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The squirrels are back! If you like squirrels, go with the flow; but if you prefer not to have squirrels bullying other feeding station visitors, or eating a high percentage of your seeds and suet, there are things you can do to deter squirrels – and win the competition in the process. There are very effective ways of thwarting the aggressions of squirrels, starting with “hot” suet and seed blends; or adding a squirrel baffle to your feeder pole; or a rain and squirrel canopy; or better yet, squirrel-proof feeders – all of the above options work.
One of my biggest American photo challenges was getting a quality photo of a Golden Eagle. For decades I wished for an opportunity to take a good Golden Eagle photo. I rarely encountered a Golden and I was never really close enough to get a quality photo. One California morning, I was on alert while working my way around steep grass-covered hills and canyons where previous experience revealed this was a place of solitude and plenty for wintering birds of prey. I relished the opportunity to spend the day in this remote area, knowing that just about any California raptor could appear around the next corner.
Last week, the National Audubon Society announced a $250,000 investment from the Walton Family Foundation to build on the success of the Audubon on Campus Chapter Program by expanding programs with historically black colleges and universities and other minority-serving institutions. Since September 2018, the Audubon on Campus Chapter Program has grown from 10 pilot programs to active programs on more than 100 college campuses across the country, showing a strong and rapid growth of interest in bird conservation nationwide.
A milestone study is beginning to de-mystify the movements a rare species of seabird – the elusive Black-capped Petrels that are found off the coast of North Carolina along the Gulf Stream, but nest on Hispaniola, the Caribbean island shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti far to the south. During an initial eight-month study, Black-capped Petrels were caught and fitted with solar-powered satellite transmitters, then tracked through the nesting season.
Last Sunday, I decided to push my afternoon drive back toward sunset to check for owls, and the plan proved to be fruitful. Most exciting, I found an apparent pair on territory, perched on the edge of a small grove of trees that has a vacant Swainson’s Hawk nest in its midst. That was about 6 miles south of home, and I found a big female perched high on a bare branch near the Great Horned nest I monitored last year, located about 11 miles south. That nest is all but gone after the beating it took from the owls last spring, but I think the lone female was the one I photographed in the hoarfrost a week earlier.
Famous for their high-quality photography equipment, Nikon offers birders a variety of camera models made for everyone from beginners to professionals – and many models are on sale now, including the entire DX Series. As an example, the Nikon D5600 Camera is capable of inspiring a new level of creativity with 24 megapixel quality, 39 autofocus points, and the capability to take 5 photos per second. The touchscreen Vari-angle display allows you to review photos you’ve taken in camera, and at the flick of a switch, the Nikon D5500 records Full HD 1080 video at the high-speed rate of 60 frames per second.
If you’re looking for a new backpack for spring birding hikes, Osprey provides a variety of affordable backpacks in an array of colors, including the Osprey Daylite, Daylite Plus, and Talon Backpacks. These lightweight day packs can easily protect your cell phone, tablet, camera – and binoculars (although you probably want to keep either your binoculars or camera in hand), along with a variety of other must have items. Osprey also offers an impressive variety of backpacking equipment for overnight backpacking hikes. There are even men’s and women’s versions of some Osprey backpacks.
If you’re a fan of hummingbirds, this is the Hummingbird Spot for you, where you can buy everything from a broad selection of hummingbird feeders to photographic artwork; cell phone covers to throw pillows and shirts featuring colorful hummingbird photographs, and lots more. The Hummingbird Spot even hosts the most active hummingbird feeding station, which you can visit online via their live-streaming camera. You will enjoy browsing through the Hummingbird Spot Store and learning more about the work of proprietor, Carole Turek, a big hummingbird enthusiast and photographer who ranges across the Americas.
Renowned for their dazzling plumages and elaborate courtship displays, birds of paradise and bowerbirds exhibit some of the most astonishing behaviors in nature. Birds of Paradise and Bowerbirds is the ultimate identification guide to these marvelous birds of New Guinea and Australia, featuring stunning color plates that depict all 108 taxa in these two bird families along with more than 200 color photos that showcase a broad range of age- and race-related plumages. The comprehensive text describe the birds’ identification, taxonomy, and ecology, accompanied with detailed distribution maps.
Texas birders in Austin located the First State Record White Wagtail, an Asian species that is sometimes found along the West Coast, but it’s super-rare to find one inland, so this First State Record rates high. Speaking of the West Coast, birders photographed a Thick-billed Kingbird in the foothills of San Dimas, California, west of Los Angeles. On the opposite coast, a Slaty-backed Gull was sighted among a concentration of gulls at a lake in St. Johns, Newfoundland. Yet another Limpkin was documented in North Carolina, and a Snow Bunting was photographed in Golden, rare for Colorado.


There is some underlying artistry in every photographer, and most photos. For the most part, we birders tend to be science-oriented and try to produce photos of birds that are accurate depictions of the birds we interact with. But the artist in us sometimes permits us to imagine beyond true nature, and slip into a creative second dimension. Winter weather in particular, whether it’s rainstorms in the south or blizzards in the north, can provide some free time to let your creative juices flow in new directions. Sometimes working with a photo or group of photos, you can overpower the images with an artistic flare – just for fun.

A stretching immature Forster’s Tern, photographed about a month after it fledged, has some pleasing elements and serves as the basis for some simple artistic changes using photo editing software.

An artistic angle on photo editing can be fun for some people, and it may be inspiring to others. Young photographers may excel in the process, and find their own ways of changing and creating artworks from photos. Adults may enjoy the process just as much as a way to get to know the design options your photo software provides. It may also be a project you can share with younger family members – instead of building nest boxes together in the garage, you may enjoy showing children how to have some fun in the digital darkroom – your home computer or laptop.

I’ll start you off with a few simple artistic and design options you can try; but first, let’s touch on photo editing software. I personally prefer to use a relatively simple, pretty inexpensive photo editing software, Paintshop Pro by Corel. Some people prefer Photoshop or Photoshop Elements from Adobe, and there are several other software options, so whatever software you use, or choose to buy for photo editing, they are all good for this simple exercise.

Using the “Effects” button, try the “Photo Effects” and “Time Machine” menu options, which takes you to a historic timeline where you can turn any photo into a vintage image. The sepia color and faded white framing create an authentic historic look.

I’m going to use menus on Paintshop to describe the simple design changes I make to a couple photos to introduce you to how simple and fun this aspect of photo editing can be, and how it can be useful in designing logos, signatures, internet banners, and print material – so this artistic angle of editing selected photos can be very productive by providing personalized designs and a more polished image to your varied communications. Anything is possible within the art realm, right? So have some fun, let your creative juices flow, and spend a little time investigating your software and see where the process takes you.

Simple Photo-Art Fun

To begin with, pick out a couple photos that you would like to work with. Include one with a uniform background, another that is a silhouette, and a favorite image or two that you think might provide the basis for some photo art.

A simple “Negative Image” of a photo can be accessed under the “Image” button.

Next, investigate your photo software. For me, using Paintshop, I went through the menu options, starting with the “Effects” button, but also utilizing the “Image” and “Adjust” buttons to do a little experimenting. Click on the word Effects, and the drop-down menu will include a considerable variety of options you can try, including Photo Effects, Artistic Effects, Art Media Effects, and others; and even within these categories, there are a wealth of options to try on any photo.

Under Photo Effects, you can do some standard edits, including changing a color photo into a negative, infra-red, black-and-white, or sepia tone coloring; and check out the Time Machine options, which provide a very historic look to a given photo, hailing back to the first generation of photography.

You can flip any image by clicking on the “Image” button, selecting “Mirror” on the menu, then select “Mirror Horizontal.” A pink tern was simulated on this flipped version of the photo by clicking the “Adjust” button, selecting “Color” on the menu, then selecting “Red/Blue/Green.” Next, dial up the Red number as high as you wish. Of course, you can dial up the Green or Blue instead to add hues to an image – white birds tend to adapt best to this treatment.

Artistic Effects offers some wild options, including posterize, chrome, colored foil, neon glow, and other effects that are fun to try. Keep in mind that each photo will be effected differently depending on its individual qualities and colors, so if a photo doesn’t work well for one option, try a different photo and see how it turns out. I actually used the “Chrome” option to create a company logo, using a simple silhouetted image of a Golden Eagle I photographed as it flew by while hiking a mountain pass in central Alaska. I also added the name of the company to that image, which is easy to do by using the software’s Text Tool. Finally, I used the “3D” option in the Artistic Effects menu to “Buttonize” the logo to give it more dimension.

Art Media Effects provides some means of transforming your photo into a drawing or painting, or using a pencil, brush, charcoal, or chalk medium. These options may take some extra practice; try changing some of the number settings to see if it will improve your results – it’s all part of the process.

Click Image to access more artistic options – some as simple as flipping an image that points left to make it point right, by clicking “Image,” then “Mirror,” and “Mirror Horizontal.” You can also create a “Negative Image” under the “Image” heading to see what an opposite color palette would create.

If nothing else, this effort will get you in better touch with your software, and give you a chance to test some features that you don’t usually use, or even try. When questions arise, you can always consult your software’s User Guide, or contact the software company – some even provide live chat help sessions online.

Undo or Save As

When working with any of the art-oriented editing options, you can always revert back to your original photograph by simply clicking one arrow – the Undo arrow on the top menu. And when you like the way a given photo has been transformed into artwork, be sure to save it under a unique name in your photo files. After saving the image, you can click the Undo arrow until you’re back to your original photo, ready to try another art form or design option.

A logo Paul designed using a simple silhouetted photo of a Golden Eagle and adding the name of the company in text to the photo. Next he transformed the image into a “Chrome” image (use “Effects” – “Artistic Effects” then “Chrome”). Then he added a 3D dimension by selecting “Effects” – “3D” and “Buttonize.”

The rest is clearly up to you as to how far you want to investigate, try, and use the many options available through your photo editing software. Who knows, this can prove to be an interesting and creative way to expand your enjoyment of bird photography. Artists produce amazing results doing just this kind of investigation and production, and so can you. Have some fun and see where your imagination leads you.

Article and photos by Paul Konrad

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Event Calendar

Whooping Crane Festival

Port Aransas, Texas

San Diego Bird Festival

San Diego, California

International Festival of Owls

Houston, Minnesota

Monte Vista Crane Festival

Monte Vista, Colorado

Cape Ann Winter Birding Weekend & Boat Trip

Gloucester, Massachusetts

MARCH 11-15
North American Bluebird Society Meeting

Kearney, Nebraska

Birding America Conference

Chicago, Illinois

MARCH 20-21
Audubon’s Nebraska Crane Festival

Kearney, Nebraska

MARCH 20-22
Wings Over Water Northwest Birding Festival

Blaine, Washington

Othello Sandhill Crane Festival

Othello, Washington

MARCH 21-22
Waterfowl Weekend

Brighton, Ontario

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