Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Little Bit of Everything

Yesterday was a beautiful late winter day but was rather light on photography subjects.  Low tide (which is best for finding and shooting wading most species along Dune Rd.) is very early in the morning and very late in the afternoon and I was unable to take advantage of either.  I did some wandering along the shoreline of Shinnecock Bay in East Quogue and picked up the Song Sparrow and Double-Crested (DC) Cormorant seen below.  Additionally, I had a flock of house finches perched in a tree, but the angle and distance were too much for good photos.

Shinnecock Inlet:
I was up early this morning to take advantage of low tide and had some errands to run but Dune Rd. produced nothing so I had to head to the inlet to try and get some decent shots before an appointment.  While the Harlequin Ducks haven't been reported in about a week, I was hopeful for something unusual or rare to be hanging out in the relatively calm inlet - but only found some Common Loons.  I headed to the northern end got some close looks at (below) male and female Red-Breasted Mergansers (the most prevalent of the 3 merganser species on Long Island during the winter months) as well as a surprise sighting of a seal.  Notice on the photos of the Mergansers how far back the feet are (which aid in diving) and the serrated bill which is useful in holding onto prey caught at depths and in currents.  When I turned back toward the south I spotted 4 Brant foraging on algae along the rocks of the inlet.  This sighting was unique as Brant are almost always seen inside the bay and not the inlet or open ocean.  The Brant unfortunately spooked, but only flew a small distance with one of the Brant making an extra loop allowing me to get the photo seen below:

Points East:  
A little later in the morning I made my way out to Water Mill which has 2 locations that have historically produced good birds for me at a close distance.  My first location (along Mill Pond) has recently been iced over but I was excited to find it almost all open water - I was even more excited to find 2 Pied-Billed Grebes in the water which are an extremely secretive and shy bird.  The first one I spotted looked at my wearingly for a bit before swimming out of view, while the second (less than 10 yards away) slipped beneath the water for a second, popped back up a little closer, gave me the once-over and disappeared for good.  These birds, when threatened, simply dive beneath the surface and swim away underwater instead of flying off or trying to quickly scurry away, making them that more difficult to photograph.  The photo below is from the same location but back in early winter as I was essentially shutout on photos of this bird today.

My 2nd Water Mill local has also been iced over, but often times provides me with a wide variety of birds.  I have seen Wood-Ducks, Pied-Billed Grebes, Hooded Mergansers, Ruddy Ducks, Buffle Heads, American Wigeon, American Coot, Green-Winged Teal, Sharp Shinned Hawk, Hooded Merganser and some of the easiest Mallard Flight Shots possible.  The only thing of interest however was a Hooded Merganser asleep on the ice at a good distance.  Hopefully when the birds start moving north again for Spring some more interest species will make an appearance.  Below is a shot of an American Coot from this location shot earlier in the winter:

Lake Agawan Surprise:
For the better part of the winter, a healthy number of Northern Shovelers have been seen at Olde Fort Pond in Southampton Village.  However, this pond iced over some time ago and I have not seen the birds since and have continued to wonder where they had moved too.  As I drove back West I took a drive down Pond Ln. in Southampton Village which takes you along the northwestern edge of the pond.  I know people feed ducks at this location and thought perhaps something interesting would be around and lo and behold, I found where the Shovelers had moved too.  Unfortunately for me, this location doesn't really afford a low angle as there is a fence around the ponds edge, and worse yet the angle of the sun was against me making it difficult to properly expose these birds and/or get nice lighting on their faces.  I made do with the conditions and am simply happy I was able to get this close to this unique species.

Dune Rd, Take II:
A return trip along Dune Rd. produced a Northern Harrier that was cooperative in that its flight pattern was predictable, but it of course was on the "wrong" side of Dune Rd. and was backlit the entire time.  I rolled the dice and setup at the eastern end of the Tiana Beach Parking Lot hoping it would follow the lines of the dune and pass right by me.  Well, it got relatively close but never what I had hoped for.  In addition, my AF wasn't working as well as I would have liked (one of the trade-offs of pairing a 300 f/4 lens with a 1.7X TC instead of a 1.4X TC which it was designed to be used with) but I still got a handful of acceptable photos of this nemesis species.

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