Monday, April 26, 2010

Little Blue Heron

Little Blue:
The other day I took a drive not expecting to see much along Dune Rd. as things are still a bit slow as far as migration is concerned.  I was hoping to improve my Snowy Egret photos, which I was successful in, but the big surprise was finding my first Little Blue Heron which is a species typically found in the south (think Florida) but that has expanded its range over the last decade or so to begin breeding in New York and southern New England.  Little Blue Herons are about the same size as a Snowy Egret, and the juveniles are all white and easily confused with Snowy Egrets.  This bird was patient, and thanks to Mike Lotito for letting me use his beanbag as I shot from the ground to get the low angle:

After catching a good number of small killie fish, this heron found a big prize:

It wisely took the big prize to land in case it dropped it while trying to get it down:

Here's the heron stretching out a bit:

And a successful strike:

At one point a Snowy Egret came by in an effort to harass the Little Blue into giving up some food but to no avail:

Look big, bold, beautiful and (a little) intimidating in its full breeding plumage:

and a trip to Jamaica Bay National Wildlife Refuge this weekend yielded this:

Sunday, April 18, 2010


A Whale of a Week:
I feel like it's been forever since I posted a photo on either of my blogs.  I have had a great week with one of my Whale photos (I don't just photograph birds!) being picked as "Photo of the Week" in the Fauna gallery on Nature Photographers Network - a huge honor as the competition is extremely stiff.  The photo and comments can be seen Here.  I also entered the same photo in a National Geographic Online competition called the 'Daily Dozen' where one of the photo editors selects 12 user submitted photos each day.  I have submitted 4 photos over the last 6 months and this is my second selection, so I'm doing pretty well.  Please vote for my photo by going here.  Unfortunately you have to vote for the first 41 to get to mine which is number 42, but it's worth the effort.  The winner gets published in next months National Geographic magazine.

Glossy Ibis:
On friday, after donating blood at work I was able to leave a bit early and even though the weather wasn't great I thought I'd try EPCAL and maybe get lucky.  When I turned onto Wading River Rd., just north of the LIE there I spotted a Glossy Ibis standing on a pile of compost on an adjacent farm field.  I knew that this species had been reported earlier in the week on the south side of the highway at the edge of a flooded field, but was a little surprised to find them here.  Aside from photographing them once before while they flew along Dune Rd., this was my first experience with them.

Egret with Dinner:
A trip down Dune Rd. yesterday got me this Great Egret with its catch.  I was pretty happy with this shot as I had no expectations and have been longing for a good photo of a heron/egret with prey in its mouth.  I had previously photographed a Great Egret with an eel it had caught (below) but the out of focus grasses keep it from being a really great photo.

Once again, the grasslands were packed with Kestrels.  Unfortunately, they once again proved to be very skittish.  The second photo below is from last week (the day of the Whale actually) where one let me get (reasonably) close.

Also from last week are these tree swallows.  It looks like they were arguing over decorating their new house:

A little later on I captured this Great Egret in flight:

American Oystercatchers:
One of my favorite birds for their goofy looks and funny antics is the American Oystercatcher.  I've always had trouble getting close to them but have been successful lately.  Here are a few shots.  The first is one taking a bath, and the second is an oystercatcher flexing its muscle after another pair flew nearby.

Lastly, a Willet was happy to get this crab for a snack:

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Great Horned Owl Family

It has been a great week of Photography for me - with 2 days being over the top.  Wednesday I took off from work and headed to East Hampton to photograph the beached Humpback Whale which beached itself on our shores.  Unfortunately, it had a sad ending to the story Whale "Euthanized" but I was able to get some amazing photographs of this juvenile Whale (30 feet long, 16 tons) which can be seen on my sister blog: Wild Long Island

After trying several times trying to find Great Horned and Eastern Screech Owls this winter in the Bronx and Nassau County, I got an e-mail this morning from a fellow photographer that a Great Horned Owlet had fallen from its tree and re-habbers were going to retrieve it.  By the time I got there, the Owlet had been taken away but another Owlet and the mother had been spotted.  What I was thinking would be a few shots at re-habbers taking care of an Owlet turned into a fantastic morning trying to track the mother in the trees as it was continually mobbed by Crows and Jays and getting an unreal photo session of an Owlet.
After trying to get a clear shot of the mother without success we went to Mike Lotito's house in hopes of photographing some woodpeckers which are frequent visitors to his yard.  After about 30 minutes and no woodpeckers, we went back to the owl, only to find that the re-habbers had returned the Owlet after finding it unharmed.  I'm not sure if they let it fly on its own or if it was placed on this branch,but either way it was the perfect spot to photograph it.  It seemed fearless as cars, people on bikes and a woman walking her dog passed by without much of a movement from the owl which allowed us to fire away.  After photographing for a bit, Mike inquired were the Mother might be - I turned around (not expecting to find it) and saw this:

The mother's eyes trained on the nearby Bluejay:

More Owlet:
After spending some time on the mother, I returned my attention to the Owlet on the branch and got several different angles.  Hopefully the Owls stick around for at least the week and I can get some photo ops with proper lighting as today offered some technical challenges.  

On the way home I took a shot down Dune Rd. but it didn't yield much other than this Osprey.  Looks like I was a minute or two too late to get it flying back with its catch:

Sunday, April 4, 2010

First Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret:
A trip on Friday to Montauk gave me my first Cattle Egret that I spotted along Montauk Hwy. feeding in a swollen marsh in Napeague.  This egret is almost in full breeding plumage - it's lacking the deep red on the bill and the purple around the eye and is somewhat of a rare site on Long Island.  While there were 5 individuals seen this week (this one included) they are not common, though they've been increasing over the past few decades as they expand their range north.

Also out in Montauk were some gorgeous Harlequin Ducks in full breeding plumage - which I was not able to photograph earlier in the winter with the harlequins that were hanging around Hampton Bays.  One of the ducks was quite aggressive in chasing off this White-Winged Scoter for unknown reasons.  The male Harlequin would run across the water (see below) then when the Scoter dove, the Harlequin would follow suit.  Not quite sure what the Harlequin was going to do if it actually caught the Scoter but it was amusing to watch.

Shu Swamp:
A trip to Shu Swamp in pursuit of Owls left me disappointed - but I did see a few Wood Ducks which are a secretive species and flush easily.  This pair flew onto this tree branch and were hanging out in the late afternoon sun.  Wood Ducks are an interesting species as they nest in the cavities of trees - sometimes at significant distances from the water.  Once the young hatch they jump (fall) out of the tree and march to the water with their parents.

On Thursday I went out on a boat with the USFWS to an island we were doing habitat restoration on.  The boat was docked at Wertheim federal wildlife refuge and a long trip down the Carman's River to Moriches Bay provided some good photographing opportunities:

Unfortunately I clipped the top of the wing on this action shot of a Double Crested Cormorant:

The Carman's River was full of Osprey and I was able to get pretty close to this one as it flew overhead in search of fish:

EPCAL Evening:
I ended my day with a trip to EPCAL where the Kestrels were somewhat cooperative and I added a new bird to my files, the Horned Lark (notice the "horns" on the head):

I spotted this female Northern Harrier along the taxiway which posed before taking off - I like how the side-lighting splits the bird in half:

This Eastern Meadowlark gave me a pose similar to the American Kestrel above:

As I was leaving I noticed a Killdeer on the side of the road being lit up by the setting sun: