Nature up-close

I’m not absolutely sure this one is quite fair.  While we were riding around in Cades Cove, there were several instances of deer who stood for long periods near the historic cabins.  They kept sticking their heads under a spot in the building and didn’t move even when bunches of people were near.  I heard sometime later, that there are salt licks put out for the deer and I assume that’s what they were after.

In this case, we were taking shots of Dan Lawson’s place and I wandered around the back to see the out-buildings.  I noticed one of the members of our group standing at the back side of a barn and not moving so, I ventured over there.  I found Lou Ramondi watching this deer and taking shots like this and the deer was not about to leave.  Since the subject was so cooperative, I got a few myself.

Here is what the deer really seems to have thought of us:

Smoky Mountains-3848

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 16-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC
110mm @ f/10 – 1/160 sec – ISO 400

Curious Cardinal

What can I say, it’s David Akoubian’s fault!  I guess I was asking for it when I got his opinion on upgrading my long lens.  Now, I’m addicted to watching the birds around my house and trying to get just one more good shot.  On the positive side, the new Tamron 150-600 makes getting good shots a lot easier.

I sit out in the yard and watch the birds, hoping that they will land in a spot that will have some light, not be blocked by miscellaneous branches and where the birds are posing for me.  At the same time, I find that the birds occasionally seem to enjoy watching me.  When this female cardinal stopped at one of the few “perfect spots”, she kept cocking her head to the side with an expression like “what the heck are you doing?”.

Yeah, photographers are kind of crazy.

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
600mm @ f/6.3 – 1/125 sec – ISO 200

Red-headed Woodpecker

I didn’t realize how many woodpeckers we have right in my own backyard.  I was actually trying to capture a different one when this specimen came into view.  The one I had seen earlier was a Red-bellied woodpecker but this is the red-headed variety.  The two are similar but the red-bellied one has red on the back of the head only.

All of the woodpeckers seem to be quite fond of suet feeders but they are also easy to scare away.  At first, this one landed on the side of the dogwood tree where my suet feeder hangs but when he spotted me, zipped around the back side.  You can see he peeked around the side in the first image and only hopped out after a while of checking the situation first.

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I call this bird “he” but since the plumage of the male and female of this species are the same, I don’t know which this is.  I’m sure the birds can tell the difference so, I guess that’s all that counts.

Red-headed Woodpecker
Melanerpes erythrocephalus

Roswell, Georgia, USA

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
600mm @ f/9 – 1/100 sec – ISO 800

Backyard Bird Watching

Since getting my latest toy, the Tamron SP 150-600mm G2, I have been spending more time bird watching.  It really is amazing the sharpness that you can get with this lens and I am loving the close-up views I get of the common birds that I normally see only from a distance.

I need to figure out how to set up more places for the birds to perch in a natural looking area.  I’m finding that I can get some great shots at the feeders but I want more like this one with a natural background.  It’s either that or I need to develop a lot more patience.  It took quite a while for me to capture a few shots with birds in the trees where there was enough light and no leaves blocking the view.  Of course, being what they are, the birds don’t like when I move around so, that’s another challenge.

In any case, I like how this worked out.  This beautiful male cardinal was perched in a dogwood tree in the middle of my yard.  The males usually find a good spot to survey the area around the feeders and keep watch while the female comes down to eat.  I was lucky enough to spot this one on a branch that was not obstructed by other trees.

Good thing I like hanging out in the yard.  Looks like I may be doing this pretty often.

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
600mm @ f/6.3 – 1/125 sec – ISO 200

Cades Cove Coyote

Wildlife is one of the biggest attractions at Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  You could always tell when something interesting had been spotted by the cars pulled off to the side of the road.  In this case, there were two park residents in opposite corners of the same big clearing.  At one end was a black bear, foraging for its breakfast and at the other, this coyote, doing the same.

On a ridge a good football-field length away, stood a good-sized group of photographers and other gawkers watching the pair.  If the two animals knew of each other’s presence, I couldn’t tell.  The each seemed to be consumed with eating.  The coyote seemed to be hunting some small animals, maybe mice.  You could tell when he saw something when the ears perked up and he would occasionally jump and pounce.

It was a great sight but it was also one of those times when you say – “People are idiots”.  Two separate occurrences of people wandering through the clearing without any regard for the wild animals happened while we were there.  I don’t know if they didn’t realize that they were walking right toward them or if they were actually trying to get as close as possible but there they went.  We didn’t witness any incidents of people getting eaten by wildlife but, I kind of wished we had.

Good thing there are park rangers around when these sighting are made.  Otherwise, the bears would all be way too fat from eating stupid tourists!

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 16-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC
300mm @ f/8 – 1/200 sec – ISO 400

Look, I found a seed

I think Bird watching is even more fun when you can see them up-close.  This image is your basic backyard Nuthatch on a feeder.  From a distance, they’re cute to watch but when you can get close like this, you can actually see what’s going on!

I watched this guy for a while and waited for a moment when he would be in nice light and was doing something interesting.  It is definitely a waiting game but, I was happy with this shot.  Apparently, they like sunflower seeds the best because he had sorted through the other choices and grabbed this one in his beak.

Hope I get some good pointers on improving my bird photography when I’m on a workshop with David Akoubian this weekend.

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
600mm @ f/10 –  1/100 sec – ISO 400

Georgia’s State Bird

One of the frequent visitors to my yard is the Brown Thrasher, Georgia’s state bird.  It is interesting to watch these birds move around.  They don’t go to the feeders often but seem to prefer staying on the ground and occasionally, fly up into the trees as seen here.

I love to watch them displaying their namesake behavior as they move through the debris on the ground and thrash about, looking to scare up insects or other bits and pieces to eat.  I had a bit of a challenge trying to get a good shot as they don’t seem to sit still and are easily startled.  Each time I moved to focus on one of them, they would swivel their head and get ready to fly off.

I probably need to keep watching them and maybe I will also construct some kind of perch near my feeders to create a place for birds to stay near the food source but have a more natural background.  Studying the habits of these animals is probably the best way to plan for better shots.

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
600mm @ f/11 –  1/125 sec – ISO 400