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Cori Brown: Taking in the summer scenes with a new camera | OUTDOORS COMMENTARY

After more than a year of hemming and hawing, I finally bought a new camera. Fate forced my hand when my old camera started making funny noises, threw error messages at me on the LCD screen and the telephoto lens extended in fits and starts.

I retired it to a kitchen drawer, but do plan to get it repaired as a backup depending on the cost.

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Birding buddy Sharon is greatly relieved. She’s been hearing me whine and complain about the quality of my photos for quite some time, especially those taken at longer distances. Ironically, I ended up with a camera that covers half the distance of my previous lens.

Of course, this camera is mainly for birding. I have thousands of photos of birds, many, if not most of which need to be deleted because they were too far away and not in focus. Sometimes going the distance does not equate to great results in photography if you don’t have the right equipment.

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I have a lot of studying to do with this new camera. I will always be an amateur wildlife photographer (and that’s OK with me), but I felt I needed to grow a bit and seek out quality over quantity with a better camera. It’s a bit like going to a smorgasbord: there’s lots of food, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s all good.

I am taking baby steps in auto mode. I’ve had it about a week and the successful shots I’ve taken so far have so much more detail and true-to-life color than previous efforts with the old camera. Even the night shots of frogs turned out well.

The learning curve is slow, the choices overwhelming, but I am convinced that this old dog can still learn new tricks!

Thank God for the internet for help. I enrolled in a photography course online through the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I also started watching YouTube videos (you can find anything on YouTube) of how to operate the camera particularly for bird photography.

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A mockingbird on an oriole feeder.
A mockingbird on an oriole feeder. (Cori Brown Photo)

It’s been difficult to get a chunk of time to sit down and absorb all this great information. It’s a busy time of year with mowing, pruning, weed whacking and other assorted outside chores to do. Even though we’ve seen some mini-dry spells, it never ceases to amaze me how much the grass and weeds keep growing and I keep mowing!

To get a bit more time to do the things I really love, I decided to reduce mowing on a rather steep hillside. A landscaper friend just planted 35 trees and bushes on the hill to improve the wildlife habitat. My main goal is to establish an understory with dogwood, spice bush, redbud and red maple. In the fall, I will add viburnums. The mix of color, cover and food that the trees and shrubs provide, along with islands of tall grasses and wildflowers, will surely attract more wildlife.

If I can get birds down to the lower levels of smaller trees and shrubs, I hope to get more opportunities for better photos. Warblers will still be a challenge, but other birds like indigo buntings, thrushes and kinglets should take well to the added cover and food possibilities.

Speaking of warblers, the annual migration is just about through now. I am still hearing but not seeing blackpoll warblers, who often bring up the tail end of the spring journey for so many songbirds. Fortunately for us, many cool birds remain in our area to breed, including yellow warblers, great crested flycatchers and wood thrushes to mention a few.

The woods are a bit quieter as everyone settles down to build nests and take care of their young but there’s plenty of action in the fields and gardens. Noisy is an inadequate word for the starlings and their young. Blue jays and house sparrows add their voices to the constant cacophony.

The persistent bad behavior of these birds is driving me and the dog crazy. The starlings fight everyone, the blue jays imitate hawk calls to keep others away and the house sparrows are bullies, too.

The dog is on high alert to their antics and literally leaps in the air to try to catch them. It’s great comic relief for me and an exercise in futility for him. I am down to three seed feeders now, and if it wasn’t for the red-headed woodpecker and goldfinches, there would be zero food for the bad birds!

I miss the warblers already. I often think about their journey further north to breed and how lucky everyone there is to see such a spectacle of color and beautiful songs.

Many of them may be gone from here, but so much beauty remains. There is an American bittern in the wetland across the road from our house as I write this article. I have never seen one of these wading birds but I am eager to spot him and check out his amazing camouflage and behavior.

So far, bluebirds raised and fledged three families in our boxes. A fourth one is on the way. Tree swallows, chickadees, and house wrens are just as busy in their boxes. If they’re lucky, a few cicadas will be on the menu for their babies and great photo ops of them getting fed will be on mine.

Summer is well on its way here. Get out there now that life is getting back to normal and see what you’ve been missing. I know I will, with new camera in hand.

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