Saturday, June 12, 2010


I'm off to El Salvador and Guatemala for a week - picks will follow at the end of the month!!!

Monday, June 7, 2010

It's the lighting, stupid!

In photography, 9 times out of 10 a great wildlife photo is great because of the lighting.  The 1 time out of 10 it's because of the behavior.  I have no idea if that is true, but it sounds good and applies here.  I got out this evening and actually stayed shooting until close to sunset which I have not done in a long time.  It's quite difficult on Long Island as the sun is generally blocked by development when it gets real low, or it's difficult to get between your subject and the sun - but the Ocean solves most of these problems and a plover obliged.

Now below are three plover photos from Sagg Main Beach over Memorial Day Weekend - it was about 3 hours after sunrise and you can see the difference.  The photos are still wonderful, but there is a big difference between the two sets.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tern Island!

On Friday, I was fortunate enough to go to 'Tern Island' (aka New Made Island) in Moriches Bay.  It is an approximately 2 acre dredge spoil island (i.e. man made) just north of Fire Island National Seashore and a few miles West of Moriches Inlet in Moriches Bay.  I first visited the property at the end of March with several co-workers and two employees from the USFW Service.  At the time, we were working on clearing some of the vegetation that has grown on the island in order to create suitable habitat for Common and Roseate Terns (both Federally listed species) as there current nesting location is barely above the water line and has suffered serious flooding in recent years - destroying thousands of eggs and drowning chicks.

With the aid of the USFW Service equipment and money and a permit from the NYS DEC we cleared about an acre of land using a float-able excavator (a really cool looking machine that was towed through the bay from the Carman's River in Shirley - see blow).  In order to reduce the potential threat of raptors (such as Peregrine Falcons) from perching on the island and having a vantage point to glean chicks from, the only two trees (Eastern Red Cedars) were removed as well as a large bayberry bush.  The land was graded and raked in hopes of creating the perfect habitat for the Terns.  Additionally, right when the birds were beginning to show up at the end of their migration, a "caller" was installed, along with wooden decoys.  The caller plays a loop of a Common Tern colony which attracts the birds and is powered by a solar panel - within minutes of the caller being activated, Terns began to show up overhead.  It was still unknown if we would be successful in getting Terns to come to the island and nest but when we arrived on Friday, there was no doubt.  There were at least 200 Common Terns, and at least 1 pair of Roseate Terns on the island with many nests and plenty of courtship behavior.  It is amazing to have such success the first year and more land will likely be cleared next year in order to allow more Terns to colonize the island.  A special thanks to USFW Service for their time and equipment, and Anthony Graves who spearheaded the plan.  (Above: Roseate Tern in flight)

Excavator removing trees:

The Colony on Friday.  Note the solar panel and black box containing the CD player:

Now for the fun part... the birds.  A Common Tern in flight:

Common Terns fighting mid-air:

A Common Tern returning to its mate with a Sand Lance:


A banded Common Tern (likely banded as a chick by USFW Service):

Common Tern Courtship Behavior - notice the "decoy" in the background (the food is a grass shrimp):

A Common Tern Nest with 3 eggs (the usual amount):

A Roseate Tern with its all black bill:

And the most exciting site, a pair of Roseate Terns:

Memorial Day Weekend

It was a beautiful Memorial Day Weekend in the Hamptons (as usual) and I took advantage as best I could with trips to Quogue Wildlife Refuge, Morton Wildlife Refuge, and of course, Dune Rd.  The species that I am most fond of (due to a few summers protecting them while working for the Southampton Town Trustees) I think the Piping Plover easily has the most (and best) personality of any shorebirds in our area.  They are always good for a laugh as they run around.  (Above: Great Egret and a mummichog.  The fish didn't get away)

Being funny:

They aren't easy to catch up with:

Song Sparrows made themselves heard early at Sagg Main Beach:

Morton provided my first photos (and looks) at the wonderful Prairie Warbler.  If you haven't heard it's song, you need to check it out.

Dune Rd. was chock full of Egrets (Snowy and Great) on Sunday Morning and they were feasting away.  The Snowy Egret below is in full breeding plumage (rather late in the season):

The Snowy Egret below is in the more standard non-breeding colors - however it still has its breeding plumage: