Monday, February 15, 2010

Reliable Redheads and Two New Birds

Eventhough weather conditions were PERFECT for seeing seals at Montauk, I chose instead to go for the Redheads at Lake Orowoc in Islip as the ducks would be a "guarantee" and the lighting was optimal.  I also was eager to try out my 105mm f/2.8 micro Nikkor (macro lens) which has seen basically no use since its (expensive) purchase in January. When I arrived at the McDonalds parking lot I was shocked to find the Redheads weren't there waiting for me - however there was a rather large group of ducks (mostly Ruddy Ducks) on the East side of the pond so I trekked through the snow only to find the group was only Ruddy and Ring-Necked ducks.  But, I'd made the trip here and I wasn't about to give up, so I waited and it wasn't long before I saw a male redhead fly in and land on the West side of the pond.  Shortly after a family started throwing bread into the pond which attracted the ducks, swans and gulls and the remaining Redheads (2 drakes and 4 hens in all, see below) made their appearance.  I moved back over to the "seawall" to start getting photos hoping to move to a location along the lake front that would provide the low angle I had missed out on previously.

One of the ducks seemed to be in a rather playful mood:

The macro and teleconveter makes an excellent pairing:

I also took the opportunity to use the macro on a Mute Swan that was essentially right in front of me:

One last Redhead hen to round out the trip (this was taken with the 300 f/4 + 1.7x TC):

Dune Rd. Produces Again:
When I made it back East, I went straight to Shinencock Inlet in hopes of seeing the Harlequin Ducks again but struck out.  They were reported earlier in the day, however they were on the other side of the inlet and I wasn't about to chase them.  I was about to leave when I saw something bobbing in the middle of the inlet that was black and white.  At first I thought Loon (Common or Red-Throated) but as I took a longer look I realized it was a Horned Grebe (below). I had hoped it would be a much more rare Western Grebe (which have shown up in decent numbers in the NY metro area this winter) but it lacked the long neck and long bill.  Unfortunately the bird was at quite a distance, but this is rather close as far as this species goes.  Additionally, it is a bit odd that it was seen INSIDE The inlet, as opposed to the open ocean, but the wind was whipping strong from the WSW which likely pushed it further inland.  

Sparrow Surprise:
I left the inlet as it was freezing cold and headed toward Dune Rd. where I was almost certain that I would see one or two of the Clapper Rails I have been so lucky to observe and photograph recently.  I stopped at the first location and got out scanning the water and edges and came up empty.  A little further down the road there is another mosquito ditch (these ditches were dredged out by Suffolk County in an attempt to DRAIN the wetlands to reduce the number of mosquitoes. . . however there was nowhere for the wetlands to drain, so the ditches remain) just to the East of Dockers Restaurant.  Again I got out and searched, seeing no sign of the Rail even though the tide was low and perfect for feeding.  Out of the corner of my eye though I saw a bird flitting from one bank to the other.  My first thought was Wilson's Snipe which I've seen and photographed at this location last winter - but I quickly realized it was too small to be a Snipe.  Instead it turned out to be a Saltmarsh Sparrow (specific species to be determined).  While this isn't the first time I've seen this species, it's the first time I've had the chance to photograph it as it is extremely shy and equally fast.  I wasn't as close as I would like, but I'm satisfied with it being my first real chance and look forward to more photos in the future.

Learn more about these birds and others by picking up a copy of my favorite guide to have in the field, National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern North America 

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