Thirsty Bluebirds, a Fleeting Hawk, and a Hungry Grebe

December 9, 2017

Eastern bluebirds at our heated birdbath this afternoon.

Eastern bluebirds are one of several species that frequent our heated birdbath during winter. This afternoon, we had eight bluebirds at the bath at the same time — a new record! After seeing such a sight, I couldn’t resist setting up a camera and tripod in the living room in case they all came back. There is nothing worse than shooting through a window, in this case a double-paned Andersen casement window, but it is possible if you take a few things into consideration. First, you must clean the window, inside and out, and then make sure it is not picking up reflections from inside the house. I had to put a sheet over our Christmas tree because it was wreaking havoc on my plan.

Through trial and error, I’ve had my best luck shooting through windows with my 70 – 200/2.8 lens, set at 200 mm, about 10 feet from the window. The featured image was taken mid-afternoon under cloudy conditions. I hung out near the set-up, listening to a 1964 CD of the Kentucky Colonels all afternoon, waiting for the bluebirds to return. The featured image was my best effort. Don’t forget to give your own thirsty bluebirds, and all the other visitors, a drink of fresh water on those bitterly cold days.

I had a long morning before I began messing with bluebirds this afternoon. I was up at 4:00 A.M. and off to Perry Community Lake (Perry County) in search of waterfowl that might have arrived with this cold front. After a couple hours on the road I arrived at the lake and donned my insulated overalls, pac boots, and other thermal gear that would make me cozy and warm in my hide. By the time I finished the walk to one of my favorite spots, I was sweating in the sub-freezing temps. It didn’t take long to reach equilibrium with the environment again as I settled in my turkey chair with a gusty northwest wind in my face. I never have trouble staying warm, no matter how extreme the conditions. After years of duck hunting, I know all the tricks regarding cold-weather gear. As a matter of fact, I consider extreme conditions to be a bonus when I’m out hunting critters with my camera — fewer people around.

When the sun rose behind me, I saw several rafts of scaup, ruddy ducks, buffleheads, and other waterfowl but they were all on the other side of the lake. After about three hours of watching ducks at a distance, I began to moan and groan to myself about how ducks always prefer to be anywhere but near my location! A few minutes later, a bunch of scaup got up and came my way. They never came close enough for a shot but a pied-billed grebe that had tagged along with them made a beeline toward my hide. The grebe never got close enough for a great image but I was happy capture it with its own capture, a huge gizzard shad, out at the limit of my lens range.

A pied-billed grebe with a mouthful.

After photographing the grebe, I sat for another hour or so as the arctic wind roared in crescendo. Finally, I gave up and pulled up stakes. I’m glad I didn’t see anybody on the trail back to the 4Runner because I must have looked pretty strange in all of my cold-weather gear. It sure felt good to get a warm cup of coffee from McDougals on my way back home and I was back in my living room by lunchtime, watching bluebirds and yellow-rumped warblers at the bird bath.

Prior to this weekend I have been going to Shaw Nature Reserve every morning to sit on a road-killed deer. My hide is about 30 meters away, perfect for coyotes, bobcats, eagles, vultures, and other critters that benefit from a deer carcass, especially during a cold spell when it is not putrefying too quickly. I’m sad to report that I haven’t had much luck at the site, but a small hawk parted my hair as it flew in from behind me and landed on a tree limb right in front of me, but only long enough for one click of the shutter. It wasn’t interested in the deer carcass; it just happened to be hunting in the area.

I immediately assumed the little hawk was a Cooper’s until I took a closer look at some of its attributes (squarish tail margin) which led me to the possibility of a sharp-shinned. Either way, the fleeting visit of this juvenile bird definitely brightened an otherwise dull and somewhat stinky morning!

A juvenile hawk lands on a tree branch right in front of me at Shaw Nature Reserve.

That’s the past week in review. Tomorrow morning I plan to look for coyotes here at the farm, that is if I can drag my tired arse out of bed.

Thanks for looking,


Email me any time at :  Natureframes@Rocketmail.Com

Photo Gallery:

America is beautiful. I “vote” to keep it that way.





3 comments on “Thirsty Bluebirds, a Fleeting Hawk, and a Hungry Grebe”

  1. You made the morning beautiful for me with these lovely images…thank you!

  2. Thanks for the photos and the story, I’m still  cold.  B

    Sent from my Samsung Galaxy Tab®4

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