Wilson that is truly pretty. You've got some great scenery there.
I really wish I had the chance to photograph snow and stuff. I'm not being completely facetious when I say the must interesting thing to photograph here tonight is the kids in the pool.
I don't know how to view the exif data on your images, what lens did you use? Did you do anything to try and blur the background to make the bird and birdhouse stand out? I'm trying to learn from scratch and that sort of info would help.
I'm guessing those settings are approaching the max apperture of your lens so given you're at max zoom as well you'll have little blurring of the background when it is relatively so close to the topic. Is that right? To get the best emphasis on the subject then comes down to where you can stand?
Large aperture + Max zoom = the best blurred background. Although it is hard to get a truly pleasingly blurred background at f5.6. You would need to get more 'wide open' than that to get a truly blurred background, but that means expensive lenses too........oh the irony of the whole thing!
Nice cardinal shots - from my experience they are pretty elusive when trying to photograph.