Archive for the ‘Seasons’ 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

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

Polar Bear Photo Tour Update from Richard Day

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

(c) Penny Filiatrault

Richard Day on tundra buggy, 2010 (c) Penny Filiatrault

Polar bear season in Churchill, Manitoba is over for this year and it was another fun year on the tundra.  This was my 10th year of leading tours, and I had the pleasure of guiding 4 tours for Frontiers North Adventures this ‘round.  Everyone had a great time and went home with lots of good polar bear, arctic foxes, red foxes, and other arctic wildlife photos.  Besides the bears, highlights this year included some very cooperative arctic foxes.  If you’ve ever tried to photograph arctic foxes, you know that they spend most of their time darting around with their noses on the ground sniffing for something tasty to eat.  But on my first 2 tours, our buggy driver, Brian located some that were hunkered down in the snow waiting for storms to pass.

(c) Richard Day/Daybreak Imagery All Rights Reserved

Arctic Fox in Churchill Wildlife Management Area (c) Richard Day/Daybreak Imagery All Rights Reserved

Something else that was interesting this year was being able to witness and photograph seal kills by polar bears.  Our tours are in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area, bordering the Hudson Bay, which has high and low tides.  The seals come in on the high tides and usually wash out when tides go back out.  Sometimes an unlucky seal may be napping during the low tide and gets stranded on rocks until the next high tide.  The polar bears have learned to watch for these unlucky seals who become the bears’ next meal.  This is amazing to watch, and people took home plenty of photos of bloody-faced bears and bears fighting over the food.  They also had many opportunities to photograph mom and cubs together.

Everyone asks me how global warming is affecting the polar bear population.  Frontiers North partners with Polar Bears International who conducts research in Churchill.  Click here to learn more about polar bears.

(c) Richard Day/Daybreak Imagery All Rights Reserved

Polar Bear mom and cubs sleeping (c) Richard Day/Daybreak Imagery All Rights Reserved

Susan Day’s Favorite Butterfly Garden Plants

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

It’s November already and hard to believe that I still have a few butterflies hanging around what’s left of my flowers.  When I give my programs on butterfly gardening, I tell people to make sure something is blooming from the time the first butterflies appear in spring until the first hard freeze so this year I practiced what I preach—and it worked!  Today I spotted Cloudless Sulphurs, Common Buckeyes, and a couple dozen skippers skipping about the faded asters along the driveway flower bed and on clover in the lawn. Last week, before our first hard freeze of the season, I watched Cloudless Sulphurs, Common Buckeyes, assorted skippers, Painted Ladies, Checkered Skippers, Silver- Spotted Skippers, and Cabbage Whites nectaring on asters, catmints, lantanas, and salvias.

And as I say goodbye to my butterfly friends for this season, I’m already planning what to plant for them next spring.  My earliest perennials, such as Creeping Phlox Phlox subulata, Walker’s Low Catmint Nepeta racemosa and Pink Cranesbill Geranium sanguineum, usually bloom just in time for the first hatches of Black Swallowtail and Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies that have overwintered as chrysalises. The nice thing about early perennials is that they’ll bloom on their own before I can plant annuals in my Zone 5 garden. 

To understand what flowers work best for butterfly gardens, think about how a butterfly feeds.  First and foremost, the flower must contain nectar.  Since a butterfly inserts its proboscis into the tubes of flowers to gather nectar, it stands to reason that the flowers should have “tubes” that hold this nectar.  Most butterflies perch on flowers that have  clusters of tubular-shaped nectar-rich flowers to feed—so that’s what kind of flowers you’ll want to plant.

My 2010 butterfly garden was probably my most successful ever and I’ve been doing this for nearly 20 years.  Each year I make changes and try to improve on what worked or didn’t work the previous year.  This summer our butterflies preferred these nectar flowers:  (alphabetical order by scientific name)

Butterfly Weed Asclepias tuberosa

Swamp Milkweed Asclepias incarnata

Asters:  New England ‘Alma Potschke’ and Tatarian

Blackberry Lily Belamcanda chinensis

Butterfly Bushes Buddleia davidii

Thread-leaf Coreopsis ‘Golden Showers’ Coreopsis verticillata

Purple Coneflower  Echinacea purpurea

Blanket Flower Gaillardia pulchella

Red Spread Lantana Lantana camara

New Gold Lantana   Lantana camara

Rose Campion Lynchis coronaria

Raspberry Wine Bee Balm  Monarda didyma

Black-eyed Susan ‘Indian Summer’ Rudbeckia hirta

Pineapple Sage Salvia elegans

Mexican Bush Sage Salvia leucantha

Mexican Sunflower Tithonia rotundifolia ‘Torch’

Brazilian Verbena  Verbena bonariensis

Homestead Purple Verbena  Verbena canadensis

Lanai Deep Pink & Lanai Bright Pink Verbenas

Profusion Yellow, Cherry, and Fire Zinnias

To see photos of some of our butterflies in our gardens, go to our Gallery and search for Butterflies.  We also have a 2011 Butterflies Calendar available and all photos were taken by Richard Day in our gardens here at the Daybreak Sanctuary. 

Cloudless Sulphur Butterfly Nectaring on Pineapple Sage

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.