Photos tell the story
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. flickr.com/photos/ 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.