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Looking Out My Back Window
As the saying goes, “there is more than one way to skin a cat”!! (Not a particularly nice phrase—especially for cats and cat lovers—but nevertheless it helps to bring home my point)!! My profession (and passion in life) is as a wildlife and nature photographer. Understandably, being stuck behind a desk and computer conducting business is the least favorite part of running the office. I’ve schemed and dreamed of ways to make it more palatable. Recently the answer came to me in the form of one of the most beautiful birds that visit Florida, the Painted Bunting. My office overlooks my backyard, deck, and pool area. It is here that I have always hung an ugly old feeder which at least entertains me once in a while with a blue jay, red cardinal, common grackle and the usual ‘feeder thieves’ the resident squirrels.
While ‘slaving over a hot keyboard’ one afternoon, I caught a flash of unfamiliar color out of the corner of my eye. Upon closer investigation, I found a house sparrow on the feeder, but along side of him was a greenish little bird about the same size, which I surmised was a juvenile something-or-other. (I’m not an expert birder—pretty good, but not expert!) Besides I was in a hurry to complete the task at hand and get out of the office. Twice more this flash of color flew by my office window, which I ignored. The next day a friend was sitting beside me as we reviewed her pictures on the computer screen when two little birds jumped onto this ugly feeder. “Good Lord, look!! There is a pair of Painted Buntings---No! There are two females and a male!!” Well, my response was that she was nuts as I have never, ever even seen a Painted Bunting (except in a book), much less ever had the hope to have one-- or better yet-- a pair in my back yard. As the day wore on I was beginning to question my eyesight as what I thought were house sparrows were much too smooth and too green. Could it be remotely possible that I did indeed have a male Painted Bunting and two females in my yard? Time to take action…. Well, guess I better document this by setting up the camera in the office, and shoot it through the window even though the lighting would be terrible. At least I could ‘fiddle’ in Photoshop and perhaps confirm my findings one way or the other.
Well, all you bird lovers, ‘eat your hearts out’ as I ever-so-NOT -humbly report that I, Joanne Williams, am obviously a special person and am blessed by my Creator and Mother Nature!! I have had for a few weeks a gorgeous male and two female Painted Buntings flying in and out of my specially prepared (designed by me) photographic platform!!! I will admit I am a little nervous about my future health and welfare on this earth as have had such fabulous luck lately with the wildlife and my photographic opportunities!! I keep telling myself I’ve done something wonderfully kind, generous or saintly and that this is my reward, but for the life of me I can’t think of what this wonderful deed is to have warranted such fabulous good luck on My Florida Adventure (newsletter #58) and now the presence of this incredibly beautiful and cooperative bird and his two ladies. Time will tell…………
According to my good friend, Sherry, the head boss-lady at the Orlando Sea World’s fabulous aviary, Painted Buntings migrate this time of year to Texas, Alabama, Louisiana etc. and there is a strong possibility this pair (trio) has habituated here in my back yard, and may have a nest with babies!!! Wouldn’t that be fantastic! If that should happen, then it’s official that I have committed a deed that warrants Sainthood!!
This is how the “cat got skinned” so to speak. Now I cannot be torn from the office computer desk and the area—at least until dark!!! The Canon 500mm lens & Mark 11n camera sit on the Gitzo/Wimberley tripod with 580EX flash and Better Beamer mounted, batteries kept charged, cable release on and ready to grab at a moments notice. A special “staging” with natural prop has been created with natural wood, Spanish moss, and I designed & had built a background of real bushes on wheels that rolls on my ‘whim’ which satisfies any paranoia I might have of wanting proper natural lighting.
Every single image in this particular newsletter was taken in the past few weeks from my office window…..EXCEPT the Blue-crowned Trogan. I included this beautiful bird as an example of what I, easily and often, photograph on my trips to the Pantanal. My point, you ask???? This is another example of why I have to travel a fair distance sometimes to take a really great picture of really great species. I’ve lived here in South Florida for more years than I choose to share with you, and had never, never, never even seen a Painted Bunting!! The second day of my first trip to the Pantanal, Brazil I was able to shoot the Blue-crowned Trogan!!!
Painted Bunting (on the left) and Blue-crowned Trogan (on the right)
Well, now I gleefully refuse lunch invitations, refuse to do the grocery shopping, am getting more editing accomplished than ever before, and happily write silly newsletters! Yup, “there’s more than one way to skin a cat”!!!
If there is a “to be continued” portion of this story, you will be the first to know. I’d love PB babies being fed on my “bird stage”. If something bad should suddenly happen to me, we’ll chalk up these recent experiences to momentary-good luck, not my “saint-hood”!!!
PS: The baby Grackle in the nest was taken in my front yard, with hand-held 70-200 lens. Not out the office window. I had to leave the office for a moment to get the mail.
PPS: In keeping with my upcoming “Saint-hood”, I’ll gladly share my tips on ‘back-window photography’. Just e-mail me, but to start you off on the right foot, Tip #1 is to buy a cat!!!
Photo Researchers, Editors, and Publishers:
As stated in previous newsletters, at no obligation to you, send me a “want list” of images you are looking for that may coincide with a trip I’m about to take, or have recently taken, and I’ll do my very best to seek out that subject and shoot it with your request in mind. This may save you some expense, give me a specific mission and possibly a sale of that image. It’s a ‘win, win situation’!
A quick reminder that my library of 35mm original slides houses approximately 75,000 images, and my digital library presently holds over 41,000 (and growing-hourly)!