Wildlife conservation photographer Carla Rhodes loves to feed the birds. Every winter in the Catskill Mountains of New York, she hangs a feeder outside her home and watches as birds and mammals of all kinds come to feast on her offerings. Being a photographer, she turned the arrival of her feathered and furry friends into a spectacular series of images called Beneath the Bird Feeder.
Offering a new perspective on a beloved pastime, Rhodes set her sights just below the feeder in the winter months of late 2020 and early 2021. Using a camera trap, she discovered repeat visitors including a dark-eyed Junco “with an overgrown beak” and red-breasted nuthatches. Rhodes also saw the patterns and the routines of the creatures, observing the early birds and noticing those that arrived just as dusk was settling.
“The most exciting discovery was witnessing the ecosystem the bird feeder created beyond the bird feeder,” Rhodes shares with My Modern Met. “For example, I soon learned a deer mouse was caching discarded seeds into a nearby bluestone wall. The sheer act of the mouse’s industrious cache created a treasure trove of other creatures visiting what I dubbed ‘the rock den.’”
What followed was a cast of characters that descended upon her backyard. “I captured photographs of an American red squirrel raiding the den, a black-capped chickadee sassily taking the bounty, and the most exciting discovery was photographically capturing a Northern short-tailed shrew, which is one of the world’s few venomous mammals,” she recalls.
“[The mammals] are voracious insectivores (who occasionally eat salamanders and mice) and consume up to three times their weight in food daily. The shrew’s various prey is cached in a comatose state, ultimately sustaining a living hoard! Until this project, I didn’t realize northern short-tailed shrews were even in my vicinity. This is a perfect example of why I will always consider myself a beginner—I am continually humbled by nature teaching me new things daily!”
Scroll down to see scenes from Beneath the Bird Feeder. Rhodes and her friends even wrote a song about the project with an accompanying video, which you can also watch below.