Sometimes you find the most rewarding images close to home and without much effort. I've got a bird feeder in a friend's woods. It is a bee hive of activity, mostly Black-capped Chickadees. They are one of my favorite birds- tame, always active and sweetly voiced. They are extremely quick, and I've often tried to catch that instant when they take wing. It required more anticipation than reaction. If you fire the shutter when you see motion, well, it's always too late.
So, when I am refilling the feeder I try to take a few photos in the hope I will get it right. Finally, I hit it spot-on and got this delightful image:
Monday, February 6, 2012
It was Monday, the quietest day of the week, so I got in line at the gate for the 3 pm opening. It was nice to be first to claim a nice spot, first near a pair of Pintails. They are just beautiful. I've found it good to just sit and let things develop. So many see the bird, snap a photo and rush on. I don't, and think I see more.
The best of the afternoon was the Tundra Swans towards the middle of the loop. On the next day neither Pintails nor Tundra Swans were on the Wildlife Loop.
I've put a couple of nice Pintail photos in my waterfowl gallery at:
Tuesday dawned beautiful, if cold. But it warmed quickly. A large part of my early morning was watching a Great Blue Heron fishing along the causeway to the beach.
|The Catch- a Double|
There was a side trail, the Bivalve Trail, that went to the tidal flats. I discovered that these flats are open to oyster cultivation and harvesting. It seems to have been an accommodation to the local fishery when the refuge was established. I can tell you that I had the most delicious pan fried oysters at dinner and heartily support any access for oyster harvesting.
Now, when the Wildlife Loop opened on Tuesday, it was pretty much a bust. No Pintails, Swans or such anywhere near. I saw a flock of Willets lift off and head seaward, so I changed the plan and hoped I would find shorebirds in the surf.
Well, I was in luck. Dozen of Willets were probing the sand for small snails and periwinkles. The wind was perfect for them to wing past me with the sun nicely bathing them in warm evening light. And there were gulls too.
I was to return home on Wednesday. Deciding I had exhausted the subjects at Chincoteague, I made a very early start to reach Prime Hook by 8:30 am. I found a beach road and there were some very nice waterfowl close to the road including a very stately pair of Pintails. Thankfully, the road was very lightly traveled and I could pull over safely for long periods of time.
Driving on, I came upon a winter wheat field literally covered with Snow Geese. I think it best to quantify them by the acre, not the thousands. Just too many to put a number on. Still, they were not close enough for mid range images.
The noise is one of continual cacophony with a mix of goose vocalization plus the wing noise. I imagine they can strip a field in a day.
Entering Bombay Hook NWR, I only found the most common waterfowl, generally too distant plus one male Bufflehead. He was too distant for a really good image. Looking at the clock, it was time to leave if I was to make it thru Philly before rush hour.
The new plan was to skip the diner, get a sub sandwich and hit the road. Home by dinner and facing over a thousand images to cull down to the best seventy. Happy man.
Obviously, there are many more good images, all in higher resolution, to enjoy. I've put a few more on my Flickr page at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pschmitt_at_flickr/
I've posted the best high resolution images in the Bird Galleries of webpage. Seek out the sub-galleries for Waterfowl and Shore & Wading Birds. Go to: http://pschmitt.smugmug.com/
I hope you find these images enjoyable and that you too have the opportunity to enjoy Chincoteague in the Winter. I'd love it if you find this something to share with your friends.
Thanks for visiting my blog.
The winter of 2011-2012 has brought an irruption of Snowy Owls to the Finger Lakes of New York. Normally a resident of the far north, this brings the birder a rare opportunity to see a remarkably beautiful bird. So, when I read a posting that a Snowy Owl was a forty minute drive away, I loaded both camera and binoculars for a Sunday morning foray.
The markings indicate this is a first year juvenile bird. Noting the height of the bleacher seats, this juvenile is still a big bird, likely 20 inches or so in height.
The upper seat has a regurgitated pellet; that would be the indigestible bits of hair, bone and tooth that will not pass thru the birds system. We later found four of them indicating the bird has been there awhile,and hunting successfully. Given that the birds are here because of a food problem in their normal range, this is a hopeful sign it will survive.
There were Crows in the area, and shortly it moved to a nearby soccer goal. At one point, not in this photo, it shifted to reveal its claws. Like any owl, they are formidable.
Anyway, this was a nicer, clearer image of the bird and although in both cases, the owl is resting on artificial features, I liked this image because of cleaner background.
Now, Crows love to harass any bird of prey, and the owl showed some nervous attention to them as they came closer.
Shortly, the owl took flight again. The wingspan is huge. My Sibley field guide suggests 52 inches. This is one really big owl.
When a Crow came really close, the owl would open its beak widely and probably hiss back a threat. At other times when the pass was not too close, the owl seemed to ignore the harasser.
It seemed after 5 or so minutes that the Crows had satisfied their need for sport, and began to drift off, still expressing their anger. The owl did seem to quiet down over the next few minutes.
I noted thereafter that the owl was craning its neck downward repeatedly, seeming to be following something on the ground. Maybe we were to see it strike? The answer is, maybe.
It was past noon, and we were hungry. After finding a nice diner, we returned. The Snowy Owl was still in the field, sitting next to a fence post at a distance too far to photograph. Hopefully, it had made another kill and would make another step towards surviving the winter to return north.
So, a few words should you be inclined to look for this bird. The college security person suggested that if was okay on weekends to drive onto the gravel road near the soccer field; probably not okay on weekdays. The gravel road is actually posted against unauthorized vehicles but weekends are pretty quiet. If you stay in your car on the gravel road, you will minimize the birds reaction to your presence. On weekdays, I would park next to the maintenance building and glass the bird from there or a short distance on the gravel.
Photos with Nikon D300s, lens at equivalent of 780 mm and cropped from that.
Other photos at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pschmitt_at_flickr/