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.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Eagle Festival

Early in February, Massachusetts Audubon and Parker River National Wildlife Refuge hold "The Merrimack River Eagle Festival". This year it will be held on Feb 11.

Each winter as lakes, ponds and rivers freeze over the eagles start to congregate along the brackish water at the mouth of the Merrimack. They must be creatures of habit, since despite the unseasonably warm winter, they have started to show up just in time for the Eagle Festival . (Or perhaps they just like showing off to crowds.)

Today, I wandered up to check on the activity. We encountered this juvenile on the north side of Deer Island, next to the Chain Bridge.

Down near Jefferson Street in Newburyport, another juvenile eagle's position was given away by this group of mobbing crows.

Nearby in the middle of a residential neighborhood, an Gray Eastern Screech Owl is roosting. My lack of success encountering Screech Owls with their eyes open continues. Though this is the fourth one I've seen this year.

Some friends of ours really like loons. They've invited us up to their camp where I've been able to get some great photos from a kayak. Since they see each other during the winter, I grabbed a couple of quick snapshots.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Super Bowl Sunday

After two weeks of Super Bowl talk, I knew I couldn't take a Sunday afternoon of pregame shows. I headed to Nelson Island (part of the Parker River refuge), hoping that most people would be busy partying and prepping for the Patriots game. Most days Nelson Island is closed except for hunters and commercial shell fishermen. I hoped to see the Short Eared Owls that have been reported there.

I'm glad I brought my Wellingtons, because the path to the island was blocked with several inches of ice cold water covered with a skin coat of ice. Reaching the island, the sun was still high in the sky. It was fun bird watching and survey Plum Island from the water river side. We spied a Snowy Owl sitting on some driftwood.

Look at the gloves on his feet

As the sun started to dip low on the horizon, we saw this Short Eared Owl pop above the phragmites
and fly along the marsh towards the woods on the north. This is a life bird for me photographically.