Monday, November 12, 2012

Feeding Frenzy

I was tired of doing what I was supposed to do.  Instead, I wanted to do what I wanted to do.  The weather was supposed to be wonderful.   My wife tired from running the presidential election for our town was looking for a reason to relax.  I think she was still a bit tired when she agreed to get up at 5:00AM on a holiday to go do some photography.  But at least she was getting out of cleaning the basement.

Curious about what has happened in the last month & rumors of Crossbills led us first to Plum Island and on to Salisbury State Park.  At Salisbury we could see a pack of photographers and bird watchers, so we knew we were in the right place...but as we started to park the car, the flock of birds flew away.  It was going to be a little while before I would get my first photos of Crossbills.

Thankfully, the camping area at Salisbury is loaded with low pine trees.  They are currently loaded with pine cones.  The Crossbills are attracted to the plentiful food source, so they are constantly flying from tree to tree and chowing down. It was only a short commute to find where they had set up their movable feast.

They seem to have little fear of humans.  Many flew by me so close they almost hit me.  One even landed on my flash, just inches from my face!

Most of the Crossbills were White-winged Crossbills. The males are red, while the females are a greenish color.

Light Chronicle: Crossbills  Light Chronicle: Crossbills  Light Chronicle: Crossbills  Light Chronicle: Crossbills  Light Chronicle: Crossbills  Light Chronicle: Crossbills  Light Chronicle: Crossbills  Light Chronicle: Crossbills

The last time I photographed Crossbills at Salisbury I was walking around in snow up to my knees and slipping and sliding on ice. Today was so much more enjoyable with a sunny day and temperatures close to 70 degrees.

Last time there were only White-winged Crossbills. Today mixed in the large flock of White-winged Crossbills was a smaller flock of Red Crossbills. So not only was this a banner day, but I added a new bird to my photographic "life list".

Light Chronicle: Crossbills  Light Chronicle: Crossbills  Light Chronicle: Crossbills

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Plover Lover

Many are avoiding Plum Island to avoid the Green Head Flies; others because most of the beach is closed to protect the Piping Plovers. In spite of these mere obstacles and my checkered past visiting the island, I decided to visit the island anyways.

If you persevere and drive to the very end, to Sandy Point Reservation, park your car, grab your gear and hike along the beach for another 1/2 mile you will arrive at an area that's roped off to protect nesting Piping Plovers and Least Terns. The terns will let you know if you get too close, by dive bombing your head until you retreat. The ropes are there to protect the few nesting pairs of Piping Plovers hid in the grass.

Piping Plovers are a threatened species which is why the refuge beach is shut down. the state is a bit more relaxed just roping off a substantial area of beach. Unfortunately they didn't tell the plovers about the rope, so while the nests are protected, you can encounter the birds anywhere.

This spring's flooding wiped out their original nests. However, the plovers and terns have "re-nested" and are incubating their eggs. Here are a few photos from a recent visit.

Plovers seem to prefer walking to flying I was a respectful distance away with my long lens. This guy kept coming closer & closer, until he got inside my minimum focusing distance! The nests are really hard to see. The plovers seemed to pick a spot with a little shade, unlike some of the terns who selected areas of wide open beach. One pair has hatched two chicks. The chicks look like dirty cotton balls on toothpicks...until they start running It's hard not to find the chicks so cute and adorable. It makes dealing with the sand fleas and green heads almost tolerable.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Alewife Are Running

It's that time of year, where two of nature's most powerful desires intersect. In Maine the Alewife are returning from the ocean to run upstream to spawn. At the same time, Osprey and other birds are fishing to feed themselves and their young. This combination lured myself and three other photographers to the Damariscotta area in Maine to try to photograph the situation. Even with cooperative subjects, it takes the right combination of skill and luck to position yourself correctly, maintain your concentration through the waiting, have your camera prepared and to take the shot at the critical moment.

Hope you enjoy the results. Feel free to click on the images to see a larger version.

It is an exciting challenge that doesn't grow stale. I guess that's why we keep coming back, in spite of having been shut out a week earlier

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Shocking Photos

The forecast for Wednesday was sunny with intervals of clouds. That sounded like a good day for photography. So I met up with Roy at Plum Island before the sun rose hoping to get the perfect photo of a short-eared owl. Unfortunately, it rose to reveal a gray overcast day, which turned into fog.

While moving camera gear between cars, my ICD went off. Not the first time. It didn't go off again, so we proceeded with our plans. Alas, the short-ear didn't show. We wandered around and saw several interesting birds including two Glossy Ibises; but generally everything was was outside a reasonable camera range.

After Roy & I split up, I cruised Plum Island a little more and took these photos of a snowy owl in flight. (With the recent warm weather I wonder when they will depart. Though with while I was waiting for him to fly, the windy cold mist off of the ocean was probably more suited to him than me.)

I also liked this mockingbird in the bush. He even ate a few berries, but unfortunately his head was on the wrong side of the branch.

When I got home, I dutifully called in to report my ICD firing. They saw some things they wanted to check out, so it was in to Mass General where they decided to that I needed to stay the night and take a stress test the next day. I passed and they discharged me. As I told the doctor while showing her the snowy on my phone, "If the photos are always going to be this good, the ICD can go off more often." It does however, make me appreciate each day a bit more and encourages me to look at all the beauty that surrounds us.

Monday, March 12, 2012

A Day Off

This past week, I worked harder than most weeks at a full-time job. However, this was all volunteer work as I was processing registrations and preparing for Saturday, March 17th's Glennie Nature Competition. If you are free stop by.

So though there are still tasks to do; today, I took the day off. I was up before the sun and drove up to Plum Island to hopefully see some short-eared owls and whatever else was available. I arrived a little later than I wanted. The sun was already above the horizon.

Unfortunately, the short-eared owls have been seen at the far end of the refuge, so I couldn't dilly dally at the other interesting opportunities that presented themselves. But I did allow myself to stop and take a few shots of things that caught my eye.

I arrived a Cross Farm Hill about 7:15. As I was driving up I saw a short-eared owl fly across towards the ocean side. Hoping I wasn't too late, I set up my tripod and waited. Twice more it buzzed back on the field side allowing me to take a few shots. While still a good distance away, they were closer shots than I've been able to get to date.

Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl

Finally, it was too bright, so I started wandering back towards the gate and home. Along the way I spent some more time with the pintails. While watching a small group, these males broke out into a fight over a female. (She seemed disinterested and continued eating.)

Two Northern Pintails fighting over a female
Two Northern Pintails fighting over a female

I also encountered my first Killdeer of the season. It's distinctive cry gave it's location away.


On the way home, I did a quick check of the Chain Bridge for eagles. Two eagles alternated roosting in the tree across the bay. When they weren't there they enjoyed riding the thermals so heights so high that they would disappear from view. Alas, they didn't fly anywhere within range of my lens. Though while I waited, I did manage to get this flight shot of a cormarant.

Great Cormorant

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Man Plans, God Laughs

Today was going to be one big nature photography festival. I was up before the sun and off to Newburyport. First I made a quick pass by the Screech Owl to see if I could catch it with its eyes open in the low morning light...but it wasn't home.

Undeterred, I checked several of the favorite eagle spots along the Merrimack. The first couple were barren, but at the Chain Bridge I could see a couple of eagles perched in the trees in the distance. I packed up my gear and walked out to the point of Deer Island and waited...and waited...and waited. After a while they flew, to different perches in the same trees. So I waited..and waited...finally they flew...east towards Salisbury, out of sight. During all that waiting, I entertained myself by photographing a few of the passing animals.

Cormorant Flying

Common Merganser eating Breakfast

Seal cruising up the Merrimack

Song Sparrow on Phragmites

By now it was too late to implement my backup plan for the morning of visiting the refuge at Parker River. So I dd a drive by of Salisbury State Park. Amazing how a spot that two years ago, was hopping all winter, this year is so quiet. I continued on up the coast arriving at Odiorne Point State Park in Rye, New Hampshire.

I must be the only photographer that hadn't made the pilgrimage up here to photograph the extraordinary Cape May Warbler that chose to winter here, rather than continuing south to the West Indies. Lucky for it an ample supply of brine flies found in the rotting seaweed of the wrack line combined with our mild winter have allowed it to successful winter over. It now has a big headstart for the migration to the canadian boreal forest.

My day's luck continued. It wasn't in its usual spot by the lobster pots and seaweed. So I waited...and waited. After more than an hour I was starting to get cold, so I went for a small walk thru the nearby woods to get the blood circulating and the body temperature up. As I returned I had resigned myself to a short wait and then I would leave; but thankfully the warbler had returned.

After more than an hour of photographing the warbler, my hunger over came my desire for one more photo. After soup for my stomach and gas for the car, I headed south to my final destination Nelson's Island hoping to improve upon my photographs of Short-eared Owls. Unfortunately, the "shorty" did a flight pass, but was still too far away for good photos.

With the sun having set, it was time to head home. It wasn't the day I had planned, but it was enjoyable never the less.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

More Eagles

The tide was right. The day was warm. So back we went to Newburyport to get some more eagle photos. Unfortunately the first day the action was relatively close by, but the sun was in the wrong place. The second day the light was beautiful, but the eagles weren't very interested in fishing.

Periodically a couple of the eagles would engage with each other trying to grasp the other's talons. Since these eagles are all juveniles, I assume that it is more of a territorial behavior. A couple these photos are at some distance in poor light, but I included them so you could see the behavior.

As we were leaving, we spied a couple more eagles flying to the west of the Chain Bridge. This made for some interesting photos, since we were at or close to their level.