Friday, May 26, 2017

Spring Highlights

For the nature photographer, spring is an onrushing torrent.  It has consumed me to where posting to a blog has become lost.  Time to make amends with my highlights (so far) of this season.

It has been a wet and sometimes cool spring, so the waterfalls have at times been roaring. Taughannock Falls has been emptying huge volumes into Cayuga Lake.  It is the tallest straight drop east of the Mississippi easily dwarfing the tiny observer at the base.

In March, some waterfowl return beginning with the diving ducks after the ice clears from streams were they can fish.  Here is a Common Merganser male that came streaking past me in the canal at Montour Falls.

As soon as there is duck weed or other aquatic plants to feed upon, the male Wood Ducks arrive.  They are so beautiful, and their chatter is a sure sign of spring.


Like the mergansers, the Great Blue Heron only needs open water and fish to appear. The adult scored a triple!.

Early spring also brings forth the wildflowers such as this Trout Lily, also commonly called Adder's Tongue.  It holds its petal tightly closed until a warm sun appears, so its pollen is only available when insect pollinators are active.

Mixed in with the early wildflowers are the first wave of warblers such as this colorful Palm Warbler.  It's a ground hugging insect eater that can frustrate the photographer seeking a clear view.

Another sure sign of spring are the Trillium.  Here is Trillium erectum, Purple Trillium.  It is also nicknamed Stinking Willy because it has a strong, foul odor helpful in attracting flying pollinators. 

The other Trillium is Trillium grandiflorum. Oddly, I find it typically more erect on the stalk than the one given the name T. erectum.  I love them both and have them in my flower beds for enjoyment.

A final favorite wildflower for me is the Wild Geranium.  This one caught my attention because of the alignment of the three blooms and the well-presented leaf. The challenge is often not finding the plant but locating a good setting and stature. This is actually portraiture.

A welcome migrant in spring is the Song Sparrow.  Wow, does it ever sing a lot.

The Pine Warbler has been my nemesis for years.  Why?  It seems to exclusively forage on the tiptop level of pine trees, tall ones. It is a major cause of "warbler neck" - which is a sore neck from looking nearly directly overhead for a long time trying to see a tiny bird.  Got smart this spring and found some short pine trees. Bingo!

Another brilliant warbler is the Yellow Warbler.  It, too, is a strong singer, and thankfully found closer to eye level.

In early May, marshes fill with male Red-winged Blackbirds.  They stake out territories with loud calls and aggressive behavior to the neighboring males. They can really get worked up into a frenzy.  Look at how the reddish-orange wing bars fluff up when he is excited.

As the weather warms, insects begin to appear and agile insect eaters follow naturally.  One with real character is the pugnacious Eastern Kingbird. They won't even yield to a Canada Goose.

A more colorful insect eater is the Yellow-throated Vireo. Like other vireos, it can be a steady voice in the woods.

A bird of the big woods is the Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Easily missed, it is usually quiet but does have a somewhat deep-throated song easily recognized to match its  name.  Isn't it distinctive?

Now, for my favorite image of the spring so far, here is an Indigo Bunting gracefully perched on a branch.

So, that is my spring to date.  I'm working on an Osprey nest, plus another pair of nesting birds with hopes that they yield distinctive images.   I would love to know which of these images is your favorite.

Best regards,

Paul Schmitt