Sunday, January 9, 2011

Fine Feathers

"It is not only fine feathers that make fine birds." ~ Aesop

I consider myself very fortunate to live just steps away from a beautiful park with walking paths and a pond. It's home, breeding ground and stopover for many different species of animals - particularly birds. A brisk walk around the pond only takes about ten minutes but I often find myself taking closer to a half hour to make the circuit because looking for, enjoying and snapping photos of wildlife takes time.

A couple of days ago, I stepped outside my door and onto the sidewalk which leads to the park. I walked about three steps and looked down to see a dead Mourning dove. It wasn't bloody or twisted. It actually looked rather peaceful, but a semi-busy sidewalk was not a suitable final resting place for any creature. I returned home, got a small bag, collected the dove and brought it with me into the park where I was able to give it a more dignified location beneath some brambles.

mourning dove feather
I removed it from the bag, and before I placed it in the snow, I opted to pluck one of its tail feathers to add to this beautiful feather keeper which Ellen so kindly gifted to me a few months ago.

As I continued walking, I heard the familiar "chip" sound of a Cardinal and I paused to look up to see if I could locate him by his brilliant red plumage.

pretty cardinal2
It turns out that it was this more subtle, young cutie who was doing the calling. I think the female Cardinal with all her hues of gold and red is even more beautiful than the male.

Before I ventured much further, I could hear and see what I thought was a large flock of sparrows occupying the branches of a tree. I nearly kept on walking but something rosy caught my eye.

I moved in for a closer look and saw a number of these little sweeties. I wasn't sure what I was looking at and needed to check with a bird identification website. Even then, I wasn't positive so I turned to my other birding resource and he confirmed that this was indeed a House finch. I don't think I've ever seen one before.

I wandered down to the pond which was filled with dozens of Mallards. Typically, they're calm and reasonably quiet emitting a steady stream of murmurs and occasional quacks.

duck fight3
Every now and then one of them get a bit territorial and a fight ensues. This noisy altercation lasted for about one minute. Water splattered everywhere, and other ducks swam off to allow them enough space.

Eventually, they parted and each continued on as if nothing had happened.

Except for this proud fellow who declared himself winner and still champion.

I had nearly forgotten that I was hoping to catch a glimpse of the Wood duck who tends to spend his time with our Mallards. I was scanning the pond when I heard his tell-tale high pitched kind of whistle.

woodrow the beautiful
He swam right into my view finder. Thanks, Woodrow! I took about two dozen photos of him and I'll probably share more of them another time but for now, I hope you enjoy this picture of a most handsome fellow.


Linda at To Behold The Beauty said...

You have outdone yourself this time, Hilary! Such stunning photos. I didn't think anything could match the one of the female cardinal; but, as I kept scrolling down, they kept getting more and more amazing. I think I want to visit your pond and take a walk with you in person to see how you manage to get such wonderful captures.

Frank Baron said...

Wow! You got some terrific opportunities and didn't blow them. Nice crisp shot of the cardinal. Heck, they're all keepers. Good stuff. :)

Grayquill said...

The wood duck has an eclectic array of colors. Beautiful - Where's the pix of the dead dove? Creepy....:O

Dave said...

An interesting nature lesson Hilary, of Canadian bird life. I specially like your Wood duck with it's variety of lovely colours. Thanks for reverently disposing of the deceased dove. A nice thing to do - Dave.

Turtle Guy said...

My pottery is no match to your keen eye! ;)

Sandra said...

These are just gorgeous, Hilary. Beautiful, beautiful photography of even more beautiful subjects.

Anonymous said...

Wow - what stunning photos! That last one is spectacular!

June said...

So beautiful that they don't even look real!!!

Sueann said...

Beautiful photos!! I just love the wood duck!!! He is amazing!!

Brian Miller said...

some beautiful pics hilary...espthe ones of the ducks....that first one in particular grabs me...

Andrea said...

The clarity and vibrance in these photos is AMAZING, Hilary!!! I so love when you take us on your walks with you. :)

Cad said...

Cor! The splashing duck image sends shivers down my spine, it's so glorious!

Country Girl said...




* sigh *

Rebecca said...

wow love the picture of the duck the colors were so alive

Out on the prairie said...

Some real nice shots to share Hilary.We have a series of ponds in the middle of town close by that are divided by a four lane road.Even with the watch for duck signs a few get in the way of traffic killed.It probably started with a few domestics, but a number of wild ducks and geese join in.

Pat - Arkansas said...

Superb! Loved every one. I'm so glad you saw a House Finch; they are regular visitors here. You may add my "oooh, aaah" to every photo.

Woman in a Window said...

I'm sitting at a friend's house watching birds in a bird feeder out his front window and across the street. There is something in the gift of a bird's presence. What a wonderful post to visit you with.

Hoping your days are full and bright. Yes, a gift to be outdoors in nature.


Zuzana said...

What a nice gesture in regards to the dove...
I always love your bird images. You manage to capture them so gracefully, I am always left in awe...

Elizabeth Grimes said...

Love it! Oh, birds are so beautiful. I love watching them. Wish I knew the names and calls of them all too, but not knowing the name doesn't make them less beautiful. :) Good job on the photos!

DJan said...

Those ducks were having fun! What an incredible bunch of amazing pictures, Hilary! All of them are outstanding!! Thank you so much for brightening my Sunday.

ellen abbott said...

the lady cardinal is a beauty indeed. and the wood duck is so magnificently colored.

ethelmaepotter! said...

I thought the mallard with wings spanned was my favorite until I saw Woodrow. I really don't know why it strikes me as hands down the best...maybe because I know his name!

Oh, by the way, I'd almost forgotten about the word puzzle you posted! Glad to see I got them all right...along with quite a few others!

MaggieGem said...

Such beautiful wildlife, and just outside your door! Thanks for sharing, I needed the walk! ;-)

Kristina P. said...

I really love the photos of the ducks!

Leah J. Utas said...

What a treat to see a cardinal. The birds are beautiful and you do such a good job of capturing their glory.

Dawn said...

Hilary! These captures are absolutely stunning!!!!!
Breathtaking...i cannot quit looking at them!
Do you publish any of these anywhere??
You most definitely should.

Tabor said...

All of these are my favorite...but that jewel of a wood duck is a rare sight in my neighborhood and never would let me get even remotely near.

Karen said...

Hilary, I haven't seen a House Finch in the wild either. How wonderful to get a pic of him. And your ducks and Mallards! Wow! Absolutely gorgeous.

Anvilcloud said...

I have no idea how you find such good pics (and then take them) on an ordinary walk. I can assure you that we don't see those kinds of sites in our local parks. Too many woods in this area maybe?

Wendy said...

What glorious photos! The mallards are so bright! I too think the female cardinal prettier than the male, sometimes. Other times I just absorb that brilliant red of the male.

Thank you for taking us along on your walk; you always find such interesting things to post about.

P.S - poor little dove. I wondered what happened to it?

larkswing said...

The sites you capture amaze me! How do you do it!?! Quite talented!

sage said...

beautiful! That wood duck shot is very nice. You are going to force me to break out my DSLR for future treks into the natural world.

~JarieLyn~ said...

What a treat. I love the photo of the fighting ducks and the photo of the wood duck is amazing. The image is so crisp and clear that he almost doesn't look real. He is quite a handsome fellow indeed.

Rosaria Williams said...

So glad to see these fellows up close, thanks to your fine eye and ready camera.

Joanna Jenkins said...

You have a kind heart, Hilary. Perhaps that's why the birds seem to pose so patiently and beautifully for you.

Your photo always amaze me and these are no exception. What a gorgeous group of feathered friends.

Hope your week is grand. jj

She Who Carries Camera said...

I thought I was in awe of the photos in your last post, but you've outdone yourself with these! Those duck photos are amazing! What kind of zoom do you have?

messymimi said...

Love the name for the duck! The pictures are beautiful, and i would have had to look up the type of bird, too.

Hilary said...

• Thanks so much, Linda. I'd absolutely love it if you came to visit. If you're ever north of the border in this direction, I hope you'll be at my door. :)

• Thanks very much, Frank. I can't remember a more effusive compliment from you... the "didn't blow them" part notwithstanding. :P :) Thanks also for confirming the House finch ID. :)

• Grayquill, he's a beauty, eh? I was only very briefly tempted to snap a shot of the dove only because it had this beautiful turquoise colouring under its eye. But I decided against. Relieved? :)

• Dave, thank you kindly. He's such an incredibly beautiful bird - impossible to resist. Thanks for the kind words. :)

• Turtle Guy, I suspect that with both, they get better with practice. :)

• Sandra, thank you very much, my friend. :)

• Lady Fi, thanks very kindly. Much appreciated. :)

• June, that wood duck strikes me that way too. He's a beautiful little misfit among the Mallards. :)

• Thank you, SueAnn. He's a real treat to watch. :)

• Brian, thanks so much. I'm glad you like them. :)

• Thanks, Andrea. I suspect that your walks with Sophie occur not too far from where I walk. I'm glad you could join me virtually. :)

• Thank you, Cad. ;) I'm glad you think so. :)

• Thank you, Kate. You know I feel the same about you. :)

• Thanks, Becca. He's a wonderful critter. :)

• Thanks, Steve. It's a shame that your local and visiting birds are casualties of the highway. I guess it's bound to happen. Hopefully your population is large enough that you still get to enjoy them at those ponds. Thanks for stopping by. :)

• Thanks kindly, Pat. I'm glad you enjoyed the photos and I especially appreciate the oooh and aaah. ;)

• Erin, so good to see you. I'm so glad you stopped by to enjoy my birds while also enjoying the real thing. Thanks so much for the good wishes and kind words. :)

• Zuzana, thank you. Your kind comments always make me smile. Thanks for that. :)

Hilary said...

• Elizabeth, thanks very much. There' s fun in looking up and learning about what kind of birds we're seeing too. Sometimes it really surprises me and other times it simply confirms. Thanks so much for the visit. :)

• DJan, thanks ever so kindly. Very much appreciated. :)

• Ellen, we're so lucky to have so many beautiful creatures around here. Thanks for stopping by. :)

• Ethel, thanks for your kind words. Woodrow appreciates them too. ;) Yes, you did very well with those puzzles. I'll have to make them tougher next time. :)

• Maggie Gem, thanks for joining me. So nice to have you along. :)

• Thanks, Kristina. :)

• Thanks very much, Leah. Such a kind compliment. :)

• Thank you so much, Dawn. Your kind words mean so much to me. Sure I publish them... all over my blog. ;) Thanks kindly. :)

• Tabor, he's rare around here too - the only one I've ever seen but he hangs around with our local Mallards all the time. Therefore, he's becoming a bit more comfy around people since it's a park. Still, he's more skittish than the rest. Thanks for the visit. :)

• Karen, it was a real treat to see this little guy. He sat and watched me for the longest time, too. Not very camera shy. Thanks so much for your always-kind words. :)

• Thanks, AC. We're lucky to have a couple of ponds in the area and this one in particular attracts a large number of creatures. There's always something interesting hanging about. It's just a matter of a bit of luck most times. Thanks for stopping by. :)

• Thanks very kindly, Wendy. I'm always happy to have you along on a walk with me. I have no idea what happened to the poor dove. He was still vaguely warm when I held him so whatever it was, it was only moments earlier. Thanks for the visit. :)

• Lailani, thank you for the kind words. They're very much appreciated. :)

• Sage, you absolutely should take it out on your walks now and again. I hope you do. Thanks for the kind words. :)

• Thanks very kindly, JarieLyn. I'm glad you enjoyed the photos of my feathered friends. :)

• Rosaira, thanks very much. So nice of you to say. :)

• Joanna, thank you. Your always-kind words mean so much to me. Thanks for stopping by to share your warm comment. :)

• Thanks very much, Jillsy. The zoom is a 70-300 mm Sigma DG. :)

• Thanks very much, MessyMimi. I hope Woodrow approves too. ;)

Slamdunk said...

Wow, the duck scrap action photo is fantastic--you have a wonderful eye for photography Hilary.

SandyCarlson said...

Your photos are amazing. The ducks. My goodness. I feel so blessed to know you through your blog. Thank you.

Reb said...

Oh, those are such lovely photos Hilary.

Dawning Inspiration said...

What an amazing capture of that Duck diving into the!

Lori said...

Wow! Hilary these photo's are I scrolled down I was just floored at the beauty you captured...thank you for sharing your eye for beauty with us. I truly feel blessed to know you Hilary. XX

Nancy said...

I love the picture of the cardinal you gave me, and I have to admit the female is beautiful, but not as beautiful as my male. The picture of woodrow is worth framing, his color is stunning. You continue to amaze with your talent, Hilary.

Dan said...

I love the lighting and composition of the female Cardinal. Superb!!!


Explore. Dream. Discover.

Bob Bushell said...

Treble wow, wow and wow, those pictures are brlliant. Tell me, if you want to, what is your equipment that you used.

Pauline said...

Such wonderful photos Hilary! I swear, if I ever become blue and begin thinking life is just too dull, I will take another look at these birds and know (and be comforted by the fact) that beauty is everywhere I look.

CiCi said...

House finch sounds like it would an ordinary thing, like house wine or house guest or house plant. But this bird is beautiful. It must have been intended that you be the one to come upon the mourning dove; with your heart connection to nature, your kind farewell was so fitting. Have you ever seen such beautiful colors as a male Mallard?

Daryl said...

Now I am jonzing for a longer lens again .. DEEP SIGH of ENVY on this shots ...

Unknown said...

You've just made my day with these beautiful photos, especially the one of the mallard spreading is wings in triumph.


Suldog said...

The duck photos, especially the 'splashy' one, are magnificent. I should never be surprised when I see good stuff here, but that one really took my breath away.

Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh, what beautiful photos Hilary! That champion duck, made me giggle! Home and family are symbols of the mourning dove totem. This is by far my favourite bird, I had a pair of them when I lived in Orford, they hung out every morning on the bird feeder and cooed gently. I LOVE that sound. How sweet of you for giving it a better resting place!

Linda said...

All your photos are lovely, and your commentary a delight to read. However, the picture of the wood duck is absolutely stunning. They are some of the most beautiful ducks, and this one is a prime example. Great work and thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

The colors on the ducks are so pretty. I love the shiny blue and green feathers on them.

Anonymous said...

Nearly speechless here from your stunning photographs! I could feel the puffed up warmth of the cardinal and house finch, and then I was invigorated by the lively -- incredible! -- battle scene and the gorgeous crisp colors of the wood duck. And all of these with the background of a fallen dove and your respectful movement to a better place.

*happy sigh*

Redbush said...

What lovely wood duck photos! You're so lucky to have him come right up into your view finder! I wish we had cardinals. Those are gorgeous photos!

ds said...

Woodrow is indeed a fine looking fellow, as is the mallard shaking out his wings. But my favorite shot is definitely the Lady Cardinal--how beautiful, and rare, to catch a glimpse of her! Thank you.

Sniffles and Smiles said...

Oooh....Ahhh!!!!!!!! Hillary, you are so incredible!!! Your photos always take my breath away!!! So extraordinary!!! They belong in National Geo.

Just stopping by to say "hi" to one of my favorite people!!! Hope your 2011 has gotten off to a wonderful start!!! Love, Janine xo

abb said...

1. I feel exactly the same way about the female cardinal - just as beautiful as her red mate.

2. Your photos are just wonderful - and am so glad Woodrow obliged you.

3. That feather keeper is just wonderful. I wish Ellen sold them.

Your POTW are great choices (as always)!

Deb said...

Like all of the other comments before mine ~ I am so impressed with your skills as a photographer. I don't think my words can express how much I respect your work ! I am trying to attract cardinals to my feeders but no luck yet. I didn't realize that wood ducks were so stunning. Love the colors of the feathers ! Happy bird watching !

Indrani said...

Wonderful shots, crisp and clear. A great treat to watch the details.

Kate said...

Wow...that's crazy amazing photos you captured!

holdingmoments said...

As you can imagine Hilary, I really enjoyed this post about our feathered friends. Beautiful captures.
I love the action of the Mallard skirmish, and the victory flap. They always make me smile when they do that after an altercation.
And the Wood Duck, such a stunner.

holdingmoments said...

...and a lovely gesture for the dead Dove.

Hilary said...

• Slamdunk, thanks very kindly. Much appreciated. :)

• Thank you, Sandy. You know I feel likewise about you. :)

• Thanks very much, Reb. :)

• SD, thanks. I'm glad you like it. :)

• Thank you, Lori. Such a nice thing to say. And you know I feel the same about you. :)

• Thanks, Nancy. I'm glad you're pleased with the Cardinal and with Woodrow. I so appreciate your kind words. :)

• Welcome, Daniel and thank you for the kind words. Very much appreciated. :)

• Well, thank you, thank you, thank you, Bob. Of course I don't mind sharing. The camera is a Canon EOS 50D and the lens on that day was a Sigma DG 70-300 mm. I'm glad you enjoyed the photos. :)

• Thanks, Pauline. That's so true. It's amazing how much more I see with a camera in my hands than I ever did without it. Thanks for stopping by. :)

• TechnoBabe, you're right about the House finch. He's more stunning than his name would imply. Thanks so much for your kind words. You always have something so lovely to say. And it's very much appreciated. :)

• Daryl, I understand. I feel that way about a macro lens. Thanks very much, my friend. :)

• Jane, so glad to hear that. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for letting me know. :)

• Thank you, Jim. You never fail to make me feel good about the photos I share. I thank you very much for that. :)

• Rain, thanks so much, my friend. I'm glad that Champ got a giggle out of you. Thanks for letting me know about the Mourning dove. They didn't get the largest dose of brains in the bird world but they sure are beautiful creatures. I can see why you love them. :)

• Linda, thank you very much for such kind words. I'm so glad that you enjoy my blog offerings. It makes me want to share more. :)

• Flutietootie, they're beauties, aren't they? Thanks for stopping by. :)

• KC, thank you, my sweet friend. I'm so glad you enjoyed the photos in this post. Your always-warm words mean so much to me. Thank you for that. :)

• Thanks, Redbush. Yes, I was very lucky indeed. He's kind of a shy critter but is becoming more used to people, just as the Mallards are. Cardinal sightings, though not at all uncommon around here still make my day. Thanks for stopping by. :)

• DS, thank you kindly. We do have a lot of Cardinals around here. Of course the bright red males catch my attention first but the female, with all her beautiful hues, tends to keep it longer. I'm glad you enjoyed it. :)

• Janine, thanks for those kind words. It's so nice to see you making the rounds. I appreciate the good wishes and hope that the new year is very good to you as well. Thanks for stopping by. :)

• TSannie, thank you so much. Woodrow is becoming more cooperative in his old age. Or mine. ;) I'm thrilled with the feather keeper too. It's a much cherished gift. Thanks for the visit. :)

• Deb, such a lovely thing to say. Thank you so much - it mean a lot to me. I don't have a feeder out this year (I lost my tree to a fungus) but Cardinals were frequent visitors in the past. Try using a high quality bird seed and mix in some additional oiled sunflower seeds. It's costly to keep up but it sure seems to keep them happy. Thanks always for stopping by. :)

• Indrani, thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed them. :)

• Thank you, Kate. :)

• Keith, thank you so kindly. It means a lot to me coming from such a fine bird lover and photographer as yourself. :)

Sandi McBride said...

I love my walks with you, even the more solemn walk of a funeral turned into an adventure! I adore the Wood Ducks with their lovely hues like a patchwork quilt. When I was a child I often rode in the John boat as my Grandfather repaired and cleaned the wood duck houses he had lining the banks of the mill pond. Your part of your world is just enchanting!

Claudya Martinez said...

I find it very touching that you took the time to move the dove to a more dignified place.

The photos are stunning!

Clowncar said...

I love that wood duck picture. We have those in our city park, and they are my favorites.

Maggie May said...

That mallard flapping through water with its green head....... beautiful.
Maggie X

Nuts in May

tattytiara said...

Oooooooooh I wanna see a duck fight so badly now! The female cardinal is gorgeous, as are your photos as always.

Kelly H-Y said...

Simply stunning ... and, that last picture is just phenomenal.

Anonymous said...

These are simply beautiful. I wish my birds would be more willing models! And I agree with you on the female cardinals.

SandyCarlson said...

I so love this post. The feathers. The beauty and the potential. And knowing what it takes to make a photo and to make one with live subjects who care not for photos....the right spirit can do it. Thank you.

Hilary said...

• Sandi, thank you so much for your kind words and for sharing your memories of your times with your Grandfather. I love the way you described the Wood duck's feathers as a patchwork quilt. You're so right about that. Your visits always lift my spirits. Thanks for that. :)

• Mami, thanks so much for your kind words. They're very much appreciated. :)

• Clowncar, they're wonderful critters, aren't they? This is the only one I've ever seen. I'm glad he opts to hang out with the Mallards. :)

• Thanks very much, Maggie. I'm glad you like it. :)

• TattyTiara, that fight was loud and squawky. You'd have loved it! Thanks so much for your warm words. :)

• Kelly, thank you kindly. Very much appreciated. :)

• Thank you, Barbara. I stuck around a long time to get some of that cooperation. ;)

• Sandy, you are a gem. I'm still thinking about your wonderful teaching methods as evidenced in your current post. Your kindness always touches me. Thank you so much for that. :)

Cheryl Kohan said...

I can honestly say that your photography rivals that of any professional.

The birds and wildlife that you capture with your camera (I almost said 'on film' - ha!) are just gorgeous. I can't even choose a favorite...

Unknown said...

You've reminded me of many walks around a man-made lake Hilary, in Addison, Texas where Mallards were everywhere. Beautiful photos!

Kerri Farley said...

Makes my heart SING! Superb images!! You know how I love the birdies :)

Hilary said...

• Thank you so much, Cheryl for such incredibly kind words. You made my day. :)

• Thanks very much, Michael. I'm glad these photos evoked some fond memories. :)

• Kerri, I sure do. Thanks for stopping by. :)

imbeingheldhostage said...

WOW. You just get better and better. The colours are stunning.