Sunday, January 11, 2009

Birding from my blind

This past week I received an order from containing a Christmas present that I bought for myself (sure, it's a few weeks late, but better late than never). It's a blind for watching and photographing my birds (and any other wildlife that might present itself). It's the Ameristep Doghouse blind. I've been pondering the purchase of this particular model for a while, as well as some of the other models that Ameristep sells, but I finally decided on this one based on size (2 people can fit in it pretty comfortably, although I haven't field-tested that yet!), ease of set-up, and cost. I also looked at the Outhouse model, but decided I didn't really need one quite that tall.

Here's another view.

The dogs (well, mainly Jupiter) were curious about it, and when I first set it up today, Jupiter smelled all around it and then plopped down right outside the door. I wasn't terribly worried that she would "blow my cover", but I was worried that the ground-feeding birds, my primary "target" for the day, wouldn't be terribly comfortable with her sitting there.

Eventually I convinced both dogs that they should just hang out on the deck and stand guard from there.

They soon fell asleep on the job, though:

One thing that became painfully clear to me while I was photographing the birds is that I need a bigger/longer lens. I had to set up pretty far back from the feeders because that was the closest open spot large enough to accommodate the blind, and my 55-200mm lens just didn't cut it for covering the distance between me and the birds.

For example, I got lots of photos like these:

This little Goldfinch happened to land in a tree very close to my blind, though.

All the rest of the bird photos have been cropped/zoomed so you can actually make out the bird.

Here's a handsome male Dark-eyed Junco.

The Juncos have been surprisingly low in numbers at our feeders this year. Not sure why. Here's another male, this one with a bit of an anomaly - he has a white ring around each eye. Now that I think about it, I might share these photos with the Cornell Lab.

And here's a pretty little girl Junco:

Another common ground-feeding visitor is the White-Throated Sparrow:

We have both the white-striped and tan-striped morphs of these birds at our feeders, although the white-striped form is MUCH more common.

Here's the tan-striped morph (I think!):

And like I said, if any other wildlife happens to pass by, I'll try to capture it. Like this little guy:

I'm looking forward to taking my blind out and about away from the house to see what else I can photograph.


Shellmo said...

heather - you have all the neatest birding toys! Not only do I covet that live cam - now I need your bird blind! I laughed hard at the sparrow who's "cover" had been blown! Very cute - you got some nice photos. Always love a friendly junco too!

NW Nature Nut said...

I second Shellmo! I was thinking the same thing! I recently read an article on making a bird blind. It never occurred to me that they are on the market. What fun! Today is the first day I have been home during the day since you set up your webcam. I plan to check it out and see who is at your feeders. Your blog is quickly becoming one of my favorites. Keep up the fun posts. (and I guessed the Plume Zoom correctly!ya!)

NW Nature Nut said...

PS. Ahem, your peanut feeder is empty. (I just went to your webcam) I can see there would be more pressure to keep the feeders full with this gadget!

Andy said...

I have a similar blind by the same company - I bought it at Bass Pro Shops.

I used it just a few times and it works. If the other windows are open, just be sure you do not create a silhouette of yourself. Otherwise the birds see you!

I mentioned this before in a previous post. Short story: One time I had a dog sniff the blind while I was in it.

RuthieJ said...

We used to have a blind like that for bowhunting. Have you tried folding it up yet? That was the biggest challenge (for me anyway).
If you don't feel like hauling the blind around, you might want to seriously consider a full camouflage outfit (including a hat with a face net and mesh camo gloves). Right now is a good time to check out some turkey hunting apparel--I once had a house wren land on the toe of my boot while I was out scouting for turkeys and dressed in all camo.

Heather said...

Shelley - Thanks, I like my birding "toys" too. I look forward to lots of play with them.

NWNN - I can't remember how I got turned on to the fact that those blinds exist. Of course they are made for hunting, but they certainly work well for photography, too. And yes, it's a bummer to see when a feeder goes empty when I'm still at work! Thanks for your nice comments. I'm glad you're enjoying my blog. And congrats on your correct Plume Zoom guess!

Andy - I will keep your suggestion in mind when I have the windows open on the blind. It didn't seem to be too much of an issue this weekend, but I only had 2 of the 4 windows open. BTW, I hope the sniffing dog didn't pee on your blind!

Ruthie - Yes, I have successfully folded it up several times. Based on all the different instructions they give for how to fold it back up (including a video on the Ameristep website!), I anticipated it would be difficult, but I got the hang of it pretty quickly. I have thought about buying full-on camo gear, but just haven't done it yet. For now I'm trying to make a better effort to wear neutral colors when I go out for walks and stuff. That's funny about the wren landing on your boot!

Birdnerd said...

Loving your photos toys. Enjoying your posts very much!

Kelly said...

The bird blind is so cool. Rick and I have been looking for one. I need to get closer to the birds because it's no fun shooting them through our smeared up windows!

Julie Zickefoose said...

We love our Doghouse blind. It's so easy to set up and take down, and when I'm feeling particularly frazzled, sometimes Bill will just set it up for me and put me in it until I calm down. I tell him it's like the special tents Native Americans used for women who were feeling, uh, cranky.

Word verification is hydra!

Heather said...

Birdnerd: Thanks!

Kelly: I got the blind on Amazon, but I'm sure you can find it or something similar at a sporting goods store there in Cincy.

Julie: That is so funny. I can just imagine Bill sitting you in there with a chair, a plate of cheese, and a glass of wine and saying "Okay honey, we'll see you in an hour or so."