Saturday, September 25, 2010

More SoFo

I visited the fields behind SoFo this morning and while there were no raptors (other than a distant Red-Tailed Hawk) and no songbirds, I found 5 Solitary Sandpipers in addition to a Lesser Yellowlegs, a Great Blue Heron and more than a dozen Blue-winged teal.

A Blue-winged teal came for a visit while I was photographing the smaller shorebirds and a mallard flew by:


A Great Blue Heron felt I was a little too close for comfort as I came around the bend:

 And a Lesser Yellowlegs could be found amongst the Solitary Sandpipers:

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Three new species

While the mosquitoes were out in full force and foiled a beautiful morning for photography at Jones Beach West End - I did end up photographing three new species (two of which directly because of the mosquito problem) so all was not lost.  I arrived at Jones Beach this morning just as the sun was rising and saw a slew of black skimmers out on the bar by the Coast Guard Station.  I got about 15 feet from my car and realized there was a thick cloud of blood sucking creatures trying to attack me and I ran back to my car as soon as possible.  It was obvious that I'd only be able to drive around the West End in hopes of finding a perched merlin or peregrine falcon and lowering the window quick to photograph it.  But after driving around for a bit I only spotted a few merlins flying around and decided to call it quits.  I did, however, find a buff-breasted sandpiper hanging out on one of the grass medians.  I apologize for the quality of the image as I had to photograph it using manual focus through my car window (because of the pest problem).  The buff-breasted is a beautiful bird with alluring plumage and it seems to be the rarity of the month.  These migratory birds that breed in the high arctic have been turning up at grasslands all over the island.  (Above: Savannah Sparrow, Northville Fire Training Center)

I decided to try visiting the SoFo Museum (South Fork Natural History Museum) as a western kingbird had been reported the day earlier.  Last fall in November I photographed my first Weki's, as they are known, (below) in Sagaponack next to Ira Rennerts house.  As I arrived a few birders were leaving and said there was no Weki but plenty of other birds. The SoFo Museum is in the Long Pond Greenbelt which stretches from Sag Harbor to Sagaponack and comprises thousands of acres of unique and preserved habitat that provides a home for a lot of rare and endangered species as well as more common animals.  Please take a look at the website for the Greenbelt here:  Long Pond Greenbelt

As I searched the fields and ponds hoping the Weki would show up I discovered my second new species of the day - the blue-winged teal.  I've photographed the green on several occasions in the winter and have seen blue-winged teal before but never got any pictures of them so I was happy with this flight shot.

At the northern most pond were two small birds.  The first I recognized as a lesser yellow-legs.  Not a super common bird but nothing too exciting.  The second bird was something I instantly realized I had never seen or photographed before - and thought it must be a species of sandpiper.  A look at the Peterson Field Guide when I got home confirmed it was a solitary sandpiper (another good rarity for this time of year that I had hoped to find)

The other pond directly behind the museum held no birds of real interest so I headed to the back of the field and heard some blue jays making a ton of noise.  It wasn't long before this hawk (cooper's presumably, as one was seen yesterday but it could be a sharp-shinned as they are very similar) made an appearance as it was harassed by the jays and some crows.  Whenever you hear crows or blue jays during the day making a racket - it's almost always because there is a big predator nearby. Here is the hawk with the jays out front:

And here is the hawk trying to evade another jay:
On the other side of the field - away from all the commotion was an adult male American kestrel perched on an eastern red cedar.  Lucky for me there was a trail that went nearby and the kestrel remained amazingly patient while I photographed it.

After photographing a muskrat and some insects (which can be seen at my sister blog Wild Long Island) I headed home but as I drove I spotted a red-tailed hawk on the transmission lines on the north end of Stony Brook Southampton.  A quick trip to the campus provided this:

So, while it was not the trip I was hoping for - I can't complain about photographing 3 new species in one morning.

Need help identifying new birds?  Pick up a copy of The Sibley Guide to Birds

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


I have not been able to get out and photograph anything (birds or otherwise) in the last few weeks which has been extremely frustrating so I made it a point to get out after work today even if it was for a short while.  I had seen a Peregrine Falcon the other day on the big communications tower at the Coast Guard station  in Hampton Bays on friday night (conditions didn't allow for a photograph) so hoped for at least that but maybe some shorebirds as well.  Since I have moved from Hampton Bays, it is now more convenient for me to get to Dune Rd. via Quogue and I'm glad I did because I found this gorgeous merlin in the residential area of Quogue that I normally skip when coming from Hampton Bays.

While the trip didn't yield much else, I got a few sunset photos of these birds.  It was just nice to get out and see some wildlife and enjoy the setting sun for the first time in a long time.

Here is a juvenile gull with an Atlantic Rock Crab.  Please keep in mind that this photo and the photo above it were shot at ISO 1600 in low lighting - so the image quality is degraded a bit.

Below is the same gull as above but silhouetted against the setting sun which I just couldn't resist.