Have you seen the Sandhill Cranes in West Richland? Maybe you went to the Crane Festival in Othello over the weekend. (If so, I would love to hear about it.) Well, I just went out this morning and they're still here, feeding on the fields, before they leave to continue their migration north. I estimated about 1500-2000 this morning, so I think there's a good chance they'll still be around for several days.
I'd like to invite you to come out and see the cranes with me on Friday &/or Saturday morning. Let's meet at 7am at the Indulgences Espresso & Delights (5449 West Van Giesen St, West Richland). And, yes, you'll have time to grab some java and a bite to eat if you so desire. They have a pretty good looking menu (www.dailyindulging.com). The cranes are just down the street, around the corner, and over the bridge, but it's just a lot easier if you follow me. Please message me if you'll be joining me so I know to look for you. Bring your camera &/or binoculars and dress warm. You can stay as long as you like but they tend to be flying in at roughly 7:30 (just after sunrise) for about an hour. And if the farmer shows up and drives out through the field, you'll get to see the mass flock in flight.
This Saturday I am bringing my work to the Unique Gift Gala in Hermiston. Many interesting vendors will be there. Click on the image and it will take you to their facebook page for more information. Hope to see you there. My daughter will be joining me but will have her own table selling her jewelry.
Every February I travel to Gilbert, Arizona, for a little R&R girls weekend with my Mother-in-law, sister-in-law and cousin(-in-law), although she had to miss this year. My MIL spoils us with a day at the spa and some serious unwind time hiking the desert and lounging in the pool. I've been going out a few days early before our official girls weekend starts to do some work. Birds flock to the area for their mild, typically 70's temperature winters. One area I've discovered (with the help of my in-laws) is the Gilbert Water Ranch. It's a haven for birds. And photographers. This past weekend I photographed 20 species, primarily shorebirds, but also an osprey, hummingbirds, turtles and rabbits. It was a very rainy weekend (which only put a minor crimp in our spa day - ok, I already admitted that we got spoiled). But the birds didn't mind and I had my umbrella (mostly to protect the camera and lens) so I didn't mind either. We even had a special visitor, a Cackling Goose. The Cackling Goose, which I was not aware of until my new friend, Babs Buck, informed me, looks just like the Canada Goose, only smaller. You can see that in the picture below. Actually, it's a newly recognized species, Branta hutchinsii. It's range doesn't even include Arizona, so what a special treat for a visit.
Another site that I discovered was a man-made habitat for burrowing owls at Zanjero Park in Gilbert, AZ. Just 6 feet away from the sidewalk are the entrances to the owls' homes. 100 burrows in all but not nearly that many birds. The few I did see were incredibly amazing. They do tend to stay there year round, raising their young in the spring. However, those that did not raise young may choose to migrate. One owl and I sat through a heavy rainstorm together. I thought he was going to fly off as he slowly spread his wings but he stayed on his perch and stayed there for what I can only figure to take a shower. And a good one it was.
If you get down to southern Arizona in the winter, I highly recommend these two sites. The week after I met Babs, she went further south in Arizona to a small area called Patagonia for birding. She told me the birding was excellent. She will be posting to her blog soon. If you are interested, her blog address is www.babsbirdingexperiences.blogspot.com.
It's cold. Below freezing cold. And the snow and ice coverage not only makes it difficult for us to get around and for the kids to get to school (our summer is getting shorter already due to numerous snow days), this extreme weather is making it difficult for the birds to find food. The grasses are covered. The berries are gone. The worms are safe in the frozen soil. But we can help them out. If you already have a bird feeder, keep it full of seeds. Your local hardware and grocery stores will carry winter seed blends which have higher fat seeds that the birds are in need of to stay warm in this weather. Black sunflower seeds are especially good. Pre-made suet blocks also contains the high fat seeds that birds are in need of. I've been doing my own form of suet by putting sunflower seed butter on the branches of last years christmas tree cuttings that I've strategically placed across from our nook window and then sprinkle the surrounding area with seeds.
With all the snow, I've tossed extra seed on the snow around the cuttings. It's amazing how many birds have been visiting. Numerous dark-eyed juncos and white-crowned sparrows, and other sparrow (chipping, maybe?). And possibly a house finch. What birds are visiting your house and feeder? Let me know. It's interesting to find out which birds are wintering here.
And, naturally, this makes for a great photo op. No need to be out in the cold to get pictures of the birds at your feeder(s). Well, you'll need to go outside to put the seed out but then you can stay warm and cozy inside. Hopefully your feeders are positioned so the sun (when the clouds have cleared) will shine on them and not directly into your window and that they are within a good viewing distance from your window. It’s a good idea to not put the feeders too close to the window because that may increase the chance of a bird flying into the window and getting injured.
Set your camera on a tripod or table and books, if needed (like when you leave your tripod in the car and your husband takes that car to work). You'll want to place the camera so your lens is extended to the focal length you want and is flush with the glass. So adjust the tripod legs accordingly - the 2 front legs on my tripod were adjusted slightly lower than the third so the head was slightly forward (or pull your table in closer). If you pull the lens is away from the window or have it at an angle to the window, you may get some reflection from the glass. Try a couple of shots in several positions (close, away, angled) and see how they look. I also recommend adding a polarizer filter to cut down on glare from the snow and sun and also to protect the lens.
The camera settings ranged from ISO 800-1200 because of the changing amount of light when the birds showed up. My f/stop was at f/8 and shutter speed varied a little from 1/800 to 1/2000. Although the majority of the time my shutter speed was at 1/1250. I like that shutter speed because the action can be stopped in the image. Play with the settings and see what you like. If you drop you shutter speed a little bit, the bird will be stopped in flight but the wings will be slightly (or a lot) blurred to show the motion.
For more information on feeding birds in your area, contact my friend, Donna, at Donna@coloradonativebird.org
I'm so excited to announce my first limited edition exhibit - Images of northern Italy, vineyards and villages. Opening show will be Wednesday November 30th from 6-8pm at Frichette Winery (Benton City/Red Mountain). Please RSVP to assure we have enough wine and snacks. Images will be available in 3 sizes, matted and framed at the show, and limited to 25 printings per image/size.
We were so excited because neither of us had been to Yellowstone before. And since I didn't know the park and really wanted to find out the areas where the animals tend to hang out, especially the wolves, we had a private tour guide. Scott from Yellowstone Tour Guides was an exceptional guide. He has worked at the park as a guide for more than 10 years and knew where the animals were likely to be during that time of year. Definitely worth having him show us around the park. And, bonus, he knew where all the clean bathrooms were.
The West entrance had just opened that weekend (mid-April) so we were able to start our travels there, work our way up to Mammoth and then head east through Lamar Valley. We stayed over in Cooke City and managed to arrive 30 minutes before closing time at the only restaurant currently opened in town. Word of advise - bring something other than American Express. It's not accepted there. Luckily I had a backup.
Lamar Valley is where the wolves tend to be. In early spring, they are starting to den in preparation for birthing their cubs. We discovered a group of wolf watchers, and so appropriately named, standing alongside the road with their scopes fixated on the hillside which jutted up from the wide meadow. There was one wolf wandering the hill side and it could just barely be seen even with the strong scopes. So I partially met my goal for the weekend - I SAW a Yellowstone wolf, but did not get to photograph one.
The three of us did venture into the meadow to get a little closer to the hillside in hopes of seeing another wolf. It wasn't to be, only a few more grazing bison. At least we can rightfully say that we did a little backcountry hiking in Yellowstone. It was quite beautiful. The river twisted through the landscape and the vegetation was starting to come out of its dormancy.
You can view additional images from Yellowstone under the Portfolio heading. They have their own portfolio page. Because I will be returning to Yellowstone.