Archive for the ‘Birds’ Category

Winter Bird Feeding at Daybreak Imagery, Part 2

Friday, January 7th, 2011

Bird Feeders in snow outside Daybreak Imagery office windows

It’s snowing again today as I write this, and the birds are busy seeking out food that’s being quickly covered by the fluffy white stuff.  Richard’s in his photography blind again out by the juniper trees behind the birdbath.  With high gas prices, it’s nice that he doesn’t have a long commute to work.

We have several feeding stations around the yard with just about every type of feeder there is.  Some birds like to eat from the hanging tube style feeders and others prefer to sit on tray or hopper feeders.  Still others  eat the seeds we scatter on the ground for them or that fall below the hanging feeders.

About ten years ago when Richard was gone somewhere on a photo trip, I got frustrated with the squirrels eating more bird seeds than the birds.  I went to the Wild Birds Unlimited store in Swansea, Illinois and came home with two of their fancy feeder pole systems complete with squirrel baffles.  They did the trick!  Through the years, we’ve purchased several more of these pole systems so now most of our feeders are safe from squirrels and other nighttime feeder thieves like skunks, opossums, cats, and raccoons.  They seemed expensive at the time but probably not in the long run with the money we’ve saved from feeding small mammals—and from replacing the feeders that they damaged or destroyed!

Water in Winter

Eastern Bluebirds at bird bath in winter

Water is just as important to birds in winter as in summer because birds need to keep their feathers clean and groomed in order to fly.  We have an in-ground water feature (see photo at left) with a floating cattle tank heater to keep the water from freezing.

Northern Mockingbird drinking at heated bird bath in winter

We also use special bird bath heaters, such as in this  mockingbird photo, for standard pedestal bird baths.

Surprisingly, these baths are just as popular on the coldest day of the year as on the hottest one in summer!  When everything else is frozen, our bird baths are the only open water around and the birds know it.

Shelter in Winter

Birdfeeding area near evergreen trees

After Christmas each year, Richard takes our tree outside and uses it for shelter for the birds from cold winds and storms.  He places it on the south side of the cedar and spruce trees south of our office.

This offers additional winter cover for the birds and also shields the feeders from winds so the birds have a sheltered area to eat.  The tree in the foreground on the right side of this photo is a recycled Christmas tree propped up with rebar.  In a few months we’ll take it to Stephen A. Forbes State Park where it will be placed in the lake to enhance fish habitat.

Female Northern Cardinal in winter

Evergreens also provide winter shelter for birds to roost at night or just to get out of the cold.

Plus birds look pretty sitting in them when it snows!

Winter Bird Feeding at Daybreak Imagery, Part 1

Saturday, January 1st, 2011
(c) Richard Day/Daybreak Imagery

Northern Cardinal, Northern Flicker, American Goldfinches, & American Tree Sparrow on platform tray feeder

Feeding birds in winter is enjoyable.  Most of our feeders are at stations outside our office windows so we can birdwatch as we work.  It snowed here over the Christmas holidays and while Richard was outside photographing birds in the snow, I stayed inside holding down the fort in the office.  I’d take my computer-side breaks from captioning and keywording photos and gaze out my window at the birds. Sipping my cup of Trader Joe’s Bay Blend coffee laced with white chocolate mocha, I watched as the cardinals, juncos, woodpeckers, and chickadees would take their turns at the treats we provide for them.

We offer a variety of seeds, nuts, suet, and fruits, because just like different people prefer different foods, so do birds.  And since not all birds will eat at the same style of feeder, we own an array of feeders for every picky feathered eater.

Suet for Winter Birds

(c) Richard Day/Daybreak Imagery

White-breasted Nuthatch eating suet cake in winter

(c) Richard Day/Daybreak Imagery

Carolina Wren & Downy Woodpecker eating suet cake

(c) Richard Day/Daybreak Imagery

Tufted Titmouse & Carolina Chickadee eating beef suet

Suet is a big hit here in winter as birds tank up on energy foods to keep them warm.  Our birds prefer C&S Brand Peanut Treat that we put in wire basket feeders.  I also buy large grocery bags of beef suet from our butcher at Nuxoll’s in Effingham that we cut into chunks and stuff into suet feeders.  Woodpeckers will eat suet all year, but when it’s cold outside, Tufted titmice, Carolina chickadees, White-breasted nuthatches, Carolina wrens, cardinals, and more take their turns on the fat-feeders.

Nuts About Peanuts!

(c) Richard Day/Daybreak Imagery

Red-headed Woodpecker at peanut feeder

Our birds, especially the woodpeckers, go through 50 pounds or more of peanuts each winter.  We serve them in hanging wire peanut feeders.

(c) Richard Day/Daybreak Imagery

Northern Flicker male on peanut feeder

We buy raw,unsalted peants in bulk and store them and the beef suet in our deep freeze.

Seems like half of my freezer is for the birds!

We fill our tube, hopper, and platform feeders with:

  • black oil sunflower seeds for cardinals, goldfinches, blue jays, titmice, chickadees, nuthatches, and native sparrows (white-crowned, white-throated, fox, American tree, song, and chipping)
  • nyger or thistle seed for the goldfinches, purple finches, house finches, and pine siskins

I also make a special mixture that we put in the two small feeders that are attached to our office windows with suction cups.  This brings the birds really close as they are only about 3 feet away from where I sit at my computer.  I chop peanut tidbits in my food processor, and mix with sunflower hearts, nyger/thistle seed, safflower, and a premium blend that contains chopped dried fruits and nuts for birds.

Check back in a few days for Part 2 of this Winter Birdfeeding Series on our blog!

  • (c) Richard Day/Daybreak Imagery

    Northern Cardinal pair at tray feeder in winter

    c Richard Day/Daybreak Imagery

    American Goldfinches & House Finch on sunflower tube feeder

Susan Day’s article in Birds & Blooms Extra magazine

Monday, December 27th, 2010

Susan wrote a little article for the January 2011 issue of Birds & Blooms Extra called “Take & Make Cards.”  It gives basic info about creating your own cards with nature photos that you take.  Look for it in newsstands now!

written by Susan Day/Daybreak Imagery

Take & Make Cards article in Birds & Blooms Extra

written by Susan Day/Daybreak Imagery

Take & Make article in Birds & Blooms Extra pg 2

New Birds & Blooms cover by Richard Day

Saturday, December 18th, 2010
Photo (c) Richard Day/Daybreak Imagery

Downy Woodpecker, female on Common Winterberry

Richard Day’s Downy Woodpecker made the cover of the January 2011 issue of Birds & Blooms Extra!  That’s his 3rd cover for Birds & Blooms in 8 months—a gorgeous male  Indigo bunting in Susan’s flower bed was featured on the August/September issue and a Tiger Swallowtail butterfly on a blackberry lily landed on the May cover.

For the Downy Woodpecker, Richard was sitting in his blind in our yard photographing birds at feeders.  He always uses a photo blind to photograph birds because the birds are used to the blinds in our yard and go about their business because they can’t see him when he’s inside.  It’s less stressful on the birds overall, and that’s Richard’s highest priority when he photographs them.

We don’t get much snow here in southern Illinois, so when it does snow, Richard (“the weather man-iac”—according to Susan) plans ahead.  He watches weather patterns and forecasts for weeks waiting for snow in the forecast.  When there’s even an inkling of a flurry, he sets up his blind near some evergreen trees in our yard.  Various bird feeders are filled with sunflower seeds, niger seed, suet cakes, and chopped peanuts and placed down wind from the evergreens so the birds can have some shelter from the elements when they eat.

Cover (c) Richard Day/Daybreak Imagery

Indigo Bunting, male in Susan's garden

Back on January 31, 2008, it snowed and Richard was ready.  He photographed a bunch of different species like cardinals, juncos, blue jays, chickadees, and goldfinches for a couple of days before the snow melted.  Many of those have appeared in cards, calendars, magazines, and catalogs since then.

The female downy woodpecker was feeding on suet at one of his feeders.  We have a patch of Common Winterberry bushes near the juniper trees where he’d placed the feeders.

Winterberries (Ilex verticillata) are in the holly family and, as their name implies, their fruits don’t ripen until winter.  They  are great landscape plants for birds, offering nesting and cover in the summer as well as winter food for birds.  Downy woodpeckers don’t eat berries, however this female hopped in the bush and stayed long enough for Richard to take a few photos of her.

The Downy was photographed with his old Canon EOS 40D, (which he doesn’t own anymore) and his 600mm f/4 lens.  Since it was snowing, he had his ISO set at 320,  shutter speed 1/800th of a second at f/4.

Photo (c) Richard Day/Daybreak Imagery

Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly in Susan's garden

Welcome to the Daybreak Imagery Blog!

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Daybreaking News has graduated to blog status where we’ll be posting updates on what we’re photographing and what’s happening in our neck of the woods. 

Summer has come and gone, and it was another great season at the Daybreak Sanctuary.  We hosted more than 100 photographers, naturalists, and nature-lovers who explored and photographed our birds, butterflies, dragonflies, and gardens.  Others found frogs, sedges, grasses, wildflowers, and insects like praying mantids and grasshoppers at the wetlands and prairies.  We enjoyed every visitor and are already planning improvements for next year’s workshops.

We thank all the camera clubs who braved the heat and humidity in July and August to photograph butterflies and dragonflies here.  If trees could talk, I’m sure our big old pecan tree would have many tales to tell of all it heard from the dozens of you who sought respite  from the heat (and enjoyed ice cream)  beneath its shade. 

For those of you who plan on returning next spring, please drop us an email or call to reserve your dates–most of our 2011 bird photography dates are already booked.