The Arizona Cardinals

No, not those Arizona Cardinals.

Female Cardinal

Male Cardinal

Male Pyrrhuloxia

I’ve been feeding the birds in my backyard whenever I’m home. I go through 10 or 20 pounds of bird seed a month. We have a pair of bird feeders and, more recently hung a quail block — that’s a big, 20-pound block of bird seed — from a mesquite tree. As a result, there are birds in the backyard during all daylight hours.

On Sunday evening, about a half hour before sunset, I went out onto the back patio armed with my Nikon D7000 and a 70-300mm lens mounted on my monopod. I sat down in one of the chairs and shortened the monopod leg as short as it would go. With the monopod’s foot resting on the chair between my legs, the camera was the perfect height for me to look through the lens comfortably. I sat and waited.

Of course, just coming outside scares the birds away. The feeder was only 20-30 feet from my chair. I had to wait until the birds forgot about me and would come back.

My goal was to capture images of the prettiest birds. But rather than shoot photos of them on the feeder or on the ground nearby, I wanted images of them in natural surroundings. There’s a frost-damaged agave in the back corner of the yard that some birds perch on while checking out the area. There’s also the mesquite tree, which is flowering (and making my allergies nearly intolerable) right above all the action.

It took nearly 10 minutes for the birds to begin gathering. When they did, I was ready. With the camera zoomed in to 300mm and the monopod to steady the shot without restricting my ability to frame it quickly, I was able to shoot quite a few images. Here are the best of the bunch.

Audubon DesertsThe photos on this page are of birds in the cardinal family. The first two are Northern Cardinals; female and male. The third is a Pyrrhuloxia (which sounds rather like a disease). At first, I thought it was a juvenile female cardinal, but the excellent National Audubon Society Nature Guide, Deserts set me straight.

All of these images have a golden or even yellowish cast. That’s because of the low-lying sun. I didn’t do much editing here. I also have RAW versions of these images and hope to work more with them this summer when I have time to learn how to edit RAW. If I wind up with more satisfactory images, I’ll likely upload them to my photo gallery.

One of my Twitter friends, Miraz, mentioned that where she lives (in New Zealand) most of the local birds are more “drab.” I can assure you that we have plenty of “drab” birds here. I just happened to focus (pun intended) on the more vibrantly colored ones.

What do you think?