Friday, December 26, 2008

Brown-headed Nuthatch or Eastern Bluebird?


A Downy Woodpecker drummed away on this partially dead Black Willow last winter. Dead trees are so full of life... it lives by a pond I visit often. Four days before Christmas, Black Willow was loaded with Eastern Bluebirds. I put the car in park.


A group of blue ladies flew away on other business, leaving her to investigate alone. They always take my breath away.

No need to leave the car. I sat and watched her from my driver seat for a while, wondering how she’d pack herself into such a small cavity. A very nice one, with an awning.

There are times when the camera must take a back seat. Birds do everything for a reason and during times like this I settle myself and wonder if there will be a story to tell.

Who claims this spiffy, small cavity today?


Ah ha! Ms. Bluebird wasn’t alone


and she became spooked when


two Brown-headed Nuthatches seemed to claim their territory. Tiny and brave, they went about their business,



doing what nuthatches do, scaling the bark and scooting in and out of a small, one-room apartment, perfectly sized for them.

Oh, why not. Risk it. Get out of the car, Mary and power up the camera. Unbelievably, I don’t think they noticed me or heard my camera’s digital tones. Opportunities like this are rare for someone who loves to photograph birds. Have you ever raced to your computer to view images you think might be very good? The disappointment is too familiar.

I recently read a remark from a blogger in New England, “…photographing birds is hard work.” I never thought of it that way. However, truth be told, a few days, weeks, or months pass and maybe several hundred photos get dumped before I nail a glorious, unedited series of shots. Yes, it’s hard work, struggling to maintain the virtue of patience and practicin' cussin' skills.


A few minutes later, she returned.

Hmmm. Tight squeeze?


Do you realize how lovely you are?


Come on, let's see more of you.


Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, sweet nutty.


Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

May- you nailed these pictures!!!

Glad you hopped out of the car and snapped away. I know what you mean about just watching though.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

This is a great series of photos Mary. Good Job.

Carol Michel said...

Yes, I don't know how you do it, but you have some wonderful bird pictures on your blog. I guess we don't know how many rejects it takes to get a good pic. The good thing about flowers is they mostly sit still for pics, as long as it isn't too windy.

But what really makes your pictures come alive is what you write along with them. That combo makes every post something to look forward to.

Hope you had a good Christmas.

Carol, May Dreams Gardens

Cheryl said...

Thank you from me to Mary.....these are just incredibly beautiful shots.....and I love the bracket you say old trees are so valuable to wildlife and have a beauty of their own........

Fab post.......

Robin's Nesting Place said...

The nuthatch is so cute! Great pictures, Mary!

It takes a lot of patience to photograph birds and it is hard work to get a good picture of them. They are so fast and usually too far away to get good close-ups. You definitely nailed it this time!

Minerva said...

Great pictures! I love that the hole is under a "roof" of fungus.

Anonymous said...

Really excellent, excellent shots! You're on a roll lately. I don't know if this happens to you, but I seem to be in a rut where every shot I take is not so hot--blurry, gray, boring. I have a 2gig card filled with crappy photos and nothing to blog. This happens occasionally, and then suddenly I get back in the groove again and everything's sharp and bright and interesting. Hm, bird photography imitating life?

jason said...

These are exquisite photos, Mary! And you are so right about snapping pictures endlessly just to find the one jewel out of a hundred.

And I've been in the same situation: Staring with wonder at some spectacle unfolding before me, my camera held mindlessly in my hand or resting by my side, and only later do I realize I haven't captured a single image. Then again, sometimes I'm selfish that way, wanting to savor beauty once in a while instead of trying to get the perfect photograph.

RuthieJ said...

Those are great pictures Mary! I love how the woodpecker excavated the hole right underneath the shelf fungus.
I'm jealous that you're able to hang around outside and take pictures like this without freezing your tail feathers off! :-D

Mary said...

Thanks, everyone. I'm glad you like them.

And, Ruthie, why do you think I sat in the car for so long? Sure, I forgot about the camera for a while but it was 20 degrees with a wind chill!

Mary said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mary said...


I'm where you are most of the time. When you least expect it - BAM! It'll (whatever it is) be back.

beckie said...

Mary, I loved your birds! How great for us that you decided to try the camera. your narrative is just perfect. I can hear the awe and wonder in your writings as you describe these happenings. Mary, I so enjoy your birding!

Anonymous said...

GO MARY! These are wonderful and fantastic shots- they may be the result of hard work but you make them look effortless! May I also wish you a belated Merry Christmas and the best of everything in the New Year!
hugs, gretchen

Anonymous said...

What an exceptional series, Mary. Beautiful!

Annie in Austin said...

You not only capture their looks, Mary - you transmit some of the birdie-personality, too. Those little ones look so sweet but act so feisty!

Thanks for braving the cold to share your view.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Mary said...

Hi Gretchen, thanks for visiting. I hope you had a Merry Christmas!

Betsy Banks Adams said...

Mary, These are incredible pictures. I love the bluebirds also. They are truly gorgeous!!! Of course the nuthatch is pretty also. We don't have the brown-headed ones here--but have the White-breasted ones down here.

That's the key word when it comes to photography birds: PATIENCE... I don't have enough of it!!!

Julie Zickefoose said...

Your photog's instincts are right on--snap now, watch later! I love this sequence SO much! And now you have souvenirs of the encounter.
And that awning--a little fairy apartment.
Keep up the wonderful work. All kinds of interesting stuff happens when you're alert to it, no?

Alan Pulley said...

Gorgeous photos Mary!! What a great show they put on for you.

thailandchani said...

I've really missed these pictures! :) I've been on dial-up for the past month and finally got my connection back a few hours ago. Wowza! :)


Beth said...

Your pictures always make me smile. Thanks for doing all the hard work so I can just enjoy.


NCmountainwoman said...

Oh, Mary. You outdid yourself. Talk about setting high standards for bird pictures. Just perfect. I'll be coming back to see them again and again.

Kim said...

What FANTASTIC pictures. I miss the bluebirds so much and your have given me my temporary fix. I can't get over how close you were able to get to them. Whenever I get too close they fly away it seems.

Great way to start my morning. Thanks

Jayne said...

WOW Mary! These are so wonderful! Those of the nuthatches are especially great as those little buggers are so hard to capture period! That is SOME camera you have!

Q said...

Dear Mary,
These are the best Blue Bird photogrpahs ever! Plus the added bonus of fantastic Brown Headed Nuthatches!WOW! Thank you so very much for powering up the camera so we too get to see them too!
Wow!!! I love this tree and these birds.
This is the way to start the new year off! So fantastic.
Being a bird photographer is fun work!
Happy New Year.

Angie said...

WOW!!! These photos take my breath away!! They are fabulous!!

Anonymous said...

Hmmm...I wonder who will finally claim this as home? These are fun and informative photos. Thanks for posting.

Ruth said...

Bird photography is hard for most of us. However, you attract birds like no one else! Great pictures.

Kathi said...

Very nice series, Mary! I love watching birds inspect cavities. "Honey, will the sectional sofa fit in here? Or, do you like that other place better, the one by the pond?"

You will have to let us know who ends up nesting in that spot. Of course, I am rooting for the bluebird, but those brown-headed nuthatches are TOO cute, and the hole seems more their size.


Mel said...

Oh Mary!
These pictures are just beautiful!! You are lucky to find such beauties!

Tina said...

I am so glad you got out of your car..what perfectly snapped pictures..I think blues set everyone off on an ahhhhhh mode..but I have to tell you that those brown headed nut hatches also took my breath away. Such clear pictures. thanks for sharing always look forward to reading your post!!

Mary said...

Hi Beth (Bruss1510), thanks for the nice comment.


Unknown said...

You're right about the patience part. Behind every great photo is a hundred rejects. And like you say, taking the photos is the easy part. It's sifting through them to see what you've got and pulling out the good ones that is what's known in the business as a "finisher."

MicheleRF said...

Mary-Lovely as usual! That saying that sometimes you have to kiss a thousand frogs to get one prince is really fitting for bird photography- sometimes you have to take a hundred shots to get one that takes your breath away. The brown-headed nuthatch is divine and is on my "must get" list for next year. I plan on a trip to the Smokies in August and hope to see one then.

Naturegirl said...

Mary these images are wonderful like being there!If I don't get back in time HAPPY NEW YEAR.. DEAR BIRDING FRIEND!!

Kerri Farley said...

Mary....these are absolutely gorgeous! I have never seen a brown headed nuthatch before. Beautiful birds!!!

Anonymous said...

Adorable little critters, aren't they? Great photos, and great appreciation of nature and its wonders.

Perhaps I'll see you at the birding festival in April/May.

Mary said...

Wren, that's a great plan! Please try to see us in WV?

Donna said...

Hi Mary,
The nuthatch is a beautiful bird, and your photos captured the beauty. Great pictures!

Hope you had a happy holiday. I enjoyed your ornaments in the previous post, what wonderful memories.


TR Ryan said...

Yes, the photos leave me 'cussin - I want to know how in the "hell" you get those shots - what kind of camera do you have!

What takes the breath away is the way you can capture images of birds that the guys with the big guns can't come close to doing.

This is the perfect IATB post and can't wait to show it to that world!!!

Rose said...

Just beautiful, Mary! I know that photographing birds is not an easy thing to do, even with a good camera like yours. These photos were worth all your patient efforts!

jalynn01 said...

You hit the nail on the head about bird photography. It's a waiting game and sometimes you win...sometimes you lose. You did a great job with this series. I loved the story and all the pictures. I have never seen a BH Nuthatch and yours is beautiful. And, of course your bluebirds were awesome too.

Kathie Brown said...

What can I say? Gorgeous? Beautiful? Fun? Funny? How about "Perfect!"

LostRoses said...

Mary, you take the best bird pictures of anyone I know. I think we're all jealous! Keep it up. And Happy New Year to you!

The Ridger, FCD said...

Gorgeous sequence! I love digital cameras - no more wasted expensive film!

Jeff Gyr said...

Thanks for pointing this post out to me--don't know how I missed it! Oh, actually I do--I was just starting a tour then and that really cuts into blog time.

Nicely done!