Friday, December 31, 2010

American Bitterns and Wilson's Snipe

Two of the more difficult marsh skulkers to photograph (let alone find) are the American Bittern and Wilson's Snipe (with all Rail's and the smaller Least Bittern rounding out the group).  This morning I had some great success though which was aided by the recent blizzard that covered all of the tall marsh grasses with snow thus allowing for greater visibility.  There were at least 2 American Bitterns this morning along Dune Rd (though I heard a report of "five") and 1 very cooperative Wilson's Snipe that was feeding away. I personally witnessed it slurp down two American eels (very small ones of course) and two little killifish.  I can't imagine what it must feel like to have those fish swimming around in the stomach. . .

Anyway, it's certainly a fantastic way to end my photographic year and I'm looking forward to what 2011 will yield.

 Find the Snipe!


 With a small American Eel:

 With a killifish:

American Bittern:


 Being patient:

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Merlin and the Sanderling - Video

Here is a short video of the merlin eating away (or rather, removing feathers in preparation of eating)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Merlin with a Sanderling for Breakfast

This morning I set out on Dune Rd. in hopes of finding some American Bitterns which have been plentiful this week (with up to 4 being seen in a small area).  I drove from Quogue East and didn't find anything other than a juvenile Black-Crowned Night Heron, a Belted Kingfisher, and a Song Sparrow.  The inlet was dead with only 2 old squaw (long-tailed ducks) flying by and the expected raft of Common Eiders hugging the western jetty.  While I drove back toward Quogue, right before Dolphin Lane I spotted a Merlin on the wires with a Sanderling.  I turned around and positioned myself to photograph it...after a minute or two someone on a bike came by and flushed the bird which flew about 100 feet to the east which was actually a blessing for me as the bird now faced the other way and I could get a head-on look.  After 30 minutes or so, the man on the bike returned and I was ready for the flush shot (having taken the teleconverter off of my camera and reduced my focal length from 500mm to 300mm).  The only problem was I forgot to aim where the bird WILL fly, instead of where the bird Was.  If I'd adjusted my camera up and to the left, I would have nailed the above shot, but instead I must deal with a clipped wing.  Oh well...
I'll start off with a teaser of the other species, before the grand finale of Merlin shots.

Here is the Song Sparrow which looked so beautiful in the Spartina:

The Juvenile Night Heron had me hoping Bittern from the road... but as I approached it was clear I would not be so fortunate:

And the Belted Kingfisher, in it's less than exciting perch and pose...:

And now for the Merlin... this was when I first approached the bird and you can see the prey is facing the North which isn't ideal.  It was Full Frame however, which was awesome:

 After it had been flushed, with a feather stuck in the beak:

 Head turn.....

 It looks like it's yelling, but I assure you it was just trying not to choke on the feathers.

 Trying to pick off each morsel of meat:

 This again was before it flushed the first time:

 A close-up:

Lastly, a mouth full of feathers....

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Hermit Warbler / Trumpeter Swans

Thanks to Vinnie Pelligrino for somehow finding the little Hermit Warbler yesterday at Sunken Meadow State Park.  After an hour of standing in the freezing cold, the sun peaked out and the bird cooperated for the above shot which was the only "keeper" in the bunch.  It had to be cropped down to just 16% of the original image as well, but I'm pretty satisfied.  Maybe the bird will remain for a bit allowing better images.

The Trumpter Swans that have frequented Upper Lake for the past two winters have returned (the report I heard from about two weeks ago).  Here they are, happily swimming while the Mute Swans stayed away, knowing they're not match for the slightly larger Trumpeters.

ID'ing birds that are unfamiliar is never easy - but having the right book is.  I use the Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America which is a fantastic resource.