Thursday, May 23, 2013

Spring Symphony

In 1842, Robert Schumann delivered his first symphony as a birthday present to his beloved Clara.  In a note he said:

" I wrote this symphony in that rush of spring which carries a man away even in  his  old age  and comes over him anew every year".

His instructions to  the conductor, Felix Mendelssohn, on its premier was for the beginning trumpets to be a summons to awaken to spring.  So it is with the photos I have just reviewed.

The hills are lush with the warm spring green of new leaves and the streams are tumbling down with ample flows.  The banks are lined with white flowered Viburnum.

Ganoga Glen at Rickett's Glen State Park  (Pennsylvania)

The beauty is not confined to large vistas, but also to an isolated boulder surrounded by cascading water.

Ganoga Glen Cascade

Rickett's Glen  is arguably the largest concentration of waterfalls in the northeast US.   Two separate gorges,  Ganoga Glen and Glen Leigh, converge at Watersmeet to continue their course to the Susquehanna River.

Glen Leigh at Watersmeet

Just as the streams summon us, so do the arriving birds intent on beginning the next generation.  The males are everywhere announcing the spring.

Yellow-rumped Warbler in Song

The warbler sings one song, and the towhee another, each unique but to the same purpose.

Eastern Towhee

 And, birds are pairing up at nesting territories.

Eastern Bluebirds

Nesting has begun, and the males continue to sing as was this most colorful Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

Singing Rose-breasted Grosbeak

His nearby mate revealed her nest building. She was searching the wild grapevines for stringy pieces of bark to bind her nest together with.

Female Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Each time the female found a suitable fiber, she flew off to the same location with the male closely following.  Oh, if I can spot the nest from a hidden spot.  But, I expect they will be very hard to find it; it will be well-concealed with so  many crows about to rob them.

Now, I'll see if I can find Schumann's First Symphony on iTunes.



Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Big Week of Birding

Earlier this month, I spent a week at the Black Swamp Bird Observatory's Biggest Week in Birding.  It is a huge festival with lots of birders and a wide variety of birds. The main draw is arguably the warblers. There were few south winds to bring in birds, but the results were still good. Here are a few of the images that I made.

Magnolia Warbler

Bay-breasted Warbler

Yellow-throated Vireo

While much of the breeding displays are by birds on their way north to Canada, there are local birds that can be observed. This pair of Downy Woodpeckers were among the many woodpeckers seen displaying, breeding and excavating nest holes.

Downy Woodpecker mating

On a nature trail near the hotel, I observed this Downy preparing a cavity.  I am always impressed with how perfectly round they make the hole.

Nest Cavity

Another delightful bird is the Wood Thrush who sings a flute-like melody.

Wood Thrush in song

And, the open marshlands are rich with Red-winged Blackbirds, both male and female.

Male Red-winged Blackbird

Foraging female Red-winged Blackbird

However, warblers are really the biggest show at the festival, and there are some more that I really enjoy finding - Palm, Yellow and Prothonotary.

Palm Warbler

Yellow Warbler

I felt lucky to finally capture that quick leap to the next branch. They are really fast.

Leaping to the next branch

Birders get really excited when a report comes along of a Prothonotary Warbler anywhere in the main marsh. On one marsh trail, there were easily fifty people clustered to see a pair of them.  Seems silly. Surprisingly, the birds are pretty tolerant, perhaps due to the rich food present. 

But, there are quieter places to search out.  On the last morning, we went to a little used nature trail by the hotel, and had this single male Prothonotary pop up into sight.  There were only four people present.

The same nature trail had a great number of nest boxes, and in one there was this little Screech Owl catching some warm sunlight before sunset.

Hope you've enjoyed these images.


Monday, May 13, 2013


Last week, I was birding on the shores of Lake Erie near Toledo.  I went out on a showery evening at dusk to watch a male Woodcock's courtship display. Woodcock males wait until the light level drops to just 2 lumens.  They magically appear in the half-light at the same spot each evening and make this rattling "peent" call repeatedly. Then they ascent to a dizzying height and tumble down to the ground making this buzzing sound caused by air rushing thru their coarse wing feathers.  They repeat the "peent" call and again take flight.  They are often called Timber Doodles because of this odd display. 

We were rewarded with a good show. The male appeared a mere 50 feet away.  Before the first flight, a female flew in  just over our heads and landed 15 feet away. The male scurried over and began to display and cackle.  He held his wings out at the side and pranced about. (Too dark for photos, for sure!) After two matings, she left and he returned to his original spot where he began the "peent" and flight in earnest.  After all, one never knows how many other ladies are in the neighborhood.

So, the next day, I was directed to a female Woodcock setting on a barren, leaf covered bit of sand dune.   The area was marked off with yellow tape to prevent anyone from disturbing her, but it was still difficult to spot the bird.  Can you see her?

The bird was absolutely motionless among the leaves.  Only the slight reddish hues gave her away. 

But, there was another treat to see, as she had chicks.  For a few brief moments, one of them appeared from under her wing.

I was later told she had four chicks. 

The trip was for warblers, but there is no ignoring such a wonderful find as this.  I'll post some warbler photos in a few days.


Friday, May 3, 2013

Spring Wildflowers!

My love for nature photography began with landscapes. That is never more apparent than when the emerging colors of spring destroy the muted winter colors. Recently I revisited Lick Brook for both waterfalls and spring wildflowers where I found this magical scene with the first bits of spring green in the trees.  (Yes, my feet got wet getting to this spot. It was worth it.)

At one time this spring,  I went looking for birds with a big telephoto lens and found something unexpected that needed a wider view. What to do?  Why, pull out my iPhone and take the photo.  So it was that this renegade bunch of daffodils appeared in a wooded area.

I transformed the image to match the impression it made on me using the Mobile Monet app.

Sometimes the wildflowers are just outside my door.  I have a 4-foot square garden in a sheltered corner by our sun room. The quiet corner seems to encourage early blooming like seen in this Purple Trillium.

So, I've become so intrigued with testing my ability to capture a workable image with the iPhone, that I am becoming too lazy to switch to a wide angle lens when I see an expansive image like these Virginia Bluebells. With the small size of the camera phone, I can set the camera right on the ground and see the world like a bug.  Edited again with Mobile Monet.

Virginia Bluebells seem to have a changeable personality depending on the type of light.  During the same shoot, I found this, again from a bug's perspective.

Spring also brings a rich yellow and green display to the marshy areas when the Celandine Poppy blooms. 

Saving my favorite image for last, I found this lush Trillium grandiflorum on a leafy hillside in the Mundy Wildflower Garden at Cornell Plantations on a beautiful spring morning.

Now, if I did not have a lawn to mow, I could be out there right now looking for more beautiful finds. Maybe you can take my place?

Paul Schmitt