Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Cardinals

Last year, a cardinal pair built a nest right next to our garage and mama laid three eggs. I watched them build the nest so I knew exactly where it was. Better yet, there was little cover  above the nest which made it a great location to set up my GoPro and experiment with time lapse movie clips. This was the second year this cardinal pair had built a nest in our yard. The year before, mama laid her eggs but the very next day a predator cleaned out the nest and the eggs were gone. I had planned to take some macro shots of the hatchlings but it was not meant to be.

Wanting to memorialize the hatching of the eggs last year, I fastidiously went out to the nest every morning with the GoPro, Battery Pac attached and 32GB card, and mounted it to a paint roller extension pole I had jerry-rigged with a threaded screw on the end that served as a very long, length-adjustable monopod. Set to shoot stills at 1 image per second, the GoPro recorded thousands and thousands of stills over a 14 day period. As each day passed with no hatching of eggs I was convinced the next day would bring hatchlings.

After several days passed with no hatching and having downloaded tens of thousands of stills depicting mama patiently incubating the eggs I created a movie trailer (above) as a prelude to what I hoped would be my Cecil B. Demille epic video once the eggs hatched.

After 10 days, I used the stills from the prior day's exercise to make a time lapse video of mama as she incubated the eggs. While it wouldn't rival a time lapse clip of the eggs actually hatching it was better than nothing and it would be a nice prelude to the actual feature film depicting the big event.

Well, kids, the eggs never hatched. I guess they were infertile and in the end all I had was 14 days of still images that basically depicted the same thing - mama on the nest, shifting around every now and then and occasionally leaving and then returning.

Dad feeding the chicks while mama keeps an eye out for any danger
As spring rolled around this year I kept track of where our cardinals were to keep an eye out for nest building. A couple of weeks before Photoshop World I saw the beginning of a nest and before I knew it there were eggs. Unfortunately, the eggs didn't hatch before I left for the Conference but when I returned late Friday night I discovered that they had hatched. Since then I've been dutifully setting up the GoPro to record mama and dad feeding the chicks and generally taking care of baby cardinal business.

I've been in the process of creating a time lapse movie of the goings on but it is a frustratingly slow process, working with some 14,000 8MP stills shot on Sunday at .5 frames per second. Downloading the card took forever only to be outdone by the very slow process of going through them, selecting the ones to import into iMovie, and then gradually importing them a few hundred at a time. Each import takes a couple of hours and I'm nowhere near through yet but eventually I hope to post a finished movie clip. Stay tuned.

On the Rats-I-Didn't-Have-A-Camera front....

One of the things I learned from Jay Maisel is that it always pays to have a camera with you as you never know when that golden opportunity to capture something special rolls around. Yesterday after work, as I was wandering around the yard, a monster pileated woodpecker landed on one of our lowquat trees no more than 10 feet away from me and began feasting on the lowquats. I was stunned. After a few moments, I headed inside to grab a D3S, 80-200mm and an SB900 strobe to take what I knew would be as good an opportunity as I would ever have to capture this beast. No sooner did I get back out to where it was than it flew off before I could fire even one shot. Rats. Lesson learned, Jay.

1 comment:

Serena Moyle said...

We tried to film our baby cardinals, too! next time we'll rig the gopro with a monopod-thingie...can't wait to see the movie!

and this morning we stopped our walk to spy on a beautiful pileated woodpecker- so lovely to see them!