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Posts Tagged ‘Carolina Chickadee’

I love to take photographs of large powerful raptors, like the Bald Eagle and the Red-tailed Hawk that I featured recently in blog postings. However, I am equally happy to capture images of the small birds that I often hear, but have trouble spotting. This past Monday I spotted these little birds as I wandered about at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. None of the shots are particularly spectacular, but I find that there is incredible beauty in the details of these little birds.
I can’t help but be reminded of some of the words of a hymn that we occasionally sing at church called “All Things Bright and Beautiful” that was written by Cecil Frances Alexander.
“All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.
Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colors,
He made their tiny wings.”
You may be familiar with some of these birds, but in case you need a reminder, they are an Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis); a Golden-crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa); a Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata); and a Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis).
Eastern Bluebird
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Carolina Chickadee
© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Carolina Chickadees (Poecile carolinensis) are small and active, so I rarely get a clear view of one of them, especially during the times of the year when there are leaves on the trees. Last week I was happy to get some photos of this chickadee at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge as I was searching for warblers.

The leaves in the first two images and the tiny acorns in the final photo provide indications of the change in seasons. Temperatures are really dropping as we approach the end of September and the leaves are just beginning to change colors. In my area, unfortunately, the leaves mostly tend to turn brown—the fall foliage is definitely not as bright and vibrant as the colors in New England, where I was born and grew up.

Carolina Chickadee

Carolina Chickadee

Carolina Chickadee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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“This bud’s for you.” A Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) seemed happy that buds are finally starting to appear on the trees on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “In winter, the Carolina Chickadee’s diet is about half plant, half animal. The rest of the year about 80–90 percent of their diet is animal (mostly insects and spiders).”

Progress is uneven, but it looks like spring inexorably is on the way.

Carolina Chickadee

Carolina Chickadee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Carolina Chickadees (Poecile carolinensis) are energetic little birds and seem to be in motion a lot of the time. When I see them perched, they tend to perch on horizontal branches. I was therefore a little surprised when I saw this chickadee latch onto the vertical stem of a reed and hang there for several seconds in front of me.

It almost seemed like he was deliberately posing for me and I happily captured the chickadee’s portrait during a recent visit to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Be sure to check out the fascinating way that the chickadee is grasping the reed in the photo in a pincer-like grip.

Carolina Chickadee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I watched in utter fascination on Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge as this Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) worked to extract seeds from the spiky seedpods of a sweetgum tree. The little bird would hang upside down with all of its weight on the stem of the seedpod and poke about with its bill inside the seedpod. Once it had found a seed, the chickadee would yank back its head to extract the seed.

Most of the time the bird would then fly to a nearby branch to consume the seed and then resume the process. Occasionally, though, the momentum generated in extracting the seed caused the chickadee to fall away and momentarily lose its balance and I was lucky enough to capture one such moment in the first image below.

The other two images give you an idea of some of the acrobatic positions used by the chickadee in its foraging. In the final photo, I believe the chickadee was using its extended wings to help stabilize itself as it sought to snag another seed.

It is good to know that there are potential food sources available during the winter for these little birds, but sure looks like the chickadee has to work really hard to gain access to those tiny seeds inside of those spiky gumball.

Carolina Chickadee

Carolina Chickadee

Carolina Chickadee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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This Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) was busily extracting seeds from the spiky sweetgum seed balls when I spotted it high in a tree on Wednesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The chickadee would dangle upside down from the branch to snag a seed with its bill and bring the seed back onto the branch to eat it.

In this image, the chickadee appeared to be eying its next target—the seed ball in the lower left of the shot.

Carolina Chickadee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Chickadees are masters at staying hidden. These little birds seem to enjoy hanging out in the shadowy branches, where their lack of bright colors makes them hard to spot. It is amazing how often we tend to focus on colors to make something “pop” out of a scene.

I spotted this Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge when it perched momentarily on an open branch. I really like the way the image turned out—a pleasant little portrait with a simple composition and limited color palette. 

Carolina Chickadee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I tend to be a bit obsessive about trying to get my subject in sharp focus when capturing wildlife images. So I was a little disappointed, but not surprised, when I saw that the focus in this shot of a Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) was a bit soft. I was quite a distance away when I saw this little bird moving about in the tree branches on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and I was able to snap off only a couple of shots before it flew away.

The more I looked at this image, the more I have come to like it. There is something really pleasing about the bird’s upward-facing pose; the lighting around the chickadee; the out-of-focus background; the simple structure of the branches; and especially the spots of bright spring color in the flowering tree. This image conveys to me an overall feeling of the beauty of the emerging spring.

This type of shot also serves to remind me that photography is as much about art as it is about science, that it is ok to break whatever “rules” I choose to impose on myself. Beauty can be found in sharp, detailed photos, what I normally strive to create, but it can also be found in “artsy,” impressionistic images like this one.

What do you think? Does the soft focus on this chickadee bother you?

Carolina Chickadee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Seeds from Sweetgum tree seedpods provided much-needed nourishment for some of the small birds in my area, like this Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) that I spotted on Thursday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The chickadee’s acrobatic position reminds me a little of that of a hovering hummingbird. Appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, the chickadee is not levitating—its legs are merely hidden behind its body.

It is pretty amazing that the chickadee can hang with its full body weight from the seed pod and extract seeds without causing the pod to fall from the tree. The delicate touch required reminds me of playing the classic game Operation when I was a child. The game requires you to remove various body parts from a patient using a pair of electric tweezers that buzz if you touch the edges of the cavity opening. (Check out this Wikipedia article if you are not familiar with the Operation game, which amazingly is still in production.)

Carolina Chickadee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Smaller birds seem to enjoy foraging for Sweet Gum seeds while the seed pods are still hanging on the trees, like this Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) that I spotted last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Many of you may recall a somewhat similar posting last month featuring goldfinches. If you have not yet seen it, check it out at Goldfinch and Sweetgum.

Although I enjoy photographing raptors, like the Bald Eagle that I showcased yesterday, I derive an equal amount of pleasure observing and attempting to photograph tiny birds like this chickadee. Beauty is everywhere.

Carolina Chickadee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) was working hard this past Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge to get to the seeds inside the spiky pods of a sweetgum tree. I was amazed that the stem of the seedpods was able to support the weight of the little bird, particularly because it had to peck away vigorously to get to the seeds. Eventually the chickadee’s persistence would pay off and it would sit on a branch and really seemed to enjoy the seeds.

It makes me wonder what the seeds taste like.

Carolina Chickadee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I  love the small birds that are always around us, but they rarely perch long enough in the open for me to photograph them. I spotted this energetic little Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) last Friday moving about in the vegetation at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and was happy when it paused for a second to pose for me.

The tiny bird was still for only a moment and then hopped off the branch and disappeared in the vegetation. I was thrilled when I looked at the image to see that I had captured a pretty clear view of the eye and that there was even a nice little catchlight—almost all of us who do portraits of any sorts are sort of obsessive about the eyes of our subjects.

Carolina Chickadee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Sometimes photography seems so complicated with a myriad of competing factors in play as I search for interesting subjects and seek to capture their beauty. There is a kind of pull to travel to ever more exotic locales and to constantly think of upgrading my gear.

Sometimes my favorite images, however, are my simplest ones, like these shots of a Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) that I spotted last week in the midst of the cattails of Huntley Meadows Park. The subject is commonplace, the setting is ordinary, the composition is uncomplicated, and even the color palette is restricted.

I find a real beauty in this kind of minimalism. At its heart, photography is simple, although it requires a lot of effort.

chickadee

chickadee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This tiny chickadee was energetically digging into a cattail last week at Huntley Meadows Park. Although it is usually recommended not to photograph subjects mid-bite (at least human ones), I like the way this shot turned out of the industrious little bird.

Judging from the range maps, this is probably a Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis), although we sometimes also get Black-capped Chickadees (Poecile atricapillus). These two types of chickadees look quite similar and I am not yet skilled in distinguishing between them.

chickadee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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My little chickadee—spotted yesterday afternoon in the cattails at Huntley Meadows Park. In our area, most of the chickadees are Carolina Chickadees (Poecile carolinensis), but we do get some Black-capped Chickadees (Poecile atricapillus) too. The species are so similar that I am never completely sure which one I am looking at. This one, for example, looks like some of the images that I see of the Black-capped Chickadee.

When it came to presenting this image, I was a little bothered by the large amount of negative space on the left side. However, I really like the way that the image emphasizes the tallness of the cattail. The more I looked at the image, the more I grew to like the composition, so I ended up not cropping it at all.

chickadee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Out of the corner of my eye I caught sight of some moment in the cattails. At first I thought it was a Downy Woodpecker, which I have sometimes observed pecking on the cattails in search of insects, but I quickly saw that this was a smaller bird. When it finally climbed higher on a cattail stalk, it became clear that it was a Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis).

Initially I had trouble finding this tiny bird in my viewfinder with the zoom fully extended, but eventually I was successful. I am really happy with the effect that I managed to achieve, with the darker-colored bird really standing out from the lighter-colored backdrop of the cattails. Normally I like to crop to focus attention on the subject, but in this case I like the images better with a considerable amount of open space around the chickadee.

I couldn’t decide which of these two image I liked more, so decided to include both of them. Sometimes I like the horizontal pose of the first shot, but at other times the open bill in the second shot draws me in.

It’s always fun to try to get shots of owls and eagles and hawks, but my moments with this little chickadee reminded me that the little birds have their own special kind of beauty.

Carolina ChickadeeCarolina Chickadee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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What kind of birds do you have in your neighborhood? I live in the suburbs of Washington D.C. in a townhouse community in Northern Virginia. There are quite a few trees and some green spaces, so I am able to find birds to photograph when I walk through the neighborhood, though the birds tend to be small and elusive.

This past weekend, I encountered a reasonably cooperative Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) that remained perched in a tree in a fenced backyard as I desperately sought to compose the shot. I was hoping to have the sky as the background, because I was shooting upward, but the branches of the tree made it impossible to get that shot. I quickly realized that my only hope for an uncluttered background was to use the white siding of the townhouse as the backdrop. As I moved from side to side, I noticed that the blue shutters of the townhouse kept creeping into the frame and decided to incorporate them as an element of the image.

I really like the final result, a pleasing portrait of a little chickadee with a simple, almost minimalist composition.

chickadee1_april_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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There may not have been a lot of seeds in the dried-out marsh plants, but this little chickadee, which I am pretty sure is a Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis), seemed determined to get every last one.

chickadee_feeding_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Another photo of a chickadee? Chickadees are so common that they fade into the background to the point where we no longer notice them. Nobody would travel a great distance to see a Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinens) like this one and there were no throngs of curious spectators to ask me what I was photographing.

What was the attraction for me? One of my fellow bloggers, Mr. K.A. Brace, a thoughtful and insightful poet who writes in a blog called The Mirror Obscura, posted a poem today entitled “The Brilliance” that really resonated with me. In the poem, he spoke of the “brilliance of the ordinary.” I encourage you to check out this poem and other wonderful poems—one of the cool features of most of the blog postings is that they feature an audio clip of the poet reading the featured poem.

“The brilliance of the ordinary”—I love that combination of words. Children (and pets) approach life with boundless curiosity and endless fascination with the most mundane, ordinary aspects of our everyday world. I want to regain more of that childlike sense of wonder.

chickadee_winter_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Winter is the time of the year when I am finally able to photograph some of the small birds that are with us all year, but are hidden in the leafy branches and undergrowth during the other seasons, like this Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis). Generally I see these little birds at the feeders at the Visitor Center at my local marshland park, so I was really happy when this chickadee posed for me in a more natural setting.

chickadee2_little_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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A fellow photographer informed me this past weekend that the little bird that I was preparing to photograph was not a Black-capped Chickadee—it was a Carolina Chickadee.

I am a neophyte when it comes to bird identification, but I confess to being confused. I have been trying to photograph this bird for months and have been calling it a Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) in my postings. To my eyes, it looked like the photographs I’ve seen others post of the Black-eyed Chickadee.

I turned to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website, my favorite resource for bird identification, to try to resolved this conundrum. The site confirmed that the Black-capped Chickadee and the Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) look a lot alike, but the two species probably diverged more than 250,000 years ago.

There are some differences between the two in the edging of the wings and the bib and the songs are different too, but apparently the range is one of the most critical factors, since the ranges of these two species don’t overlap much. I appear to be within the range of the Carolina Chickadee, but Virginia seems to be near the northernmost edge of the range, so I can’t exclude the possibility that I will run into a Black-capped Chickadee.

Here are a couple of my favorite chickadee photos. The first one was taken a couple of weeks ago with my recently acquired 135-400mm lens. It did a pretty good job in capturing some of the details of the chickadee in the tree. The second one was taken this past Monday with my 55-250mm lens. I managed to get a little closer to the chickadee that was clutching a stalk in the cattail field and was able to isolate the background a little.

I got started watching and photographing birds this past fall, probably after many birds had left the area. I can’t wait to see what new ones (for me) show up this spring.

chickadee_blogchickadee2_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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