You’d think that this week’s smile would center around Christmas day. A lot of people find that day the culmination of weeks of preparation, but for me, this year, I didn’t have to prepare much of anything. Which left Christmas Eve day open to do anything I wanted to do. Most of you can guess where I spent it.
And you’d be right if you guessed the woods.
Monday had been in the 50s (10C) and Katie and I enjoyed a long sunny walk. But Tuesday it was cold, the high temperatures only half of the day before, and of course I didn’t pay attention and was under-dressed. But once I got moving everything but that darn broken finger warmed right up.
I went out to Kensington, my favorite park and nature trails, on the hunt for something different. This is the park where the little birds come down and perch on people’s hands if they are offered seed. And I always love that experience, but I wanted to see what else was out there.
Of course I wasn’t surprised when I stopped on a bridge not far from the car to change some settings on my camera and heard the familiar fluttering of wings near my head. A silly little downy woodpecker landed on the bridge railing and insisted that I give him something. No picture, because I wasn’t prepared, though I think he would have waited right there for me to get the camera settings right. Instead I just reached in my pocket (because of course I had something for him!) and handed him a peanut.
Little stinker didn’t even say thank you before he took off to enjoy his treat.
I headed to the trails furthest away from the parking lot, trails that I had never explored before. I know that the further away you go from the parking lot and nature center the fewer little birds you’ll see or hear. They’re smart and hang out where most of the people wander. But the further away you go the fewer people you’ll run into and that was my goal, at least for the first part of my walk.
I did hear and see a big pileated woodpecker, he was sounding the alarm about me, I think. When I stood still and watched him he went back to pounding on a dead tree. He was too far away and directly into what sun there was, so no picture of him either.
I was OK with that, after all my goal wasn’t more bird pictures. No, I wanted to see what else was out there. And even if I didn’t see anything interesting, I was enjoying just being out in the woods.
There was a lot of interesting colors…
…and textures everywhere I looked.
Not to mention the moss that was everywhere…
…just about every downed log had something growing on it.
After a bit I had the feeling I was being watched. Glancing over to my left I almost missed them. There are two faces watching me, do you see them?
How about if I crop it?
The mama deer, laying down and chewing her cud just like a cow, watched me watch her. She didn’t move as I took off my backpack, changed the lens on my camera, and took a shot.
She just kept chewing. Eventually I noticed there was a whole herd of deer just over the ridge. They were all watching me, but none of them ran as I moved away.
After that sighting I was headed back toward the nature center, but I didn’t want the fun to end, so I connected with another trail, one I’ve been on many times. It was late in the day now and I didn’t expect to see much.
I was reminding myself that once, right along this trail, I came across a huge flock of turkeys. I glanced over to my right and saw what looked like, from far away, three stumps. Could it be?
Three turkeys were asleep, lined up on a log.
The trail was going to take me about 2 feet from their log. I kept taking pictures because I was sure they were going to wake up and move away. They did, indeed, wake up, but they never moved. Three sets of eyes watched me walk past them.
And then they tucked their heads back under their wings and went to sleep.
Then, as I got closer to the parking lot the little birds started hovering. If I stood still getting a shot of anything they flew down to see if I had a treat.
I changed the camera settings and had some fun. These aren’t great shots, but they show the frenzy that can happen when the birds are hungry.
The shots I find most interesting are the ones that show movement. I couldn’t tell what I had until I got home and looked at them on a bigger screen. They aren’t what I was hoping for, but they do give me ideas of how to tweak things to get more of the bird in focus.
I think I will try shutter speed priority, and set the shutter speed way high, then adjust the rest of the settings to support that. I’d also like more of the bird to be in focus, so that means a higher Fstop too. I have a camera that will allow some of these extreme settings…so it’s worth a try!
And of course I did get a few images of birds in focus. Like this titmouse. Look how elegantly perfect he is! The feet are extraordinary, and the wings are just beautiful.
So I’ll be back. On my way out to the trails I passed a squirrel in a tree enjoying his breakfast. An hour later he was still there, still munching away.
I guess to get the bird shots I want I’ll have to be just as methodical and persistent as this little guy.