Feathered friends: Birds are at the feeders

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Wayne Hinshaw
For the Salisbury Post
Camera day at the bird feeder is a big day. Well, maybe it is a big day for the photographer, but I think the birds could do without the bother.
I picked one of the coldest days in February to stake out the bird feeders in my yard. The temperature sat on 29 degrees and a hard wind blew as I took a seat in the rocking chair on my front porch to watch and wait for my bird friends to come and pose for me.
Within minutes, I was cold and shaking, even though I was wearing a heavy coat, wool cap and gloves. The birds didn’t even seem interested in posing. They sat in the tree at a distance watching me shiver. At long last, a tufted titmouse came to the feeder making a terrible squeaking noise, sounding his dismay at having a photographer watching him. He did dart back and forth, making a quick grab of a seed on each pass while being photographed.
A tiny chickadee came to the suet and sunflower seed, paying no attention to me. While hanging there, he ate his fill for several minutes while I got his photo. Pretty nice picture, I thought. A yellow-bellied sapsucker woodpecker pecked away on my pecan tree. Sometimes he comes to the feeder and hangs upside down while eating, but that was not going to happen on this day.
Then I got a real treat. A tiny brown-headed nutnatch popped down on the feeder. Quickly he grabbed a sunflower seed in his long beak and was about to fly away when I got his photo. This might be my best model of the day.
The lack of models and the cold wind forced me to retreat to another location. I moved to my storage shed in the backyard. I had to move mowers and tools from in front of a window and remove the screen. This was much better for my photo session. I could sit down in a chair at the window and view the feeders. Even better, I could plug up my electric heater and place it in front of me, making a warmer position in my “bird blind” next to my shovels and hoes. A garden rake kept objecting to my position by jabbing me in the neck.
Now in improved comfort, I could watch and wait for the birds to come. My mind could wander off to thoughts of a big wild animal hunt with me perched, ready with camera for the perfect photo. I jerked back to reality when the first brilliant red cardinal stopped at the feeder. Wow! He was great posing for me. Then I spotted his female companion sitting under the feeder eating. She was brownish in color with that red beak and cone on her head. I think she had groomed her feathers for the photo session.
A brown thrasher came to pose. He was a large, brown-backed bird with spots on his light chest. He was rather pretty. I wondered if he was the same thrasher that “dive-bombed” me last summer while I was picking blueberries in my yard. There was a nest in the bush where I was picking and the thrashers didn’t like my visit to their world, and they let me know all about my trespassing.
A robin came for photos. The robins will not eat from the feeders. They prefer earthworms and bugs, but they like to be around the seed-eating birds just the same. A dark-eyed junco posed on the ground under the feeder, eating the seeds the other birds dropped. Many folks call the juncos snowbirds around here.
Then it occurred to me that I surely had enough pictures for one day. The same models kept coming back to pose over and over at the same sitting. Once you have photographed a beautiful cardinal or brown thrasher, how many more photos do you need in the same sitting of these models? And I did get a great photo of that nutnatch with the seed in his mouth earlier.
During the winter months, the birds like to eat the sunflower seed, safflower seed, corn, milo and thristle seed at the feeders. They don’t seem to care if I take their photos while they pose for me as long as I pay them with food.