Pho­tos tell the story

Stanstead Journal - - NEWS -

that the Haskell Free Li­brary is host­ing an ex­hibit of her work, en­ti­tled “Birds at my Feeder” dur­ing the month of June.

“I’ve been us­ing a cam­era all my life,” said Mrs. Levin who moved to Og­den about six years ago af­ter re­tir­ing from her po­si­tion as li­brar­ian at North Coun­try Union Ju­nior High School, in Ver­mont. “I try to look for what pulls you, then put that in the cam­era,” added the pho­tog­ra­pher who gained some of her artis­tic eye while earn­ing de­grees in Fine Arts.

Pho­tograph­ing birds has been a more re­cent en­deavor for this semi-pro pho­tog­ra­pher who was in­spired by, not only the sheer va­ri­ety of birds that be­gan vis­it­ing her feeder, but also by the writ­ings of Bernd Hein­rich, a sci­ence and na­ture writer who pho­tographed geese on a daily ba­sis and wrote about it in The Geese of Beaver Bog.

“I wanted to start pho­tograph­ing birds be­cause I was hav­ing so much fun watch­ing them. I didn’t know all the dif­fer­ent kinds and birds started turn­ing up that I’d never seen be­fore. I’d look them up and learn things like: this one sum­mers in Hud­son’s Bay.”

With her own ‘perch’ just a few feet from her large liv­ing room win­dow and the bird’s feed­ing sta­tion just a few feet away on the other side of that win­dow, Sharon has a won­der­ful glimpse into the world of birds. “The Chick­adees were the first to visit my feeder; they got used to me while some other kinds of birds never did. It took the Mourn­ing Doves a year be­fore they would come down to feed. They all have some­thing they do and things they won’t do; like the Goldfinches who never eat off the ground. Some birds are very ag­gres­sive while oth­ers are not.”

When it comes to bathing, the pho­tog­ra­pher has no­ticed that birds bathe more of­ten on sunny, windy days: “Like us­ing a hair dryer.”

“It’s all their lit­tle quirks that make it in­ter­est­ing. Some­times they seem so hu­man-like!”

Catch­ing on cam­era her bird vis­i­tors when they’re at their most ex­pres­sive is Mrs. Levin’s spe­cial gift. One of her pho­tos of two an­gry Blue Jays made me laugh when I saw it, they looked so darn mad. Another photo was heart-melt­ing: a Mourn­ing Dove lov­ingly watch­ing over its mate.

Keep­ing her daily, morn­ing vigil at the win­dow has al­lowed Mrs. Levin to wit­ness and pho­to­graph an in­cred­i­bly wide va­ri­ety of feath­ered crea­tures in their chal­leng­ing world. “Dur­ing the win­ter when it was very cold, Snow Bunt­ings vis­ited my feeder twice in the same week, then, I never saw them again. They must have been des­per­ate. I’ve also had a whole flock of Grack­les and Red-winged Black­birds come to­gether.”

“One day, in Fe­bru­ary, a lit­tle Chick­adee was eat­ing at the feeder when this huge thing showed up. I looked it up and learnt it was a fe­male pheas­ant. They aren’t nor­mally in this re­gion but I’ve heard that they raise pheas­ants on an is­land in Lake Mem­phrem­a­gog to hunt them. Some must es­cape,” said Mrs. Levin. The fe­male be­came a reg­u­lar vis­i­tor and was joined, in April, by a male Ring-necked Pheas­ant, one of Que­bec’s most strik­ing and colour­ful birds. “One of them would watch while the other ate for about two min­utes, then they’d switch. Once a red squir­rel ran at the feet of the pheas­ant – he just hopped up to avoid the squir­rel, which was small in com­par­i­son, and then gave the squir­rel a very stern look. I caught a pic­ture of that.”

Of course, the world of birds is not with­out sor­row, and Sharon has also been wit­ness to this. “I heard the pheas­ant clack­ing re­ally loudly one night. The next day, the fe­male was gone and the male had lost all of his huge, beau­ti­ful tail feath­ers. I worry about him.”

Be­sides the in­ter­est­ing sam­pling of Mrs. Levin’s bird pho­to­graphs that will be on ex­hibit at the Haskell Free Li­brary through­out the month of June, more of Mrs. Levin’s cap­ti­vat­ing col­lec­tion of bird pho­to­graphs can be viewed, com­plete with ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion that ac­com­pa­nies each shot, by go­ing to www.­tos/ sharon­levin.

Sharon Levin stands be­side the Ninebark bush that her bird friends love to hide and eat in.

A watch­ful Towhee at Mrs. Levin’s feed­ing sta­tion.

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