Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Patience Pays

This afternoon I once again visited the "Lower Peconic Fishing Station" in Riverhead across from Snowflake Ice Cream on Main St.  I thought I'd try and focus on getting shots of Eastern Kingbirds landing because they routinely use the same perch and I had an access point that allowed for good lighting.  I was in the same spot for about an hour and it afforded me two opportunities to photograph warblers that stopped nearby.  While the Yellow Warbler was nice - it didn't have the same thrill that the Black and White Warbler who landed 20 feet from me did as this is a species I've never photographed (or seen) before.  Check out the image below:

Photographing the Kingbirds was fun if not a little frustrating.  Since the birds use basically the same perch (there was a little variation but 90% of the time it was the same spot) I was able to manually focus at a set distance (about 50 feet) and when the bird took off I waited a few seconds then started shooting (my camera is capable of 8 frames per second) knowing that the bird would be returning soon.  Well, either said than done but the best (ok, only successful shots) are on this blog post.

Getting back to that Yellow Warbler that was so kind to perch about 25 feet from me - here it is:

And to round things out - a Baltimore Oriole:

If you're looking to learn more about the types of migratory birds you can find on Long Island (and can't get enough of my photos!) pick up a copy of this book by John Turner: Exploring the Other Island: A seasonal guide to nature on Long Island

Monday, May 9, 2011

Two new species!

This afternoon I wanted to try something different - so I took a quick trip to Hubbard County Park near my home and went for a little walk not know what I'd find.  As I went down the road toward the Black Duck lodge and cabins I found two male Eastern Bluebirds, observed an Osprey nest in the marsh and found a singing wren.  I continued down the road and made a left down a grass path that lead to a clearing along the bay front and heard a call that was new to me.  Looking up confirmed that it was indeed a new species for me to photograph: the Blue Gray Gnatcatcher.

A little more exploration yielded some energetic Orchard Orioles with 1 adult male chasing two 1st spring males all around which provided me a few nice photo ops.  I did spot 1 female Orchard Oriole.  Nothing spectacular, but enough to make me happy!  A big help in ID'ing these birds was Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America

Friday, May 6, 2011

Birds along the Peconic River

This afternoon I stopped at EPCAL again after work and was underwhelemed with the severe lack of birds.  A few Eastern Meadowlarks and Kestrels, a Brown Thrasher, some Eastern Towhees, a Prairie Warbler in the distance (heard the unmistakeable call) a Turkey and a lot of ticks.  On my way home I was feeling a bit dejected and decided to stop at the Canoe launch/fishing spot along the Peconic River directly across the road from Snowflake Ice Cream in Riverhead (there is a small roadway on the South side of the road that leads to a LIPA substation.  A small parking lot is located here as well).  I remembered that last year an aggressive Yellow Warbler had been reported - pecking its reflection in the mirrors of cars - so I wanted to see if I could find any warblers.  I almost didn't bring my camera to the river but thought I should "just in case".  Not more than a minute later this Osprey appeared seemingly out of nowhere with a freshly caught herring (?) in its talons.  It saw me and made a quick U-turn and almost lost the fish in the process.

This is only the 3rd time photographed an Osprey with a whole fish (the first time had poor lighting, the second time I had the wrong lens on) and I was so thrilled!  My settings weren't perfect, so the images aren't as great as they could have been - but a wonderful surprise regardless.  This convinced me to stay a bit and I found the following birds:

Northern Rough-winged Swallow (a new species for me)

Yellow-Rumped Warbler (in full breeding plumage - a new feather set for me)

Yellow Warblers (at least 2)

Eastern Kingbirds (always happy to find them - especially with a pleasing background)

Baltimore Oriole (there were at least 2 males - possibly more - calling for females attention)

I also had a Pine Warbler that was not as cooperative as the others.

For help ID'ing birds (like the swallows) I used the following book:  National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern North America

Thursday, May 5, 2011

New birds for me @ EPCAL

Had a wonderful vacation down in Florida - not too much on the bird photography front though I did find some Mottled Ducks (which happened to be waiting) so it was a new species for me.  Also had a wonderful experience with a family of Barred Owls and Limpkins - but only had the iPhone camera handy for those!  Photos to come.  In the meantime - enjoy these shots from EPCAL today.

When I first got to the site I was looking down while driving the runway (at a slow - safe speed) adjusting my camera settings and when I looked up this Red-tailed Hawk had exploded out of the grasses (I think it had been eating when I inadvertently disturbed it) with a snake in it's talons.  I've never noticed a snake @ EPCAL and never seen a RTH with one so that was pretty cool.  As it approached the treeline a Kestrel came to harass it for a bit and the hawk then disappeared behind the tall pines.

Shortly after that I came across this Eastern Kingbird - the first time I've seen this grasslands species at this site.  It was having a grand time hawking dragonflies and other insects (see the top of this post).

While leaving the site through the maine south entrance, two grackles flushed this Baltimore Oriole out of the trees adjacent to the pond and I was able to snap off a quick photo which appears to show some bit of food in the Orioles beak (a caterpillar perhaps?).

Other birds seen at the site were tons of Barn Swallows, a murder of Crows, about 12 American Kestrels (way down in number from right before easter when I had at least 30 on just the Western runway), plenty of deer, some Eastern Bluebirds and a few marmots (groundhogs) on the northern radar parcel.

Also, as I was leaving the runway a Riverhead police officer pulled up to me (I guess he had seen me while he was driving through) and asked me if I had a reason to be on the runway.  I told him that I was doing photography of wildlife (and had my camera on the seat next to me).  He said that "they dont' really want people on the runway - I guess because it's an emergency landing strip - so just keep that in mind, ok?"  The officer was very nice and it was clear he didn't have a problem with me there, but that it's not the most favorable use of the site. So just keep that in mind!

If you are interested in learning more about hawks, I recommend picking up this book - Hawks at a Distance: Identification of Migrant Raptors - which has everything you need to know about ID'ing these birds when they are far off - like the Red-tailed hawk was when I spotted it today.

Hawks at a Distance: Identification of Migrant Raptors