Susan Seubert Photographer: Learning by Observing

Four American Robin Chicks in their nest outside our kitchen window

Four American Robin Chicks in their nest outside our kitchen window

For the first time, I’ve had the pleasure and privilege to watch a robin build a nest, incubate eggs and have a successful hatch just outside of our kitchen window.  The American Robin is one of the most common birds found in urban settings and will often nest near, or on, homes throughout North America.  I’ve learned a lot about the behavior of Turdus migratorius by observing, and photographing, them almost daily since the babies hatched around the beginning of this month.

American Robin, nesting in a camellia bush in Portland, Oregon with 4 chicks

American Robin, nesting in a camellia bush in Portland, Oregon feeding her chicks blueberries

I read that the the incubation ranges from 12 to 14 days, which was spot on for this mother of 4.  Now we are eagerly waiting for the babies to fledge, as it appears that they are very crowded in their nest and their wing feathers look like they are well developed.

With so many chicks in one tiny nest, I wondered how the nest stays so clean.  It turns out that in addition to feeding the babies worms and berries, the robin also “changes the babies’ diapers” by removing the waste directly from the bottoms of the chicks.  This may not be the most appetizing topic, but I was amazed at how efficient the bird is at keeping house.  Below are some photos from the last week.  I built a “blind” in the kitchen in order to keep our peering eyes mostly hidden so as not to disturb the nestlings.  There was plenty of glare which the blind reduced, but it was still challenging photographing through dirty glass.  All of these pictures were made with the Canon 7D Mark II which has a beautiful sensor and a fabulous frame rate, which is what allowed me to capture such a fast and intimate moment.  The RAW files were processed using Adobe Lightroom.

The Kitchen Window Blind: Baby Robins in their nest in a Camellia bush

The Kitchen Window Blind: Robin chicks in their nest in a Camellia bush

It has been an illuminating experience to watch how quickly these cute little birds grow and I will certainly miss them when they leave the nest.

A mother American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of her chicks

An American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of the chicks

A mother American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of her chicks

An American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of the chicks

A mother American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of her chicks

An American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of the chicks

A mother American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of her chicks

An American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of the chicks

A mother American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of her chicks

An American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of the chicks

A mother American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of her chicks

An American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of the chicks

A mother American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of her chicks

An American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of the chicks

A mother American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of her chicks

An American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of the chicks

 

Update on June 13, 2015

This morning, three out of the four nestlings fledged!  There is still one in the nest and it looks very ready to leave.  It’s preening and standing up to stretch its legs.  What a wonderful experience this has been.

Update on June 13, 2015

The last robin fledged this evening.  Sniff.

The last to fledge

The last to fledge

 

Canon 7D with the 70-300 f4/5.6L IS USM at high ISO: Hummingbird in the evening

We have a summer resident female rufous hummingbird that often visits the feeders and plants that we place for them on our deck.  As their migratory season comes to an end, which sadly means we’re entering into the early throes of autumn here in the Pacific Northwest, I thought I might test out my Canon 7D with the 70-300mm that I’ve been using on assignment lately.  I bitterly complained about the auto-focus when I first purchased the camera and, as usual, it was trial by fire.  I knew that I needed to have a higher fps than my Canon 5D Mark II cameras, so I decided to go with the 7D.  Now that I’ve been shooting it for a while, (and after reading a bit of the manual :-),  I am now really loving the autofocus system and, although the camera is noisy at the higher ISO’s, it’s still pretty darn good.  The other night we were out on the deck and the female rufous came by to check out the salvia and other flowers.  She hung around long enough for me to get a few snaps.  These were all made at iso 6400 shooting in aperture priority.  I processed them in Adobe’s Lightroom using some capture sharpening and luminance noise reduction and I must say I’m impressed.  The focus is tack sharp, the shutter speed was fast enough to stop most of the movement and the colors look beautiful.   I do enjoy birdwatching and although it’s only a simple hobby that I do at home, it’s fun to use this as an opportunity to practice outside of assignment work.  I hope you enjoy these little snapshots of the wee bird.

female rufous hummingbird perched in a Western Cedar tree in the Marquam Greenspace in Portland, Oregon

Female rufous hummingbird investigating the salvia on our porch

Female rufous hummingbird investigating the salvia on our porch, showing off her diminutive gorget

multimedia photographer Susan Seubert and the birds

The sound that wakes me most mornings here on Maui comes from an introduced bird species called the Gray Francolin.  They are quite common in Hawaii, particularly around the beach where many hotels have unwittingly provided the perfect habitat in which they thrive.  There were a pair sitting in the tree, just outside the lanai, and I was fortunate to be able to capture them calling out.  Enjoy!

Male Rufous Hummingbird

The first day of spring was marked by the arrival of the migratory rufous hummingbird.  Since that day, the male, and now the female, have been regularly hanging around our feeders.  They defend the feeders with ferocity and our local Anna’s family is definitely distressed about these newcomers as fighting regularly breaks out.  It’s a glorious day and I am truly  hoping that the weather forecast is correct and that we will be experiencing temperatures nearing 60F.  Here is a photograph of our resident male rufous.

male_rufous_4119

I’m signing off until the rains return.

Enjoy this glorious weekend!

A Nice Breakfast

This morning I noticed a red tailed hawk sitting on a branch in a tree across the ravine from my office.  It had captured and was about to devour a chipmunk.  I set up the Canon 5D Mark ll and took some footage as it ate the hapless creature.  I’m still working on getting the compression settings right for the web, so I apologize if the quality of the image isn’t too good.  If you watch carefully in the beginning, the hawk beheads the rodent and swallows the head whole in one big gulp.  Mmmmm – a nice breakfast!  There are two clicks in the movie which is where I took a couple of still frames (still testing the camera).  Enjoy!