Nicole’s garden and the wild birds

My girlfriend Nicole has actually turned me on to gardening and horticulture.  I’ve purchased some plants from Hewitt’s Garden Center, I’ve mulched here and there, and I even helped Nicole transplant some flowers and bushes from one location to another.

Not bad for a guy whose previous gardening experience was that I pulled everything out of the ground, and whatever grew back, I knew those were weeds.  Geez, I keep this up, and next thing I know I’ll have Peter Bowden’s gardening blog on my blogroll.  Oh wait… there it is.  Ha.

“So we need to dig a hole in the ground that’s twice as wide as the bush we’re planting,” she told me.  That bush we were planting was a “knockout rose” bloom, and after digging the hole, pouring in a mixture of peat moss and water, removing the knockout rose bush from its plastic flowerpot, loosening up the roots, putting it in the hole, pouring some dirt and mulch over, and adding plenty of water so that the roots take hold…

Knockout Roses.  BlackBerry Q10 camera photo.  Photo by Chuck Miller.
Knockout Roses. BlackBerry Q10 camera photo. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Not bad for my first try, yes?

While I helped Nicole with her garden, I learned about how much joy those flowers and bushes bring – not only to her, but to anybody who enjoys cultivating a weekend garden.  I also had an idea of my own, an idea on how to photograph something special in her garden.

In addition to flowers and bushes, Nicole has several hanging bird feeders.  Wild birds from all over the neighborhood come to nosh on the seeds from those bird feeders.  Now I had thought about taking pictures of those birds as they gorged themselves on the wild bird seed.  But, for some reason, I was never fast enough or patient enough to tell the birdie to “watch the birdie” – eventually the birdie would get tired of me; it would flip me the bird and fly away.

Well… I have a plan.

I’ll need the Nikon Df digital camera, for sure.  My vintage 50-300 f/4.5 telephoto lens will provide me with enough sharpness in the photographed subject, while staying far enough away so as to not scare the birds.  And rather than just sit there for hours and wait for the birds to land on the feeder and nosh on the seeds, I’ll hook up my camera to my new ASTRO intervalometer and set the timer for exposures every ten seconds.  That’ll give me six pictures per minute.

Camera focused?  Good.

Intervalometer fully charged?  Good.

Df full of electricity?  Good.

Tripod nice and steady?  Good.

First test shot.  Just to focus on the bird feeder.

Hanging bird feeder.  Nikon Df camera, Nikkor 50-300 f/4.5 lens.  Photo by Chuck Miller.
Hanging bird feeder. Nikon Df camera, Nikkor 50-300 f/4.5 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Let’s do this.  As the commercial goes, I’ll just set it… and forget it.

“Chuck,” Nicole called to me.  “Come see my jumping jacks, they’re blooming!”

And sure enough, they were.  Since my Nikon Df was busy photographing the bird feeder, I used my BlackBerry Q10 camera phone to capture the stunning beauty of Nicole’s “jumping jacks” flowers, also known as “Johnny Jump-Up” or “Viola Tricolor” blooms.

Nicole's Jumping Jacks.   BlackBerry Q10 camera phone.  Photo by Chuck Miller.
Nicole’s Jumping Jacks. BlackBerry Q10 camera phone. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Wow.  Those flowers look absolutely divine.

I took another glimpse at the Nikon Df just to make sure it was working.  Yep.  The intervalometer was set.  One picture every ten seconds.  This will work.  All I need is at least one wild bird to fly onto the bird feeder, chomp on some seeds for at least ten seconds, and I’ll be in the clover.

I helped Nicole take care of other gardening duties – picking up fallen tree branches, pruning back some bushes, spreading some mulch.

As she checked some of the other portions of the garden, she got a shock.

“Chuck, look, there’s a frog near my patio deck!”

Now I have no problem dealing with little timid creatures.  Remember, this is a guy who once picked up a squirrel and had someone photograph me holding it.  So I know the routine.  First thing you do is take the little guy’s picture…

Little frog.  BlackBerry Q10 camera phone, photo by Chuck Miller.
Can you see the little frog? BlackBerry Q10 camera phone, photo by Chuck Miller.

And then you guide it back to where it wants to go, which in this little guy’s case was back under the patio deck.

I took a peek at the bird feeder.  Nothing.  Either the birds were more interested in gathering cedar mulch for their nests than they were in eating bird seed… or maybe they figured out that I wanted to take their little pictures and they all got camera shy.

After some more work around the garden, Nicole and I went inside for some lunch.  The Nikon Df kept on shooting.  Maybe the birds would show up if they didn’t see any humans in the vicinity.

Some time later, I went out to check on the camera.  The internal battery was down to a few sparks.  The intervalometer’s batteries were almost drained.  Okay.  Let’s take the chip out of the camera and see what I acquired.

Wow.  Nearly 1,200 photographs taken.  This intervalometer is a WORK HORSE.

I loaded the 1,200 photographs into my laptop computer, and flipped through them, several at a time, looking for any variation, any variable, anything that looked like a bird visiting the feeder.

Frame by frame.  And the frame that the Nikon Df designated as photo 5774…

I got this.

Birds in the Feeder
Birds in the Feeder. Nikon Df camera, Nikkor 50-300 f/4.5 telephoto lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Look at that. I got two wild birds replenishing themselves at the bird feeder. Now I’m not sure – I think they’re starlings – but this is cool. The intervalometer worked wonders, thanks to it I captured my first pictures of wild birds at a bird feeder.  No this is way cool.

All in all, it was a great day – I spent time with my wonderful girlfriend, I planted flowers, I took some pictures…

Aces all around, don’tcha think?