Saturday, March 31, 2007

Sidekick in action

Couple of week ago I wrote about my purchase of the Wimberly Sidekick. I received it within a few days and it works very well. I did end up ordering a longer plate to attach to my 400mm lens so that I could balance the lens & camera with the 1.4x or 2x converters attached. The 2x is quite heavy and without the longer plate I could not move the lens forward enough to achieve good balance. Now, when it is in balance, I can move the lens & camera either up/down or sideways with a very light, smooth touch. This comes in particularly handy when I'm trying to shoot birds in flight.
The two pictures below will give you an idea of how it all works. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to e-mail me.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Wargo's birds

Here are pictures of some of the birds I photographed at Wargo Nature Center yesterday. Of course, the usual suspects were around also: crows (the one to the right), nuthatches, Red-winged Blackbirds, Mallards, Canada Geese, a Flicker, and a sparrow and raptor I didn't have a chance to identify. All in all, a very good day.

Very soon upon arriving at Wargo I spotted this Red-bellied Woodpecker at its nest. I'm anxious to get back to it for more pictures, which will not be easy once the leaves come out. The nest is about 40 to 50 feet off the ground.

The Bald Eagle was a nice treat. There is a very large nest near the center of Wargo, but I do not know whether it is active. The only way to know is for me to go back.

The big treat of the day occurred as I was leaving Wargo. About 50' north of the access road was a pair of Sandhill Cranes; I had never been this close to them. I scurried to open the passenger side window of my car, contort myself over the divider between the seats, and squeeze off some shots. Moral of the story: always carry your camera, mounted with a telephoto lens, and leave it turned on.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Wargo Nature Center

No, the sun didn't come out today -- one could just glimpse one of those occasional bright spots through the clouds. But, the rain did stop with promises to return for the next three or four days. That was enough to justify putting off taxes for another day and head to Wargo Nature Center. It is less than 8 miles from my house, but I have not had as much luck there in photographing birds as I have at Springbrook.

However, today was different -- I was almost giddy. Tomorrow I'll post the bird pictures; tonight I'll let you take a look at Wargo and see for yourself whether it's an environment you would like to explore.

Wargo does an excellent job of leaving dead trees alone;
this makes for a great bird habitat,
for woodpeckers and ground feeding birds.

Tomorrow we'll look at some of the birds I saw this afternoon.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

fade resistance

Wondering which printers, inks, and paper provide the best resistance to fading? You may be interested to read about one recent test, even though it was quite limited. click here

rainy day

It's rainy today!

A good day to work on taxes.

Unless . . .

of course . . .

the sun comes out.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Springbrook's birds

Yesterday I introduced you to the layout of my favorite local birding place,
Springbrook Nature Center.
Today I'm posting photos of some of the birds that have already arrived this spring.

Unfortunately, it sounds like we have quite a few rainy days facing us; but be assured, I'll have more pictures soon.

This Red-winged Blackbird was claiming territory; the females have not yet arrived.

Some Canadian Geese had to walk on ice . . .

. . . until they found water.

These geese have found a home . . .

. . . and so have these Mallards.

American Coot

Monday, March 26, 2007

1st "real" trip to Springbrook this year

With a promised high of 75 degrees and the sun burning off the fog, I had no choice but to head to my favorite nearby birding spot, the Springbrook Nature Center. I seem to find more cooperative birds to photograph there than anywhere else within a 30 min. drive. I had stopped by two weeks ago when the trails were almost impossible to navigate. Today, with the exception of a few muddy spots, they were great!
Of course, relatively few birds have arrived, but it was exciting to just feel the energy of spring. What a contrast to nature going to sleep in October.
I marvel and very much appreciate the City of Fridley maintaining this refuge and encourage you to visit and support it. To give you an idea of the place, I'm showing you some pictures of the layout; tomorrow, I'll post photos of some of the birds that have arrived.
Rather than keep switching lenses on my Canon 20D, I brought along my first serious digital camera, a Nikon Coolpix 995. Although its sensor is only a little over 3 megapixels, it served me nicely for several years. All of the pictures in this sequence, with the exception of the last one, were taken with this camera. (I wish I had remembered to bring along the wide-angle auxiliary lens.)

I'm not sure what's swimming in front of the ducks. Beaver?

Blue Heron fishing

Tomorrow, I'll post more pictures of the birds I saw this morning.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Laura is back

Laura Erickson, the Dr. Ruth of Ornithology, is getting squared away with a new web site & a new blog. Take a look:
Web site: Laura Erickson's For The Birds
Blog: Laura's Birding Blog
Book: 101 Ways to Help Birds
Laura is asking what parts of her previous blog she should restore first. My thought: work on new posts. You are a wonderful writer, Laura, with good insight. Give us your current views on issues that matter.
Drop Laura a note at:

Sunday afternoon

This afternoon was a tossup. Do I venture out beyond my yard, or, do I stay home & do what has to be done? The dark clouds with intermittent glimpses of the sun convinced me of some coming rain -- so, I opted to stay home & enjoy my yard Robin and the White-breasted Nuthatch. (We did end up with a wet driveway from a little bit of rain.)
Also, I had company for an afternoon grilling session; I prepped pork chops -- they brought Two Buck Chuck (there's a new Trader Joe's that just opened in Maple Grove).
The Two Buck Chuck Merlot (actually three bucks) was really quite good, especially considering the price.
Tomorrow is another day -- if only I didn't have to get stuff together for my tax return -- and some work for a client.
My final chore for the day was to do a post on my other blog, Ivars' Voice. If you haven't checked it out, take a look.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

joining the hunt & riding the thermals

Although I had plenty of chores to do around the house, as the sun started peeking out through the fog & clouds -- and the temperature hit 67 -- I had no choice. I got in the car and headed north and east towards Wyoming (the town); the several roads leading into Carlos Avery were still closed.
At the boat landing on the north side of Linwood Lake, I came upon this Red-shouldered Hawk watching and waiting. A quick dive towards the lake didn't yield any results.
Whatever was his prey, it escaped, and he had to return to scanning and searching for the next potential victim.
The lake was 95% frozen with a few daring people still ice fishing. After a pleasant hour or so, listening to Chickadees, admiring a male Ring-necked Pheasant, watching another hawk very high in the sky and a Bald Eagle circling above, it was time for me to ride the thermals of I-35 back home. Unless it rains tomorrow, I know I won't get to my chores.

spotting his prey, he took off

meanwhile, a hawk & a Bald Eagle were riding the thermals

albino squirrel

Our albino squirrel has survived the winter.
I wonder how she will do now without the benefit of special camouflage.

Friday, March 23, 2007

spring is here

My thermometer is at 61 degrees -- saw my first Red-winged Blackbird today in Vadnais Heights -- the first Robin in my yard -- woodpeckers are frisky. Yes, spring is here!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

technorati app

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Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have been sighted as far north as southern Missouri. click here

Sandhill Cranes are back

Sandhill Cranes are back at Carlos Avery. The bad news is that the roads in the refuge are closed until the frost is out.