When you read the news since, oh…early November 2016, there’s a common theme in many of the news stories. That theme? Misogyny. I cringe when I read the news. I wince when I see how female relatives and friends are often treated. I am disheartened by the “meh” response of many people, for whom misogynistic behavior is so ingrained that it’s second nature and they don’t give it a second thought. And BTW, who am I kidding…the problem goes back FAR before November 2016, although it’s certainly been brought to the forefront since then as attempts have been made to wipe away many of the gains women have made.
Now, I’ve REALLY tried my best to try to focus more on birds and photography on my blog, although sometimes I must necessarily vent on the latest political topic of the day. But after a long week, right now this is a topic that’s too heavy for me to want to tackle. So why I’m a starting a post about misogyny? Bear with me, but…while out shooting the other night at Good Earth State Park, I was surrounded by the songs of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. It seemed like around every corner was another singing bird. I tried and tried to get a photo of one singing, but kept being foiled, with birds either flying away when I got close, or simply stopping their singing and giving me a nasty look.
I ended up taking very few photos that night until the very end. I was trudging up the trail back to my car when I saw a Rose-breasted Grosbeak perched on a log. It wasn’t singing. It didn’t immediately grab my attention as a singing Rose-breasted Grosbeak might because…it was a female. As I raised the camera to shoot, a thought shot through my mind…I’m a misogynistic bird photographer! It’s not just this night or this species. For example, if I’m at a wetland and am surrounded by Yellow-headed Blackbirds, I’m not trying to shoot the less brilliantly plumaged females…I’m going after the males in their striking, colorful breeding plumage. In fact, I think nearly EVERY bird photographer is “misogynistic”, in that the ratio of male-to-female photos is…what…5 to 1 for species with even minor plumage differences? Maybe even 20 to 1 or more where the male is very brightly colored and the female is more drab?
In my small way to fight back against misogyny in general, here’s an ode to the female…the female bird! Below are some of my favorite female bird photos I’ve taken over the years.
NOTE: I’m taking a short hiatus from blogging while I deal with some things, but I will be back soon!
Also Note:This blog post is dedicated to my wonderful wife, who CLEARLY is the better half. In what’s unfortunately a man’s world…she rocks.
I was on travel for work this week which mean any blogging or work on my website was delayed. When I returned, I had an email that was thanking me for my “Difficult Bird ID” page, where you can find information on differentiating between commonly confused species. There was also a request to add another page, discussing how to tell apart the three North American goldfinch species. I don’t normally think of goldfinches as a particularly difficult group to identify, but then again, here in eastern South Dakota, we only have the one species. Overall, geography is obviously a huge part of identifying goldfinches, as in the eastern half of the country, the only species of goldfinch you’ll find are American Goldfinch. However, if you happen to find yourself in parts of the southwestern US, you have three goldfinch species you may potentially encounter, with Lesser Goldfinch and Lawrence’s Goldfinch join the party.
The woman who sent the email lived in California and specifically was trying to figure out how to easily identify female goldfinches. That does represent more of a challenge than differentiating male goldfinches, and given that my Difficult Bird ID pages are some of the most visited pages on my entire website, I thought tonight I would go ahead and create another page that talks about ID keys for the three species.
As with many “difficult” IDs, for birders I think that difficulty melts away with experience, particularly when given keys to look for. Creating a page such as this helps me as well! I don’t run into Lesser Goldfinch, for example, unless I travel, but I don’t know if I could have identified a female goldfinch as either Lesser or American in the areas they overlap in range, until creating this page. Now I’ll know what to look for (bill color, and undertail covert color are giveaways).
A bit of a pain to create these pages, but as I said, they are frequently visited. Click below for the new Goldfinch ID page.
Females of the three North American goldfinch species. Males in breeding plumage? Piece of cake. A little bit harder for the females (particularly American and Lesser), but not bad when you know what to look for.
One of my favorite things about Spring is the COLOR. After a winter of gloomy, dark, snowy days, a winter where (as always) your South Dakota backyard birdlife is dominated by the plainly colored Dark-eyed Junco, it’s so nice to have a splash of color in your backyard as songbirds begin to return. In my yard in the Spring, that splash of color has always been dominated by male American Goldfinches that have returned to their bright yellow plumage, or the handful of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks that come to our feeders.
We also are used to a splash of orange in the Spring as a Baltimore Oriole may periodically visit the yard. I have a jelly and orange feeder that attracts them, although they lose interest once nesting begins in earnest. I honestly don’t remember having more than one Baltimore Oriole in my yard at one time, and I’ve never had Orchard Orioles. That’s changed! I have been completely INUNDATED with Orioles this spring! At one point Friday, I counted FIFTEEN Orioles in the back yard, with 6 Baltimore Orioles fighting around the orange/jelly feeder, 6 more moving around in the flowering pear and cherry trees along the back fence, and 3 Orchard Orioles doing the same!
We’ve had a very cool, wet spring, and the vegetation and flowers are behind where they normally are this time of year. I’m not sure if that’s the cause of the explosion in Orioles in my yard, but I DO know they’re going through grape jelly like there’s no tomorrow! We’re talking a full TWO POUND jar of grape jelly per day! Every time I go back to the feeder to check, it’s empty!
It’s a sight the likes I’ve never seen. Not just in my yard, but I’ve never seen so many Orioles in one place, anywhere. A wonderful Spring treat! Some photos of the visitors:
I was planning on doing some birding yesterday, but life got in the way. I started doing yard work, and couldn’t help but notice several Ruby-throated Hummingbirds flitting through my back yard, moving from flower to flower, and to my one nectar feeder. After finishing the yard work, I decided to do something I haven’t done all summer…try to get photos of my visiting hummingbirds.
They’re not going to be around much longer. They’ll start to leave in a week or two, and numbers will dwindle. By September, I’m usually only left with occasionally young birds and females. By mid-September, they’ll largely be gone.
I’m always so excited when the first hummingbird shows up in our yard in early May! I figured I’d better take some time and enjoy them while we can. For now, here’s a male and female (or young) visiting my nectar feeder.
A somewhat scruffy looking male Ruby-throated Hummingbird. I probably won’t have males around for too much longer. Mature males are always the first to leave, and will be scarce or absent by the end of the month.
A female (or immature) hummingbird. Pretty soon these will all I’ll have, and then sadly, they’ll trickle away as well, leaving me with a long, 8-month period without my beautiful little hummingbird. 🙁
Biologically, humans aren’t the only species where men are assholes. Kim Jung-un, Trump, Putin…it’s in your genes to aggressive, maniacal assholes. 🙂
A new study came out this week on Chimpanzees, examining dominance and social pecking order of female Chimpanzees, and comparing dominance strategies against males. Social dominance for Chimpanzees is established in males by conflict. Male Chimpanzees will actively challenge other males, with successful challenges leading to a rise in the social pecking order. Aggressiveness and conflict…that’s what establishes your “rank”.
Females on the other hand were found to literally never establish dominance through conflict. Instead, the study found female Chimpanzees have social pecking orders established right as they mature. After that, their pecking order is set, with the only moves up in the pecking order occurring when older or more dominant females die. In short, females “wait their turn”, and dominance is established with time and experience, without conflict.
There certainly appears to be a lesson here! I can’t read the news any more without an eye-rolling moment, and quite often it’s related to chest-thumping and conflict that, frankly, usually just seems like it’s conflict-for-the-sake-of-conflict. And 99% of the time, it’s my own sex that’s responsible. As this study shows, it’s not just humans! There’s a biologic component to aggressiveness (and may I say, stupidity) among men! (and hey, this is all coming FROM a guy…)
As is ALWAYS the case, science explains everything. The Chimpanzee study is a great example of why we end up with men like Trump, Putin, Kim Jung-un, etc. 🙂
A colored pencil drawing of a male and female Red-winged Blackbird, by Dorothy Depaulo. I was blown away by the beauty and detail in this piece. I love seeing the final result when an artist uses one of my photos!
I often get requests from artists to use photos for reference. After an agreement is reached, it’s less often that I actually hear back and see the finished piece. I always love seeing what folks can do with my photos as reference. The creativity and different forms of art out there is really amazing.
I was recently contacted by Dorothy DePaulo, who had used one of my photos as a reference source. She sent a scan of a pencil drawing she had done of a pair of Red-winged Blackbirds. It was one of my photos of a female blackbird that she used as reference. All I can say about the finished result…Dorothy certainly justice to the original photo! I was really blown away when I first opened the image.
Of course I had to check out the rest of her work on her website, Fine Art by DePaulo. She uses a technique I had never heard of. When she emailed she said she wanted to draw Red-winged Blackbirds, but when I first opened the image, the richness and detail seemed more than is possible with colored pencil! On her website it says she uses colored pencil, but her surface is mylar. By drawing on mylar, she can draw on both sides and get layering not possible with a traditional drawing on fine art paper.
Gorgeous drawing! On the one hand, it makes me want to pick up a pencil again and start drawing, since it’s been over a year since I’ve done so. On the other hand…I’m not sure I WANT to pick up a pencil again, as there’s no way I can reach the high bar set by Ms. DePaulo!