Sunday, May 25, 2008

Memoral Day 08

As we prepair to honor our nation's war dead, thought I'd reuse the photos at Quantico National Cemetery taken just before Christmas. A PA couple places several thousand wreaths in the section of the cemetery where their son, who died in Iraq, is buried. The 725 acres are quiet and serene with about 23,000 interments as of 2007.

Memoral Day 08 con't

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Northern Cardinal

Sorry about the tail amputation! Familiar to most in the eastern half of the US, it's hard to beat them for beauty. He is the state bird of VA plus six other states. I find them hard to photograph as they are wary and skittish for small song birds. Pairs generally mate for life. For some reason, my camera over saturates the brilliant red of the male in some photos. The female, not near as showy as her husband, still has a beauty all her own. They are especially gorgeous with a snowy background.
Even lady Cardinals have bad hair days!

The morning after an ice storm just as the sun broke thru and the ice began to drip. He appeared almost translucent as he perched on an icy branch

Northern Cardinal con't

I get more requests for this one than any other. It was a bitter cold, snowy day with the wind about blowing him off his perch but he sure added a touch of elegance to a bleak winter day.

Friday, May 23, 2008


Handsome but loud and obnoxious, these are in the same family as the common Crow and Raven. Also, if you rate bird intelligence on a scale of 1 to 10, they'll rate near the top. Pretty easy to photograph as they often sit quietly just looking around.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


"Where is the person who, on seeing this lovely little creature moving on humming winglets through the air, suspended as if by magic in it, flitting from one flower to another, with motions as graceful as they are light and airy, pursuing its course over our extensive continent, and yielding new delights wherever it is seen;--who, on observing this glittering fragment of the rainbow, would not pause, admire, and instantly turn his mind with reverence toward the Almighty Creator, the wonders of whose hand we at every step discover, and of whose sublime conceptions we everywhere observe the manifestations in His admirable system of creation?--There breathes not such a person; so kindly have we all been blessed with that intuitive and noble feeling--admiration!"

~ John James Audubon

The only eastern species of hummingbird is the Ruby throat so ID'ing them is a no brainer
The male has a flaming red throat called a gorget. For the red color to show, light has to hit it at just the right angle otherwise it appears black or brown.
Male birds aggressivly defend territory they stake out.
Length about 3 1/2 inches
weight about 3 grams (a nickel weighs about 5 grams)
Body temp: 106-108 deg F
Heart rate 250 / min at rest 1200 / min feeding
Resp: about 250 / min
# of young almost always two
active birds need to feed every 20 mins
mix is one part table sugar with 4 parts water no red color needed
lifespan 3-5 years
Migration : Mexico and Central America (2000 miles!)

Flying Jewels!

Hummingbirds are found only in the Americas. There are about 340 species of which the vast majority are located in South America with about 16 occurring in the western US and only one in the east. Early Spanish explorers called them joyas voladores, "flying jewels" and John Audubon referred to them as a "glittering fragment of a rainbow". Their feathers have a metallic sheen called iridescence that makes them glitter in sunlight. I use four flash units aimed at the bird from all sides and above which gives the best chance of seeing it. The male's flaming red gorget, which is composed of VERY tiny feathers, appears black or various hues of brown unless the light hits it just right as it did here. They have very long tongues with which they "lap" nectar much like a dog.

A common myth (there are many) is that H'bird feeders must be taken down in Sept. or else the birds may perish if a cold snap occurs. All birds have a light sensative area in their brains called the pineal body. Migration is triggered by shortening peroids of daylight as fall approaches and has nothing to do with food avalibility. It's actually smarter to leave your feeders up so birds at the northern edge of their range have something to eat as the pass by on their way south. Hummers fly the 500 mile wide Gulf of Mexico non stop in about 20 hours. Myth # 2. They don't hitch a ride on the back of geese :o)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tiny Lady

This little female makes her approach to the flower. Hummers are the only birds that can hover for extended peroids of time plus fly backwards, sideways, vertically and horozontally. I used a four flash setup on her and if you look carefully you can see four tiny highlights in her eye

Male Ruby throat

These tiny guys are so incredibly quick that they can jump back from the flower at the sound of the camera's shutter. Normally consuming more than their weight per day in nectar, they consume tiny insects as well for protein. Their metabolism is the highest of all animals although at night and during unfavorable weather (i.e. cold spell) they can ratchet down their metabolism by a process called torpor where their body temperature falls into the 60's

Pot Luck

As Forrest Gump so elegantly put it, "Life is like a box of never know what you're gonna get". Same with these guys. They're way to small and way too quick (and I'm way too slow) so you never know what kind of contortions they'll be in in the photo. As you can see in her tiny wing feathers, they really are birds!

Hummingbirds in existing light

This and the two following were taken without flash so they appear as we usually see them with wings just a blur. I personally like a mix of both techniques. These show that the fastest shutter speeds found
on most cameras ( usually 1/1,000 to 1/5,000 sec) are no where near fast enough to stop the wings which beat an incredible 50-70 beats per second. Usually, speeds in the
1/ 8,000 to 1/ 20,000 range sec are needed which can only be obtained by short duration flash.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


This is "Sundrops" (Oenothera perennis) a late spring/summer bloomer in our area. This one is complete with an ittsy bittsy, teeny weenie yeller pokadot... spider. These are in the Primrose Family and look very similar to the Evening Primrose except that the latter blooms in the evening (imagine that!). Found this one in a ditch (where else!) in the Spotsylvania CH battlefield.

Common Chicory

Common Chicory, (Chicorum intybus) is a familiar sight in most country road ditches starting soon. Extremely hardy and aggressive, after introduction to the US it has spread nationwide and can grow on hard-packed road shoulders or just about anywhere. The blue or sometimes white flowers open early in the day and typically close by noon. The flowers grow directly on the tough leather like stem
It is quite beautiful none the less and the tap root is ground and added to coffee. It has a mellow sweet flavor that cuts coffee's bitterness. The Luzianne Co., based in New Orleans, routinely adds Chicory to their Luzianne Coffee with Chicory. I love it!


Monday, May 19, 2008


Daylilies are one of our most popular garden flowers. Basically you can plant 'um and forget 'um. They are probably the most hybridized plant in the world with every color and flower shape imaginable available. They belong to the genus Hemerocallis which means "day" and "beautiful" in Greek. The flowers typically open at dawn and close at dusk lasting but a single day. They are native to Asia and are not true lilies which typically have nodding, spotted flowers.

Daylily 1

Same flower with three different lightnings

Daylily 2

Daylily 3

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Eastern Bluebird

The Eastern Bluebird, (Sialia sialis) is a medium sized Thrush of the same family as Robins. Nearly wiped out by pesticides and competition with Starlings and House Sparrows for nesting sites, they've been brought back by aggressive conservation efforts to the point they are plentiful. The male is striking in his red, white and blue attire. His western cousin, the Mountain Bluebird, has a light blue breast. Ours raised three batches of little ones last summer, keeping the parents busy until September.

Bluebird 2

Bluebird 3

Bluebird 4

Bluebird 5

Have never had a B'bird come to a feeder until this little guy showed up last winter after a snow storm on a bitter cold morning

Bluebird 6

Bluebird 7

Mama Bluebird sure has a mouth full!

Bluebird 8

Bluebird 9

Another Houstonia

This is the Long leafed Bluet (Houstonia longafolia) which is white so don't know where the "Bluet" fits in. Another tiny flower of the roadsides in spring.

Houstonia size