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Piper at the Gates of Dawn

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

I took that from Wind in the Willows, but those of you who love the book already knew that. Piper was a good name for this bird, this indigo bunting who, for a couple of weeks, sang me to waking on the farm bell right outside my window. He started singing before it got light and he'd come to the farm bell, which is about 20' from my bedroom window, just as shivering dawn was dragging herself out of her eastern bed.

I wanted a picture of that. The first couple of times I shot through the glass and it was terrible. It's hard to find a setting on your camera for oh-dark-thirty that doesn't involve flash, which was the last thing I wanted to do to a bird with the courage to sit and sing his heart out on a farm bell just outside my bedroom window.

This is about as good as it got. July 13, 2012. Shot through glass in dim light.

So I got smarter. I removed the screen and slept with the window wide open all night so I'd be awakened by Piper's first note. I put my Canon 7D on its monopod and kept it at bedside. The next morning, here's what I got.

These are the actual light conditions under which Piper sang. What jumps out at you?

Piper's mandible. 

Here, with a little post-processing, you can see the silvery reflective mandible that distinguishes the male indigo bunting. I always wondered about that feature. Now I know when it comes in handy. It looks wonderful on a dawn-singing male, a little visual punch to go with the ringing audio 
"Fire! Fire! Where? Where? Put it out! Put it out!

I was still dying to get a photo of Piper on the farm bell. It was just too perfect that this magical creature, the one for whom our sanctuary, Indigo Hill, is named, would come and sing on the farm bell. Bill's mom used it to call the kids in from playing at the old farmhouse where he was born in Pella, Iowa.  And before that, who knows how many farmhands over how many decades heard its BONGG and started salivating?

I had to get that photo. Love the bell, love the bunting.

And after a couple more mornings of banging away with my camera in the dark, I did.

Ahh, Piper. You magic bird, you. Thank you.


Beautiful post .... awesome bird!

what a gorgeous bird...

Your name is in the dictionary under the definition of persistent. Beautiful!

This gave me goosebumps. Great job!

Very satisfying. That silvery bill is magic!

Kathy in Delray Beach

Perserverance personified. What gorgeous photos ~ a whole new dimension to the color blue.

Thank you from my heart for sharing your glorious life with me. What a lovely story and photograph!

Oh BUFFLEHEAD we love you!

What a wonderful post -- and I love your sense of mission. I've always (always meaning since I first saw one through good optics)loved the violet cast to the head of a male Indigo Bunting.

Imagining such a wake-up call transported me to a place of exhillaration. The beauty of a male indigo bunting alone could do that, but to see it singing and read your commentary was stunning. The first and only time I've ever spotted one in my own backyard was a moment to take one's breath away---not to mention store in one's memory cache. The bell photo is wonderful, but so are the others. I'm glad you didn't discard them for being lesser views.

Bell weather bird.

I LOVE indigo buntings! Can your camera handle a high ISO? That plus a wide open F-stop may help with your light issue (I'm sure you know that already ;-).

BEAUTIFUL....Bell, Bird, Color & History.This looks like a great subject for the next JZ original artwork.

Posted by Anonymous October 1, 2012 at 1:54 PM
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