Jim Williams has been watching birds and writing about their antics since before "Gilligan's Island" went into reruns. Join him for his unique insights, his everyday adventures and an open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond.

Teddy Roosevelt's White House bird list

Posted by: Jim Williams under Bird identification, Bird personalities Updated: February 23, 2015 - 3:39 PM

Vivid photos showing bird-window collisions

Posted by: Jim Williams under Bird conservation Updated: February 20, 2015 - 1:06 PM

Large photos of birds colliding with windows are featured in a new exhibit at the Bell Museum of Natural History, University of Minnesota. The images were created by artist Miranda Brandon who used dead birds collected from downtown Minneapolis streets after they collided with windows there. The show is entitled, “Impact — Birds in the Human-built World.” Brandon arranged the dead birds for her camera to show the moment of impact. The photos are far larger than life, making the death scenes very vivid. The twisted bodies of the birds leave no question about the force of impact and its result. The exhibit opened on Feb. 14. It continues until April 19. Brandon is a volunteer in the BirdSafe program working to eliminate or reduce hazards to migrating birds, particularly in downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul. Most of the bird deaths occurring in our two downtowns happen during spring migration. Birds fly into windows thinking the reflected image is reality. BirdSafe is a project of the Bell museum, Audubon Minnesota, and other partners. Also on display in the exhibit are various window treatments designed to warn birds away from collisions.

The photos above and below show two window-glass treatments designed to warn birds away possible collision.

200-600mm telephoto lens

Posted by: Jim Williams under Birding equipment Updated: February 16, 2015 - 6:08 PM

Much of my birdwatching is done through the lens of a camera. I’ve worked my way through five different cameras and several lenses in recent years. I mostly sought good telephoto lenses. I owned a Nikon 300mm f2.8 lens for a few months. It was a great lens. I work hand-held. The lens was too heavy for that. It wore me out. I sold it. In its place I bought a 500mm Tamron lens. I liked it, but could not get a sharp image. I sold it.

The camera I use most often is a Nikon D-700. It has a full-frame sensor, a real asset if you are cropping into images to enlarge the subject. For the last three years my long lens of choice has been the Nikon ED AF-S VR Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8. It’s light in weight, easy on my arms and shoulders, and gives a sharp image. 200mm is not a long reach, however, so I boosted this with a Nikon 2x teleconverter. I liked that rig, but began experiencing problems that I blamed on the converter; I think there is an issue with the electrical contacts.

So, visiting about all of this at National Camera in Golden Valley a few weeks ago, I was introduced to a Tamron 200-600mm f5.6 lens. “Well,” I said, “I’ve not been impressed with Tamron.” The salesperson said he understood. But, this one was different. It’s sharp, he said. Given National’s 30-day trial period on camera/lens purchases, I said I’d give it a try. There was one other reason, beyond supposed 600mm sharpness: the price was $1,069. You can spend many thousands more for a lens of that reach.

The lens is sharp. It’s wonderfully sharp. You probably could improve the sharpness by spending another $9,000 or so. I neither need nor want to do that. The lens is light for its size. The camera and lens together weigh seven pounds. I wouldn’t want that combo heavier, but I can hand-holding without a problem. I like the lens. I’m going to keep this one.

You could take issue with the f5.6 speed (f6.3 at 600mm). Low light levels can be a problem. The camera, though, gives me good images at up to ISO 2000. You’re not necessarily going to make posters of photos taken at that speed, but I don’t do posters.

Below are two images taken with this lens. The first is of brush at the back of our yard, distance to the subject 150 feet, image cropped by half. The cardinal in the second photo was 30 feet from me, the enlargement eliminating about 70 percent of the original image. (The photos on these blog pages are limited to five-inch width, 100 dpi.) For a thousand bucks, looks good to me.

CO2 for Feb. 11 -- 400.86 parts per million

Posted by: Jim Williams under Bird conservation Updated: February 13, 2015 - 1:51 PM


The reading for this date in 2014 was 397.89

Graph from the Keeling Curve web site, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Go to https://scripps.ucsd.edu/programs/keelingcurve/
Also see CO2NOW.org

A stated goal is reduction of CO2 to 350 parts per million

Peregrine seen in Golden Valley

Posted by: Jim Williams under Bird sightings Updated: February 9, 2015 - 11:52 AM

A Peregrine Falcon was seen at 9:30 Monday morning perched on a ledge high on the southeast corner of the Allianz building at Xerxes and I-394. This is immediately west of Highway 100. Falcons have nested here for the past several years.


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