Sunday, November 28, 2010

Cold and Quiet Morning

After witnessing a beautiful sunrise and photographing some Red-Throated Loons (above), I started my morning in Amagansett in pursuit of some Greater White-fronted Geese and a Cackling Goose that had been seen in recent weeks.  I came up empty-handed but thought I'd find them on Hook Pond were they also had been spotted... once again without any luck.  I did find this Pheasant (below) that played cat and mouse in the light and only let me get off this 1/2 decent shot.  After leaving the Pond and heading West, I came across some Ruddy Ducks in Water Mill and a little action at the Shinnecock Inlet including a Merlin with some recently snagged prey (dead birds ID unknown) who decided it was best to eat breakfast on the East side of the inlet away from me I guess.  The day ended along Red Creek Rd. when I spotted some Guinea Hens awkwardly hanging out on the railing of a vacant house.

Here is the Ruddy shining in the morning light:

At Shinnecock Inlet I was surprised to see a small bird blazing across the sky and thought it must be a type of falcon... luckily it banked and turned back to the east from whence it came and streaked in front of me (which also meant in front of my sunlight resulting in a woefully underexposed image).

While most of the Common Eiders present at the inlet moved west once they saw me on the rocks, this one was too busy diving for food to notice it's friends had moved on:

Moving alone Dune Rd. in hopes of finding a Short Eared Owl that had been spotted the previous day by John Turner, I had to settle for this late Great Egret which will almost certainly perish this winter in the cold brutal north.

And lastly, these Guinea Hens provided a bit of amusement this morning as I drove past a vacant house on Red Creek Rd. next to Squiretown Park.  They sure have an endearing face don't they?

All lined up with no where to go...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Cave Swallows

Sorry for the delay in posting these images but things obviously have been busy with the Holiday...  I was lucky enough to run into some knowledgable and friendly birders on Thanksgiving morning (Stella Miller in particular) who  pointed me in the right direction to find some cave swallows.  For those of you who don't know much about the cave swallow (as I didn't a week ago) it is a small swallow that lives in Mexico and the Caribbean with two races entering the US at the southern tip of Florida and South Texas.  Every fall, a scattering of these birds seem to get over-anxious and fly all the way North to our area.

After not seeing any for about 30 minutes I had 3 flying all around me... it was quite the scene.  With some patience I was able to photograph one that landed quite nearby... unfortunately the lighting was horrendous and it was more or less sleeting at the time (which I'm sure the cave swallow wasn't too excited about!) so the quality is less than stellar.  I was also "fortunate" enough to see a Common Redpoll which was originally spotted by others, but was unable to get it in a nice perch for a photograph.  The Northern Shrike once again eluded me and the Ash-throated flycatcher which originally drew me to Jones Beach was not re-found.  As evidenced immediately below, I obviously didn't do too well with the flight shots...

And one more on the ground (too bad about the blade of grass in the way!):

Sunday, November 21, 2010

American Goldfinches

As often happens... I went from having virtually no usable images of a species to having more than I can sort through... this time the bird is the American Goldfinch.  Just last weekend I had my first real encounter with flocks of these birds moving through the West End of Jones Beach and today I repeated that experience.  The birds didn't seem to mind my close approach and were happy to feed away.  Once again the hope was that some crossbills would show their face but I didn't come across any... I also struck out on the northern Shrike which was seen today (just not by me).

And let's throw in one more:

Prior to running into the Goldfinches I had to settle for some more common species, such as this Northern Mockingbird:

That was followed up by this American Crow which is a surprisingly difficult species to photograph (especially with proper exposure because of those black feathers)

The day was rounded out by a few species that aren't terribly exciting but I was happy to see anyway.... a red-breasted nuthatch that was often heard today but not seen...

After leaving Jones Beach I headed to Lake Orowoc in Islip (next to the McDonalds) hoping for some redheaded ducks which unfortunately did not come close to visit, so I had to settle for this.  I'm sure I will get better chances this winter:

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pine Siskins and Goldfinches everywhere

A visit this morning to the West End of Jones Beach Produced massive amounts of Pine Siskins and American Goldfinches (well, massive in comparison to everything else which was virtually non-existant).  This was my first time seeing/photographing Pine Siskins so I was quite pleased with the results... it's amazing how they and the American Goldfinches pick seeds out of the pines and munch away... unfortunately I did not find either species of Crossbill which I was really looking forward to finding (they had been reported the previous day) but did come across an Osprey on Ocean Bay Parkway not long after sunrise... Enjoy.

In then above photo, I had to fudge the sharpness on the lower siskin a bit... the bird was just a touch out of the focal plane.

The golfinches varied in plumage, with only a handful still holding onto the nice bright yellow, which I wasn't too successful in finding.

And one more goldfinch that was quite patient for me:

And lastly, an early morning Osprey (which should really get going down to Florida!)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Montauk Morning

This morning I was up at 5:20 to make it to Montauk for sunrise.  It's not an easy thing to do (especially since I'm incapable of going to bed before midnight) but it's worth it because you get lighting that you just can't get during the day... or even an hour after sunrise as evidenced by the photo above.  The sun was just a few minutes over the horizon and not yet over the southern cliffs of Montauk which created a beautiful glow.  The out-of-focus pink in the background is comprised of marshland grasses and the dune.  Any other time during the day this would be rendered as a very dull brown.  The other advantage to sunrise (especially when compared to sunset) is that you get the best lighting for the first hour or so, and can continue shooting with decent light.  The same of course isn't true for sunset... once it gets too dark, you have to pack it in for the day, thus the morning gives you more opportunities especially if you come across a patient subject (which this Cooper's Hawk was not!) While walking the trail headed toward the seal haulout site (it was too rough for seals to be lounging on the rocks unfortunately) I turned a corner and came basically face to face with this juvenile hawk and I think we were both a little surprised...

A few moments before my run-in with the hawk, this ring-necked pheasant crossed my path.  Would have liked more light so I didn't have to boost my ISO to 2000 (which would be nothing on a D3s, but is pushing it on a D300s) but I'll take it.  I rarely see these birds out in the open like this, so it was a nice opportunity.

The beautiful morning light continued to pay off with the way it lit up the breast of this ring-billed gull:

There are a few gulls in this image (if you look hard!) so I'm going to include it in this blog.... I couldn't resist a shot of the lighthouse with such an intense glow.

I like this shot of an American Robin in flight because small birds are so hard to get flying... aside from being diminutive, they are just so quick and like to tuck their wings in which makes for a weird picture of a torpedo shaped bird... so at least this bird gave me a nice little extension.
While the seas were rough, a few Common Eiders were hanging out.  I don't care much for the composition of this photo, but the colors on the sea foam are enticing

The last bird of interest I found at Montauk (it was quite slow) was this black-capped chickadee that was a little cooperative, but it wouldn't go onto a cleaner looking branch for me.  I guess it's a good representation of their habitat....

After I left 'The End' I headed to Water Mill to a spot that is always reliable for good winter waterfowl.  It's a private road, so I'm not exactly "allowed" to be there, but there is only one year-round resident who doesn't mind my presence... the year-rounder also feeds the ducks/geese which helps bring in some of the waterfowl.  Being that it's early in the season, the only bird of interest in attendance were Ruddy Ducks but I also took a head-shot of this female mallard.

And the Ruddy...

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Common Ground Dove

Doing what Common Ground Doves Do
Today after patiently waiting a week I was able to make it to Captree State Park in hopes of finding the Common Ground Dove which certainly has caused a surprising stir (articles in Newsday, coverage on the evening news, AP reports etc.) for such an innocuous bird. After walking around for a bit in hopes of finding the bird solo, I came across a few others who had seen it recently near the big green bouy adjacent to the tolls. I figured I'd wait around and hope it showed up as searching by myself was doing no good... after a short wait it appeared and I got a few OK images before it flew to the North where Hugh McGuinness quickly found it...though once again it flew away just a few minutes later but landed in the path of some on-coming birders returning from the Overlook. After some patience a good guess at where it would move, I got a few OK photos. I don't often concede that another photographer bested me, but it will be hard to improve on some of the images Lloyd Spitalnik got earlier in the week (though he was graced with much nicer lighting!)  Either way, it was fun to get another species on the Island, so many thanks to all who aided in finding it today, this week and originally.  I will have to look in my files from El Salvador to see if I picked up this species... I know I got a few doves but didn't pay much attention to which ones they were.
Why did the Common Ground Dove cross the road?
If this bird continues to hang around I may make an other trip (especially with a bonus day off coming this week) in hopes of better images.  I missed out on the Western Kingbird as well today, so it would be fun to get that.  Tomorrow I'm off to photograph some raptors... hopefully I will have some success.