Yesterday, we had an ice storm in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Schools and many businesses were closed, but for the most part, little harm was done. The power surged just once in our neighborhood.
The ice coated everything from the ground up with at least a quarter inch of ice. There was more ice in some places, while others received much less. The ice accumulation depended on elevation, air temperature, and the amount and types of precipitation in any given area.
One thing was sure at our location. The layer of ice created a crystal palace appearance to all it embraced. It was joyous to look out and see nature’s beauty enhanced all the more.
I was surprised to see so few birds at our many feeders placed strategically around our front and back yards. But by mid-day, they apparently got hungry enough or felt safe enough to venture out from the security of their perches to come to the feeders.
I was ready for them with my cameras. I captured a brilliant red male Northern Cardinal sitting on a branch of a frosted evergreen. But it was his female companion that stole the show.
The female Northern Cardinal perched on an ice-incrusted limb of a young tulip poplar tree we had planted earlier this year. The photograph embodied the whole of the day.
The encasement of the ice is clearly visible, while the thin ice pellets pepper the background. With its burnished tulip-like blossoms frozen in time, the dormant tree beautifully accented the Cardinal’s lovely muted red and olive coloration.
This female Northern Cardinal earned the title “The Ice Queen.”
I caught this male northern cardinal chowing down on safflower seeds that I had set out for the few birds that will eat them. European starlings and common grackles won’t touch the seeds. So if they are hogging the other feeders that contain black oil sunflower seeds, the cardinals and other songbirds help themselves to the bleach-white offerings.
I have lived long enough to know that photography is as much about timing as it is photographic skills. Had I not looked out the window at precisely the right time, I never would have seen this male northern cardinal feeding alongside this lone red maple leaf. The yellow of the scattered corn that attracted the bird served as a lovely, contrasting background for the shot.
I spend a lot of time at my desk writing and working on photos. From that vantage point, I can look out a front window and watch the day unfold in our little corner of the world. That includes watching birds come and go at the front yard feeders that hang from the red maple tree 20 feet from the house.
Of course, my binoculars and cameras are at the ready when needed. When this male Northern Cardinal perched on a limb in the morning sunshine, I grabbed my camera and clicked away. This was the only shot where the bird was not partially concealed by the unfolding red maple seeds. I felt fortunate to capture the moment, especially shooting through a double-paned window.
Such encounters help brighten each day. “Red in the morning” is my Photo of the Week.
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