taking skills with these small, energetic and thoroughly enjoyable creatures.

Today we attempted some exercise at Joyner Park, but I took my camera, and spent more time bird watching than walking. I kept hearing a red-bellied woodpecker – probably a pair of them – but was unable to locate either.

There are numerous seemingly drab birds darting around the brush and hopping from branch to branch at the park, but a good camera with a zoom lens can reveal surprises.

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This pretty little bird appears to be lost.

I snapped picture after picture of a fluttery little specimen jumping from branch to branch, not having any clue what it was. I was able to lighten one of the pictures, and after consulting a bird book, decided it is a golden-crowned kinglet, a bird that lives in southern Alaska and central Canada, but migrates south for the winter. It’s apparently frequently spotted in the North Carolina mountains. I wonder if it will spend the winter here, instead.

I snapped some pictures of a fat mockingbird, but this profile picture turned out best. Mockingbirds are territorial; I’ve seen them chasing all kinds of other birds, and was “attacked” by one myself once. They can be funny, though. I once heard one mimicking a car alarm.

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My husband spotted this one. He was so far back in the branches it was hard to get a good shot.

Apparently, we have plenty of pileated woodpeckers around, although it took finding a camera with a good zoom lens to locate them. I’ve only just started photographing birds, but the colors, and the variety, continue to amaze me. I look forward to discovering more.

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American robin

Woodpecker Wednesday

Today was the first day of winter. A day I look forward to all year, not because I like the season, but I know the dark nights will slowly shorten, and the sun, although much lower in the sky, will begin to bring more daylight, in anticipation of spring.

It was cold this morning. Too cold to go outside to just stand quiet and birdwatch. I waited until the thermometer hit 50, then took my camera outside.

Although it was chilly, it’s more enjoyable to take pictures outside, rather than attempt a clear shot through the sliding glass door.

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Can’t remember if this was a male or female downy, but this time, it was fine with sharing.
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This red-bellied woodpecker was spooked right after it landed.

Initially, though, I was inside. And spied a pileated woodpecker back in the woods.

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This stunning woodpecker was all about de-bugging the trees.

And I heard, and saw, several red-bellied woodpeckers. They are so pretty.

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Red-belled woodpeckers often announce their arrival before they are seen.

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Three types of woodpeckers in my backyard made for a good day. Even if it was the first day of winter.

Feeder frenzy

Fall has always been a favorite, but as the sun and the temperatures descend into winter, I tend to want to curl up inside with a good book and hibernate until the flowers start peeking out of the frosty ground in the spring.

We recently had a new back door installed, which gives us a clear view to my tiny, bedraggled garden, and the nearly-bare woods beyond that. I haven’t had much time to brood about my lack of gardening inspiration, though, since we found a great deal on a camera on Black Friday.

I stand at the door, now, several times a day, camera and zoom lens in hand, ready to discover which hungry birds will show up at the feeders to grab a seed or a tidbit of suet to tide them over during the longer, colder nights of late fall.

I had been fussing about not seeing any birds, and wondering if maybe the hawks had gotten them all, when a swarm of titmice, nuthatches, chickadees, and even a red-bellied woodpecker stopped by for lunch.

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Chickadees always cheerily announce their arrival. They’re usually heard before they’re seen.
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Nuthatches make a bit of noise when they’re in the neighborhood, too.
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Score!

I was delighted when a woodpecker showed up. I hear them all the time, but rarely see them, as they zip up and down the trunks of the tall neighborhood trees. This one steadily chipped away at an old branch, looking for bugs.

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This colorful red-bellied woodpecker gave up hunting for bugs and zoomed in to snatch some suet.

It’s sometimes hard to leave the house now, because I have so much fun watching the birds. Until next time, then . . .

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Titmice fuss at me all the time, but up close, they don’t look grouchy at all.

*I may post pictures on Instagram before I get around to writing a blog post. To follow me there, look for the button on this blog or at ddiljak@Instagram.

Beauty in December

You don’t have to travel far to find scenes worthy of a photograph. Bill and I had some free time this week, and found we were overdue for a visit to Umstead State Park. I have some vivid memories of that place, mostly involving a copperhead and a “death march” I took with him a few years back, but that is another story.

This time, I had a new camera in hand, and we searched out photo opportunities.

December is not the most colorful time of year in Raleigh. I think we’ve had a late fall; still, most of the leaves have turned and nearly all have fallen, but there are a few, colorful stragglers here and there.

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Gumball trees are an annoyance when they get big and start to reproduce.

We took off from the visitor’s station, which Bill warned was a bit of a walk to the main park, but I shrugged off his suggestion to drive in further and off we went.

I kept hearing birds I didn’t recognize, and managed to locate one with the zoom lens.

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I identified this white-throated sparrow by the patch of yellow just above its eyes (and some help from the Internet).

We walked on the road for a while, but the trails along the creeks offered the best views.

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The play of light through the trees makes for interesting patterns, even in late fall.

After 90 minutes or so of walking and stopping, we decided it was time to head back to civilization to find some lunch. But not before discovering a few more birds.

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Nuthatches are one of my favorites.

Another beauty perched above our heads. I’m not sure, because of the winter feathers, but I think it’s an American redstart. My first time seeing this bird, as well.

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I’m still working on getting the camera to focus on the bird, not the branches.
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The same bird, from another angle. It’s about the size of a robin.

I’ve got four feeders set up around my house, but the birds have been scarce this fall. I’m not sure if it’s the location, the mild weather, or the number of hawks in the neighborhood. The squirrels are another story.

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This clear creek runs through Umstead State Park in Raleigh, NC.