Category Archives: Bird of the Week

Bird of the Week – Green Heron in SC

greenheron-SC (1 of 2)

I have faltered quite badly at generating the “Bird of the Week” postings. I can’t say that’s going to change, but I will do them as time permits. This bird was a neat find. My kids and I met my brother and his wife in the Lowcountry of South Carolina to spend a couple days before retreating to my brother’s home in the Asheville area for the reminder of the kids’ spring break from school. We took a boat ride for an afternoon (highly recommended) with fellow photographer Eric Horan. We saw a great many interesting and exciting things.

What attracted me to this heron was that it was pure chance that we even saw it. I happened to glance across the waterway we were passing through and looked up a small inlet. The heron was tucked in there and I could barely even discern it, so much so that I thought that it was a bittern at first. Eric wheeled around and as we got closer, I snapped the image above. The bird flew across the waterway and landed on the dead branch/stump shown below, where it remained for a minute or so before disappearing for good.

I love the green on the backs of this species. It’s a color I find particularly appealing.

I will post more about the boat trip in future, but I cannot recommend it highly enough. Eric is a wonderful host and there are a ton of things to see.

greenheron-SC (2 of 2)

Photograph information:

Both images:

  • Canon EOS 7D Mark II
  • Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM + Extender EF 1.4x III
  • ISO 1000, f/8, 1/1000 secs. @ 560mm
  • handheld

 

Bird of the Week – Barred Owl

barredowl

I am perpetually hearing, “you should have been here yesterday” or showing up to see a Snowy Owl that’s been sighted for days on the day that it has decided to move on. Being in the right place at the right time is one of the few things that you can’t control in photography (or life). However, being persistent can be controlled and that’s how you make your own good fortune. Except when good fortune finds you. I have a feeder in my back yard and my back yard is forested for at least 100 yards. I have had a lot of traffic this winter – bluebirds, cardinals, finches, nuthatches, juncos, sparrows, woodpeckers, flickers plus others I am certain I am forgetting. I also see the occasional hawk in the neighborhood. No owls even though I have been hearing the “who cooks for you?” as long as I’ve lived here.

Imagine my surprise when I looked out one day a couple weeks ago to see this beauty. It has becoming a somewhat regular dawn and dusk visitor. I can even hear it faintly whispering, “let the cat out.”

Photos have been difficult as the density of the branches makes it a challenge to get a clear view. This shot was okay, but not perfect in that regard and the late afternoon sun hitting its tail feathers is a little distracting, but I’m so happy to be treated to its visits that I don’t mind the less than optimal photo.

Photograph information:

  • Canon EOS 5D Mark III
  • Canon EF 600mm f/4.0L IS II USM + Extender EF 1.4x III
  • f/5.6, 1/200 sec., ISO 1600
  • Lens rested on the deck railing for support

Bird of the Week – Eastern Bluebird

bluebird1

The past two months have been fairly consistent in Connecticut – temperatures either below or well below freezing. There is almost no fresh water to be found that is not frozen, including the Connecticut River. It’s also been quite dreary and generally devoid of color except on the infrequent days of sun and clouds, yielding interesting sunsets. One tiny, but nice source of color has been the birds in my backyard. In particular, I have had a gang of about a dozen bluebirds that seem to arrive at the feeder a few times per day like clockwork. They appear, eat, and then disappear. Their color is welcome, as is their somewhat comical, paunchy look. I would describe them as borderline fat. I caught this one in a more flattering pose that makes it look a little less rotund. I enjoy seeing them each day with the bright color they bring. It won’t be too long until there are more signs of spring, although the ten day forecast never seems to indicate that it’s coming.

Photo information:

  • Canon EOS 5D Mark III
  • Canon EF 600mm f/4.0L IS II USM + Extender EF 1.4x III
  • f/5.6, 1/2000 sec., ISO 800
  • Lens rested on an open window sill for support

Bird of the Week – Hooded Merganser

hoodedmerganser

I have found Hooded Mergansers to be extremely skittish water fowl. So much so that whenever I have carefully approached ones that I have observed, they immediately turned tail and either paddled furiously away or have simply taken flight. If I try to insert myself into their environment and wait for them to approach, they never do. A few weeks ago, I was running errands on a particularly cold and overcast day and decided to take Route 146 from downtown Branford to Guilford (Connecticut) in the hopes of seeing something interesting to photograph. I was thinking in terms of scenery, not birds (I didn’t even have my “bird” camera body with me, the Canon EOS 7D). I drove over the bridge in the Branford River Gateway Scenic Area and was surprised to see a number of mergansers swimming by the bridge. I turned around and parked in the small “lot” and grabbed a camera with the 600mm lens. I stealthily crossed the street, hunkering down, and probably looking like a fool. I popped up over the bridge railing and snapped a few shots as the mergansers quickly swam away. This shot of a male was the best of the bunch. I know that many find them to be thoroughly ridiculous looking birds, but I find them to be almost regal.

Photograph information:

  • Canon EOS 5D Mark III
  • Canon EF 600mm f/4.0L IS II USM + Extender EF 1.4x III
  • f/5.6, 1/400 sec., ISO 800

Bird of the Week – Rough-Legged Hawk

roughlegged-blog

About a month ago, the appearance of a Rough-Legged Hawk around the saltmarsh near the boat launch at the end of Circle Beach Road on the Madison/Guilford, CT border set the CT birding list aflutter. As I live fairly close, I made several trips down trying to obtain a quality image of this somewhat rare visitor, achieving mixed results on a rainy day and a cloudy day. With much cloudiness and cold temperatures, not to mention the common absence of the buteo, it was difficult to actually achieve my objective. However, on the afternoon of January 23rd, the stars aligned, with (relatively) moderate temperatures, sunshine, and the presence of the subject in question. I was able to capture many photos, although in flight shots were tough. Most of the aerobatics were with me and the other viewers under and behind the bird as it hovered and hunted over the marsh, netting two mice, which were very quickly consumed right on the spot. I was also able to capture some good portraits as it sat on a post for a Purple Marten house. This bird has been spotted in the intervening weeks, although I have been unable to get back down to try for more photos due to illness and the numerous storms that have passed through. However, I am happy to have been able to get this shot.

  • Canon EOS 7D Mark II
  • Canon EF 600mm f/4.0L IS II USM + Extender EF 1.4x III
  • f/5.6, 1/2500 sec., ISO 640

Bird of the Week – Green Heron

greeheron1

In my post about the juvenile Yellow-Crowned Night Heron, I mentioned that at the time I had been photographing a Green Heron, shown here. This Green Heron was on a log jutting out into the East River fewer than 100 yards south of the bridge by the parking area at the end of Bear House Hill Road. It was still early and there was barely any light on the scene (you can certainly see dark areas in the photo.) This heron moved around a few places while hunting, although I liked this pose on the log. The ripples in the river created an unusual backdrop. It’s certainly a handsome bird.

Photo information:

  • Canon EOS 5D Mark III
  • Canon EF 600mm f/4.0L IS II USM
  • f/4.0, 1/1250 sec., ISO 800
  • Tripod employed

Bird of the Week – Winter Wader

sanderling-2

While the activity most certainly declines once the weather turns colder, there are pockets of life to be observed. Along the shore, it is common to see tight flocks of small wading birds quickly moving in and out with the waves, constantly pecking at the exposed shore, feeding on (usually) small morsels. The birds are often sanderlings, like the one shown here, and sometimes they are able to snag a more sizable piece of sustenance, like this lucky fella did. These birds are fun to watch as they will startle easily and fly off, but then almost immediately fly back to where they were. Once they fly back, you are now part of the scenery and they will tolerate your presence to allow for intimate viewing of their antics. Photographed January 23 at Hammonasset State Park on the beach adjacent to the Moraine Trail

Photo information:

  • Canon EOS 7D Mark II
  • Canon EF 600mm f/4.0L IS II USM + Extender EF 1.4x III
  • f/5.6, 1/2000 sec., ISO 1000
  • Tripod employed

Bird of the Week – Northern Harrier

harrier

I love harriers. I suspect that part of that comes from the utter frustration I experience trying to capture good photos of them. If you are not familiar with their flying and hunting traits, they move around fields and open areas very low to the ground, slowing, accelerating, turning, rising, diving, hovering, and several other things involving flight and its various changes in speed, altitude, and direction. Focusing is extremely challenging as they are almost always doing these acrobatics with grasses, bushes, trees, etc., as the backdrop, constantly confusing the camera’s autofocus “brain”. In short they are beautiful and challenging.

Last week, I made one of my several-times-per-week morning pilgrimages to Hammonasset State Park to see what was happening. It was extremely cold and the bitter wind made me wonder why I had ventured out that day. As I was making my way back to the car, I stopped to look across one of the salt marshes where the harriers hunt and play (Hammonasset has a winter population of about a half dozen Northern Harriers). I heard several crows doing a lot of squawking, which usually means that some type of bird of prey may be near. Sure enough, a harrier appeared and made several circles around the same general area of the marsh. After a few passes, he briefly landed and then took off, with the remnants of a rabbit in tow. I can only assume that he had cached the remains of the rabbit in the marsh the day before after consuming part of it and had returned to claim the remainder. I was lucky to be in place to capture this photo. It was the only instant where the bird turned its head even slightly in my direction after taking off.

Photo information:

  • Canon EOS 7D Mark II
  • Canon EF 600mm f/4.0L IS II USM
  • f/4.5, 1/1600 sec., ISO 800
  • Tripod employed

Bird of the Week – Peregrine Falcon

peregrine

Note: the Piping Plover post was actually last week’s as I missed posting then due to travel

I made my usual foray down to Hammonasset State Park in the morning after getting the kids on their way. Things were generally quiet except for some cardinals, sparrows, and a Hermit Thrush. After hiking a few trails and finding only the aforementioned subjects, I was making my way back to the car when I came across a Northern Harrier and snapped a few shots of it (next week’s BOTW). I was behind my car starting to pack up when a couple of fellow photographers who had also braved the cold told me there was a Peregrine Falcon out on the jetty. I walked to the pavilion and looked through my lens and, sure enough, there it was. I added the 1.4x converter and began to walk onto the beach toward the jetty. I stopped to gauge my distance through the lens when the falcon took off towards me at a very quick pace. I barely had time to find it in the viewfinder and snap about a half dozen images. I like this one best. On the way back to the car, I ran into a friend who advised that a flock of small birds had lifted off from the parking lot about the same time that the falcon made its dash. I can only assume that the falcon saw those birds and attempted a hunt.

Photograph information:

Canon EOS 7D Mark II, Canon EF 600mm f/4.0L IS II USM + Extender EF 1.4x III, f/5.6, 1/4000 sec., ISO 800

Bird of the Week – Piping Plover

pipingplover

A good place to see a concentration of birds in an area where you can take in the whole vista is the saltmarsh that abuts Route 146 in Guilford, Connecticut just east of the turnoff for Shell Beach. The saltmarsh comes right up to the road and the birds will generally ignore those who get out of their cars to see what’s there (you can park on the other side of Route 146 just west of the viewing area.) I stopped there on a mid-September afternoon for just such a perusal. It was the time of year when the sun set early enough to remind that summer was coming to a close and the temperature had moderated enough to reinforce that the pendulum had swung and fall was on the way. On this particular day, there were the usual suspects present, including egrets, gulls, ducks, killdeer, sandpipers, willets, other waders, plus the occasional hawk and osprey. This little guy was scurrying about along the edges of a larger group of shorebirds. The light was fading and that was compounded by the fact that these birds were straddling the border between shade and light, making exposure and focus challenging. I was happy to get a decent image given the scarcity of piping plovers and the degenerating photo conditions. Seeing this makes me feel a little warmer on a cold January day.

Photograph information:

  • Canon EOS 5D Mark III
  • Canon EF 600mm f/4.0L II
  • Canon 1.4x II extender
  • Effective focal length 840mm, f/5.6, 1/200 sec., ISO 800
  • Tripod employed