The Bufflehead Birder

January 23, 2009

Fun with Cardinals

One thing about bird feeders is that you can always count on something to photograph. You can also always count on certain birds to make an appearance. One of my all time favorites is the Northern Cardinal which I always loved as a child and love even more after being cardinal-deprived while I lived in Colorado. I miss the Golden Eagles and magpies of the West but there is some compensation when that bright red snatches my attention amidst the grays and browns of a winter forest.


Peace Valley Natural Area, which is just northwest of Doylestown, has a nice feeder station behind the nature center. Some of the most active visitors are the cardinals. The males take turns chasing off other birds and play King of the Feeder Ledge and munch down some seeds before being chased off by another male. 


The females wait quietly in the nearby shrubs until there is a lull in the mange-a-mania, and then perch politely on the feeder ledge.

 mangebird.jpg    sitting-pretty.jpg

But no matter one’s feeder manners, seed-crunching is a messy business.


The House Finches were the only birds that stood their ground against the cardinals.

Face Off

Sometimes the middle slat in the blind is right in the way of my lenses but I don’t mind hunching over for an hour or so because the action is so constant. For most of the shots in this post I used my Canon 20D SLR and 300mm lens. The fellow below was digiscoped.
You might think that feeder photo sessions would grow boring, but you know what? They don’t. First of all, I can get some nice close ups. Here is a cardinal with a peaceful and benign look to his face, but then, it’s likely he was sated on seeds and was content to let the rest of Bird World enjoy the feeder offerings for a few moments.


And there are some fun surreal action shots that I create with slow shutter speeds. The fellow below was making a fast reverse from off the ledge when a house finch made it clear no cardinals need sit and eat.


In between forays to the feeder cardinals made enjoyable subjects for idle shots. I could never get tired of that red on the male.


Nor could I ignore the subtle hues of red and tan mixed in with the olive green plumage on the female. With her back to my lens this female blends nicely into the background of her environment.


Yes, those cardinals were everywhere. I took a shot of this Carolina Wren and just look who manages to get his picture in there.

Wren and Cardinal

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