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While I'm Shooting...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

 Garrett the red-headed woodpecker is my muse. He lures me away from the drawing table and encourages me to enter bird time. I have to wait for him to show up at the Zick Dough log. And while I wait, all kinds of other beautiful things happen. This may be my favorite male cardinal shot yet. What if cardinals were as rare as red-headed woodpeckers? I'd be chasing this glorious bird all day. If I'm even tempted to take cardinals for granted, I have only to remember the Welsh birder who stayed a week with us who'd splutter "BRILLIANT! God! Look at THAT!!" every time a cardinal showed up in the yard.

I love this shot, too, of a female cardinal who is giving me the hairy eye for sitting just inside an open patio door. She knows the rules, and I'm breaking them. The door is supposed to be closed at all times.

She's all, "Really, Zick? You're shooting me through the open door? Where I can hear your shutter? And you're thinking that's just gonna be fine with me? Well, it's not. It's not fine. Good thing you make nice food, Missy."

Underlighting is a wonderful thing, especially if you're the color of a ripe bell pepper.

I was stunned to see one of my good old friends, Blondie the leucistic cardinal. She's been in our yard for at least three years, but she's always been on the north side of the house.  I'd never seen her in the backyard, and I'd never seen her sample Zick Dough before this beautiful sunny morning. See the white feathers in her crest? It seems she gets a few more every year. What a lovely thing she is. And a good mother. She had a couple of broods last summer. Not a good shot; she was suspicious and I was overexcited to see her,  and she vanished when she heard the shutter. But she'll be back. Zick Dough is like that.

I'm abashed and puzzled to say that only one eastern bluebird is eating Zick Dough with us this winter. I don't know why that is. Maybe there will be an influx when the weather really clamps down. (Nope, not even the weekend ice storm smoked more out). Maybe she's a loner. She has a male friend who occasionally comes in, but both of them are terribly shy--the most skittish bluebirds I've ever had. But she is very, very beautiful and graceful. Nothing dumpy about this gal! even though she eats lard and peanut butter all day. I love the harmonious color of the weeping willow in the background. Overcast is ever my favorite for bird portraiture.

She is so tight-feathered and lovely she looks like a Larry Barth carving to me.** Here, she shows the classic "hump back" of the bluebird. Roger Peterson said they look like they have poor posture. I think her posture is perfect.

**If you do not know who Larry Barth is, you owe it to yourself to click that link. If only to see him subdued by a six-year-old Liam in a Superman suit.

Another Melanerpes woodpecker, the red-bellied, M. carolinus.  (The red-headed is Melanerpes erythrocephalus). Most people never get close enough to see the ruby-red eye of a mature redbelly. I remember the first time I held one in  my hand...all I could look at was its beautiful fiery eye. I love my redbellies, too, and they know it. I still miss Ruby. Maybe there's another Ruby out there. I ask each redbelly who visits if they would like to try to fill her shoes. None yet seem up for the role of Zick Pet. A tame redbelly is a marvelous thing. They are suspicious birds by nature.

For now, I'll appreciate every minute with Garrett, for as long as he chooses to stay.  Bill had only a morning with our star bird before he had to leave for Las Vegas. Every time he called home I'd prattle on about Garrett. Garrett does this and Garrett did that and just today he...

Bill stopped me and said, "Do you realize you haven't said the words "red-headed woodpecker" once since I left?"

Hmm. Yeah. That's true. He's not a red-headed woodpecker any more. He's Garrett. Does that make me crazy? (The implication was there, hanging on the line between us).

Well.  Bill spent all day today (a Saturday with about 1/2" of ice coating everything) running from window to window trying to get shots of Garrett doing all the cool things a red-headed woodpecker does. And prattling on and on about the cute things Garrett was doing...

and I just smiled. Another one bites the dust.


Ah what a completely awesome post... The birds are beautiful and special, but your words, your thoughts woven in between are what really make this space come alive.
Happy New Year Julie!!
Keep writing, keep making room for these free and precious moments.

Beautiful blog. I found your pictures through another post you had made on strip mining. I will be back.

You keep shooting and writing, and we'll keep ooohing and ahhhing!

Honestly lady - are you reading my mind? I swear I commented a couple of posts back but I think I stopped just short and it was wiped out. Boo!

What I was saying was thank you for the perfect, kick in the pants reminder to be thankful for all the wonders right outside my door. I've been a little sad lately, missing my Dad for no particular reason and then missing our phoebes and orioles and especially the cardinals that ate from the feeders at our old house. But our new place has PLENTY of birches, oaks and woodpeckers. Pecker Pointe has been tossed around as possible name for 'the manor':)

We've never had a red headed - and Garrett is such a gorgeous guy - but I've been suitably reminded how lucky we are to have hairy, downy and red bellieds show up to feast each day and that I'd be better off watching them than looking for what's not around. We're visited by a pileated from time to time as well. I've had so many of my questions answered about woodpecker behavior this week and I've been renewed somehow, too.
Thanks as always and I am off to pre-order my book !!! Yahoooo!!!

Garrett has inspired me. He's included in a painting I just finished (see blog). And I, too, would love to see a cardinal but we have plenty of almost-as-brightly-coloured winter birds to thrill including a pair of resident pileated woodpeckers.

Interesting to hear that the bluebirds have not been frequenting your feeder as much. I live in York, Pa and usually have a pair, plus their offspring from this summer's brood. We haven't had a snowstorm since late October and that was the last they visited for mealworms and PB dough. They are nearby as I have seen them in the county park behind my house. I thought the bully mockingbird might be chasing them away but now I wonder if it's not because of the very mild winter this far.
Looking forward to hearing you speak in York on March 12

Thank you! I have to laugh every time I hear our little group of Florida wetlands photographers complain that "there were no birds out there this morning!" I've never been on a wetlands drive where there wasn't at least one family of cardinals or a half dozen red-winged blackbirds, two species that, while common, are among the most beautiful of birds. Guess that's the difference between competitive birders and photographers and those who look for beauty in every living thing.

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