The Northern Cardinals in this area have been in great form this season. The males have been very dark in color and in relatively good shape (no beak chips) :-).
Interestingly I did some research on why the Cardinals at my feeders might be in better shape this year and found an interesting piece of research from the Oxford Journal of Behavioral Ecology that might be interesting to some of you. In essence their research shows that the redder the male Cardinal the more fertile he is and most likely better nourished and surprisingly happier with his mate (they refer to this as mate quality, you just can’t make this stuff up).
Regardless of the reasons, the Northern Cardinal is a beautiful bird always welcome in my backyard.
Images captured with Nikon D4s, 600mm f/4 on Lexar digital film.
I don’t know if I have just gotten better at identifying birds, become more observant in my observations or there is a real change in the migrating patterns I am seeing this year.
The results however have been pretty meaningful. I have observed several new species (here,here and here) for my neck of the woods the past 4 weeks. Unfortunately most of these observations were short lived.
Much to my chagrin many of these birds have already migrated further north. I was pretty amazed when I first saw this Hairy Woodpecker. The brown spots made me think I had somehow seen a Pacific variant which has more brown. Hairy and Pileated Woodpeckers are difficult to to get on film. They are very skittish and I like to be close when I make my images, I like the subject to fill the frame, portrait style if you will. I also like to make images that show point of reference and biology.
If it weren’t for my friend Kathy Brown, I might never have figured out what species I was observing. Identifying this bird stumped me!
Ruby Crowned Kinglets are described by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology as a tiny bird seemingly overflowing with energy, the Ruby-crowned Kinglet forages almost frantically through lower branches of shrubs and trees. Its habit of constantly flicking its wings is a key identification clue. Smaller than a warbler or chickadee, this plain green-gray bird has a white eye ring and a white bar on the wing. Alas, the male’s brilliant ruby crown patch usually stays hidden—your best chance to see it is to find an excited male singing in spring or summer. I don’t think I could have described what I saw any better. This bird moves with the energy and manner similar to a hummingbird.
With that description I would have had an easier time identifying this species. At first I thought I was looking at something in the Vireo family. However, Kathy quickly pointed out that “There should be more contrast between head and back. Also, a blue-headed vireo would have “spectacles” around its eyes. Take a look at the beak. See how thin and pointy it is?”
Its help like this that makes birding so much fun, there is always someone like Kathy willing to help. Checkout Birders who Blog, Tweet and Chirp on Facebook. There are some rally great people associated with this community and Kathy is one of them. Thanks for your help Kathy!
Image captured with Nikon D4s, 600mm f/4 w TC-e14II on Lexar digital film.