Many of my photos have some sort of story going on in the background. The scene this year for many of those stories and photos is Swoope, Virginia (rhymes with rope, pronounced swope, not swoop).
Swoope is about twenty minutes from my house. It has gently rolling hills, with many magnificent views of mountains. I have birded there on bike, on foot, and by car. There is also a very special farm with a small lake, a Bald Eagle's nest, and owners who allow me to frequently bird there. Aside from the birds and insects, it is a very quiet and peaceful place. I seem to be as addicted to Swoope, with all its beauty, peace, nature, and birds, as I am to photographing birds.
Let's just start with a recent trip to Swoope. This particular day, I wanted to work on my camera settings as well as take a bike ride. The first bird I saw was this Great Blue Heron. It was sitting in a dead tree by the lake. The same tree the Bald Eagles frequently sit in (until they see me). I set up my camera and tripod, took pictures with several different settings, and crept closer...repeat different settings. The heron stayed very still, mostly ignoring me. I moved on to other areas around the lake, taking pictures of different birds, trying to fine tune the settings on my camera and lens. An hour and a half later, I came back to the heron in the tree. It was still sitting in the same place! This time, I crept even closer. When I left, I said, "Thank you, my friend!" It was unusual to have the same subject for so many shots, but I loved it!
I packed up my gear, and took my bike off the car and rode for a while. We have been blessed with cool weather that makes bike riding a real treat. Biking is a great way to enjoy the scenery of our beautiful Shenandoah Valley (or any place). Swoope has more gently rolling hills than some other places in our area. Since I am trying to build back up my strength, Swoope is a great place to ride.
When I returned from my bike ride, there was a pair of House Finches with a little courtship act going on. According to All About Birds: "During courtship, males sometimes feed females in a display that begins with the female gently pecking at his bill and fluttering her wings. The male simulates regurgitating food to the female several times before actually feeding her." http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/house_finch/lifehistory The pictures show that feeding/courtship. Check out the slide show below. Wave your mouse over the picture and either click play or use the arrows.