Saturday, February 27, 2010

Coots, Ducks, Kingfishers and Dueling Hawks

Coots and a Gull to Boot:
Lake Agawan was free of Northern Shovelers, but the 3 Coots from last weekend were still hanging out along the western side.  I was able to sit down on some concrete along the Lakes edge and waited until the Coots swam by.  Since they seem to come quite close to me, I'll try the 105mm Macro + 1.7X TC next time around to try and eke out a little more detail.  One advantage to overcast skies is it really can bring out details that otherwise wouldn't be seen because of the strong glare of the sun.

The Gulls were fighting over bread that people were feeding them.  This one had lost the fight and was flying back to where the action was happening, lucky for me it was right in front of my camera:   

Lots of Ducks:
A stop Mecox Bay produced Canvasback Ducks, Greater Scaup and Hooded Mergansers, all of which were quite shy and scared easily.  The Canvasback Duck is similar to the Redheaded Duck, and at a distance it is tough to distinguish the two.  Redheads are smaller with a shorter bill and a golden eye, whereas the Canvasback Duck has a red eye.  Additionally, the male Canvasback Duck has a mostly white body, compared to the grey body of a Redhead.

The Greater Scaup is also another species which can be tough to ID at first.  It looks nearly identical to the Lesser Scaup as well as the Ring-Necked Duck and if you're really far away it could be confused with a Goldeneye.  The easiest way to tell the difference between the Greater and Lesser Scaup is by looking at the iridescence on the head which is purple in the Lesser and Green in the Greater.

Shinnecock Canal:
I've never stopped at the Shinnecock Canal to photograph birds before, but as I drove over Montauk Hwy. I noticed a lot of gulls, many of which were feeding and thought perhaps there would be an unusual species (not liek I could pick it out as they all look so similar).  Well, none of the gulls stood out to me, however I did find this female Red-breasted Merganser fighting the ripping current in the canal.

Dune Rd. produces again:
The Shinnecock Inlet seemed to have less action than the canal, however it DID have 8 surfers and body borders hoping to catch some of the wild incoming waves that poured into Shinnecock Bay.  While this isn't unheard of, it's pretty unusual to see and by the looks of it they weren't too successful.  On the other hand, it was a much easier go than surfing the ocean which was a mess from this latest storm.  (sorry for no photos of the surfers, but this is a bird photography blog!)

ALMOST the 2nd Best Photos I've Ever Taken:
As I continued along Dune Rd. though, I found a kingfisher and the sun was trying to peak out so I parked the car and tried to take some shots when it took off and landed on this log.  I was hoping for a photo akin to the female kingfisher shot I had back in early January that was calling out in the foggy air - but my autofocus  was off a little and none of the shots came out as sharp as I would have liked.  The Kingfisher eventually took off and started flying west which is where I was headed anyway so I drove along the flooded Dune Rd. keeping my eyes peeled for Harriers.  I saw one on the south side of the road and stopped as it landed on the ground.  As I took my camera out it flew into the air and I heard the kingfisher calling.

At first I thought the kingfisher had flown to the south side of the road and caught the interest of the Harrier when I saw a 2nd Hawk (which I presumed to be a harrier as well) take off and attempt to spar with the first.  I kept my finger on the trigger hoping for the best, when the first Harrier broke off and started flying west which I then put myself into a position to photography.  It's not unusual to see Northern Harriers get into these types of arguments, particularly along Dune Rd. where 3 or 4 of them spend their winter.  When I got home and looked at the shots (aside from being disappointed at the quality, deleting most of them) I realized it was not TWO Norther Harriers, but a Cooper's Hawk and a Northern Harrier.  What's more is the Cooper's Hawk was chasing off the Harrier!  Talk about unusual.  Cooper's Hawks generally hangout in the woods (or along the fringe of the woods) and are a rare sighting along the ocean like this.  Also the hawks are both about the same size (the Harrier has a slight size advantage), but I would speculate the Harrier is the better flier and certainly it was THERE territory, not the Cooper's.  Either way, an interesting interaction that I was happy to witness and photograph.  

I had to delete all but these 2 shots, which aren't that spectacular from a technical standpoint, as my focus and shutter speed were both inadequate.  This is NOT the same problem I had experienced last week, and in fact was a result of the poor lighting conditions, fast action and wrong settings (as I didn't anticipate needing a SS of 1/2500+).  Last weeks problem seems to have been solved as it appears the connection between the lenses was a little loose - hopefully it won't rear its ugly head again.  I continued to photograph the Harrier which gave me a few close ups and these are by far the sharpest photos I've gotten of this Hawk.  I can't wait to see what Dune Rd. produces next time.

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