Sunday, June 8, 2014

Mother's Day

The weather on Mother's Day was beautiful. With plans to visit my Mom later in the day, I went for a walk with the kids to the park in town to give the dear mother of my kids a quiet afternoon at home.  I took the camera along and wandered the grounds around the playground.  I did not linger long by the playground with my long lens for fear someone would call the cops reporting a strange guy with a big camera taking pictures of kids - don't laugh, it's happened before.  Another blogger I follow had it happen to him once when was in a woodlot abutting a school yard!

I watched the always present Robins combing the "grass-scape" for works and grubs, pausing for a few seconds to scan the grass below, and then hopping the next five paces to another place to search.

American Robin

I watched this Common Grackle take on a different approach to finding food, or should I say, obtaining food.  When the Robins would find a grub or worm, the Grackle would swoop in and pounce.  The undersized Robin would drop the catch and flee, leaving the Grackle to pickup the fallen prize.

Common Grackle thief.

This Grackle did it a few times while I was watching and picked up a good supply of food, likely for a nest full of young somewhere nearby.

Common Grackle with stolen meal.

The familiar high pitched notes of an American Goldfinch caught my attention up in a tree.  It was serenading a female that was calmly sitting by while the male switched from branch to branch, singing its heart out hoping to convince the lady of its worth.

Male American Goldfinch with female in background.

Although I'm doubting it now, I'm pretty sure the bird in the background is the female. Usually Goldfinches are quite camera shy but it seems this pair was quite distracted and I could get quite close. Too bad they were way up in the tree.

male American Goldfinch singing away.

female American Goldfinch

male American Goldfinch

After returning from the park, I wandered behind our place in the church yard to see if any migrants might have stopped for a rest in our little area of town.  Way up in the tops of some old spruce trees was some movement and I took some pictures with harsh mid-day lighting.  The birds were constantly moving through the branches and it was a challenge to try and get a few good pictures.  Previewing the pictures I assumed they were Yellow-Rumped Warblers and didn't think much about it till editing them recently.  I'm still not 100 percent sure, but I think they were They were Cape May Warblers (Thanks Dwayne!).  I'm pretty sure the bird pictured below is a young male.  Life bird #203.

Cape May Warbler

These little birds prefer the spruce budworm, but also have a unique feature in the warbler world.  They have a curled, semi-tubular tongue which they use to gather nectar during the colder seasons after having migrated to the West Indies islands.

Cape May Warbler

What had actually brought me to these tall spruces was a Gray Catbird which was eluding me earlier.  I was able to get one quick shot as it played cat and mouse (yes, pun intended!) between the large row of stout spruce trunk bases.  Although not a great shot, I thought I'd include it as it shows, albeit obscured somewhat, the bright rusty colour under its tail.

Gray Catbird

We headed to my parents church in Cambridge for their second service, and afterwards, my youngest brother pointed out a neatly carved hole in an aging Maple tree in the front yard of the church.  Soon enough, the curious head of a Red-bellied Woodpecker appeared, giving away location of an active nest site.

Red-bellied Woodpecker in nest cavity.

Once it got used to us standing there, it seemed content to just watch us right back.

Red-bellied Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker

However, once the curiosity of the young boys running on the other side of the church lawn brought them over, the woodpecker had enough and fled with its trademark, scolding call.  We didn't stay long after that and let it return to the nest.

Just as we were about to leave, a Cooper's Hawk soared over, nice and slowly so I could get a reasonably clear picture as it coasted west, way above us.

Cooper's Hawk

That afternoon we headed to the Huron Natural Area near my parent's place for a walk before supper.  It's a beautiful spot in an area quickly being developed with new housing.  Great to see such a large area being left for conservation.  Since the camera was in use for capturing our family time, I didn't do a lot of bird searching or photography.  I was surprised though that there weren't more birds to be seen then we did.

Spring fiddlehead in the afternoon sun.

We headed back to the home of half my childhood (after we moved) and enjoyed time with family and spent time appreciating my great Mom!!

Mourning Dove

I'd almost completely forgotten....  My outing earlier that day had been to take my first run with our new camera.  I had convinced Henry's to drop an already sale price on a Sony a65 to replace our dead a33. After quite a bit of research (online and talking to various Sony and Henry's staff), I'd determined fixing our stuck shutter was likely to be between $400 and $500.  I ended up getting the new camera for barely more than that.  On top of that, the a33's shutter had already died on us once with the camera being replaced for us under warranty.  With it having hinted at a failure earlier and then finally dying, I was nervous about spending that much money on a shutter system with known problems.

For those of you proud Nikon or Canon owners who I'm sure are right now wondering why I still went with a Sony... already owning Sony lenses meant I was not going to start over again with a whole new camera system.  There are things I really like about the Sony cameras, and then other days when I really wish I could get another stop or two of light without the "transparent mirror" in the way.

Image grabbed from Sony's website of the a65

So far from my few outings with the new a65, here are my pros and cons:

Bigger: Yes, I found the a33 too small.  I don't have huge hands, but when you're gripping a camera for a few hours on an outing, it actually is a pain having a small camera in your hands.
Faster: It can shoot 10 fps with continuous AF but AE locked after the first shot, and 7 with adjusting AE. That's nice and fast!  And when capturing while panning, the lag problem with the display of the last picture is greatly reduced.
24.3MP: Though really it's getting pretty high, if you really get the focus right, you can crop in nice and close on a distant subject.
Additional Focus Mode:  Sony has added one new focus mode which groups all the sensors in a field of three.  That limits it from hunting as much when there is varied  focus items.
Overheating: Or rather, the lack there of!!! In warm weather, the a33 would constantly overheat on me and shut off.  That was extremely annoying!!  I will not miss that.  Almost reason enough to switch just for this!
new OLED viewfinder: Sony has upgraded the digital viewfinder.  In normal lighting, you can hardly tell anymore that it's not optical.  It has almost double the pixels of the a33, and with the OLED compared to LED, it uses less power and presents much cleaner when displaying motion.

Programmable button: I changed the D-Range button on the a33 to focus mode so I could switch quickly between single point focus and wide (say a noticed a bird in flight and needed to switch quickly).  However, though the a65 does the same, the only button I don't want remove its normal mode from, can't utilize the customized mode in Manual mode.  Why, I do not know!  I usually shoot in fully manual.
Multi Shot Self Timer: This is a general gripe.  I don't know if any of the other SLR brands have this, but I can't for the life of me understand why they don't have a feature to shoot a sequence of multiple pictures on self timer.  Our old Panasonic FZ30 (now that was a great camera in its day!!) had this.

Ok, have any of you other photographers had this idea?
"Camera, ISO 400"
"Camera, Focus, Point"
"Camera, Focus, Burst"
Being able to have the camera obey voice commands to adjust functions without having to shift to another hand hold for another button and change a mode would be great!  Maybe that feature would price the camera completely out of my market I don't know, but you'd think with all the voice control on our phones, that technology has been mastered?

But to wrap it up, a post mother's day thanks to my Mom who is very dear to me.  She's a great mom and now is a great grandmother to our kids!  She throws her heart and soul into everything she does, sometimes so much that it takes a little too much out of her I fear. ;)  I love you Mom and thank God for you and your huge impact on who I am!

Until next time...
Keep enjoying HIS handiwork!


  1. Hi! I am a young birder from Winnipeg, our friends who moved from Ontario told me about your blog.
    Great photos! I especially love the Red-bellied Woodpecker pictures!
    I believe that is a Cape May Warbler also.

    My blog is:


    1. Hi Josiah. You have a great blog as well. So great to see a young guy like you interested and putting serious effort into learning something and doing it well. Keep in touch.

  2. Brian, glad to help out with the ID. I love Cape May Warblers... but I rarely see them outside of fall migration! Did you see them near Hamilton? Great woodpecker shots!

    1. Thanks Dwayne. They were pretty much in my backyard in St. George.


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