As some of you might have guessed, WC likes to photograph birds. WC might even be a little obsessed with it. In Fairbanks right now, neither of the two things WC needs to indulge his passion are around. There’s not very much light and there are even fewer birds.
In Boise, by contrast, there’s presently 9.5 hours of light, and there are an impressive number of bird species presenting themselves through WC’s viewfinder. Here are a few birds that have been hanging around WC’s backyard.1
Brown Creepers climb down the bark of trees, looking for bugs and other tidbits in the crevices of the bark. They are very hard to find in Fairbanks; WC watches them out the window behind his computer monitor.
Song Sparrows are only accidental in Interior Alaska. They’re pretty common here, grubbing around on the ground for seeds.
Dark-eyed Juncos move through Fairbanks in the late autumn, and winter here, among other places in the west. This is a different subspecies than you see in Fairbanks. Like Song Sparrows, they grub for seeds on the ground. They are enthusiastic about kicking the detritus around.
Mountain Chickadees are another species that doesn’t occur in Interior Alaska. A handsome cousin to the familiar Black-capped Chickadee, they have much the same behaviors.
Where you get lots of birds, you get birds that eat birds.
The Cooper’s Hawk preys on other birds, including songbirds. This guy was looking over our yard, but left without making any runs at our yard.2
WC and Mrs. WC miss their friends in Fairbanks, but there are compensations.
- Yardbirds – birds a birder sees in his yard – are not to be confused with The Yardbirds, the 1963-1966 British rock and roll group that launched the careers of Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. The rockers took their name from jazz saxophonist Charlie “Yardbird” Parker, or perhaps from British slang for hobos, or American slang for prisoners. Not, in any event, from birds. ↩
- You have to use a trick to photograph a dark birds against a bright sky. Crank the exposure compensation up a lot, at least +2.0, and use a single point exposure, centered on the dark bird. The background will be overexposed, but the bird comes out okay. The results aren’t photo art, but beat the black silhouette you’d get otherwise. WC thanks Pablo Cervantes Daza for teaching him this trick. ↩