Trip to Chincoteague

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Earlier this month I had the opportunity to travel to Chincoteague, Virginia for some wildlife photography. I always enjoy spending time at this National Wildlife Refuge. The waterfowl and wildlife are usually abundant and fairly easy to photograph and this year was no different. In fact, this year was the best photography Chincoteague has offered me so far!

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Right off the bat, a Great Egret, which was perched in a tree preening itself, offered some very nice poses. Then several Great Blue Herons offered a variety of shots with my camera and lens. I enjoy photographing the Blue Herons, but they do scare easily. A long lens is definitely required for bird photography and even though the Blue Herons are very big birds, long lenses are still required when photographing them.

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The weather was absolutely beautiful for January and it was quite warm for this time of year. This definitely helped my wildlife photography on this trip because I prefer to stay on the wildlife for long periods of time. Many other photographers pull up in their vehicle, jump out, snap a photo, and are gone. This does not result in quality wildlife photography. There are some Blue Herons here in this brief blog post that I literally spent over an hour with behind my camera. Wildlife photography is not for the impatient. Time and effort and required for good, quality photographs. I hope these images show at least some of the time and effort I put into this day’s shoot.

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Late in the afternoon on Wednesday, the gates were opened in the waterways and the water was flowing, as gallons and gallons of water moved through the system. A Great Egret was fishing near the edge of the waterway. I just happened to walk up on it, but then a Great Blue Heron came onto the scene and wanted a piece of the action. He was forceful and chased the Egret away to take its prime place. It worked, too, as the Blue Heron located one small fish after another. It was a feast for a king!

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I found the challenge of capturing the action with my camera to be fun and rewarding. The Heron first eyed up its prey, carefully and methodically. This took time and patience, which is why the wildlife photography has to be patient as well! Then the Heron plunged its long beak into the water with a great splash. The Heron’s head emerged from the water with a fish in its beak almost every time!

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The back light from the setting sun behind the subject created an interesting glow on the Heron’s beak. I was actually on the wrong side of the Heron to get the best photos of this bird, but wildlife photographers cannot always be in exactly the right place and time. I happened into the spot and onto the Heron, so I took the opportunity and made the best of it. Sometimes that’s all we can do.

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As the last shooting hour came to a close, I focused my attention and my camera to the sky. Here is what Moose Peterson calls “God Beams.” I enjoy the challenge of capturing these captivating beams with my camera and I am slowly learning to do so a little better. I am also finding myself using Manual Mode in my camera a little more often, too.

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This sunset silhouette was one of the last photographs I made that day. I like the way this one turned out. The sky has interesting clouds and the sliver of water below the trees on the right creates a little contrast in an otherwise blackened portion of the photo. Do you like these images?

Do You Like This Bird?

This bird is found in the United States east of the Rockies and is often found frequenting backyard feeders. Some viewers of this bird complain that they are feisty and mean to other birds. Their brilliant blue color is beautiful and I actually enjoy seeing them at my feeder. Do you like this bird?

The Blue Jay is a medium-sized bird with blue as its primary color with a white belly and throat. White also appears on the back of each wing and also on the back of the tail feathers. It also features a distinctive crest on the back of its head. Blue Jays can be noisy and will try to dominate a feeder if possible. They will also compete among themselves, too.

You All Know These Love Birds

These are common birds that appear at our backyard feeder every day. They like to eat the birdseed that falls to the ground, but they also enjoy sitting on a perch and even sitting on top of the bird feeder!

The Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura, are present year-round in a majority of the continental United States. They are a medium-sized bird with mostly brown colors. The eyes are deep black with a blue/green circle around each eye. Females have a bit of iridescence on their neck, which can be seen in the bottom photo–the last photo of my blog entry today. Interestingly, the small black mark on the face of the Mourning Dove distinguished it from the Passenger Pigeon ,which is now extinct. Banding studies suggest that a pair of Mourning Doves will mate for life. The doves’ cooo-cooo-cooo call is unmistakable, as is their flush and wing-beat in the air. All this makes the Mourning Dove very easy to identify.

I enjoy photographing these birds, but their drab, brownish color makes photographing them difficult because they easily blend into their environment much of the time.

I see these birds nearly every single day and if they will let me, I will keep photographing them in an attempt to get some better quality photographs.

 

Downy Woodpecker

I believe this is a Downy Woodpecker. Here’s why. While the Downy and the Hairy are very similar, the Downy displays some of the white spots on its tail, while the Downy does not. Also, it’s bill is more conical and shorter than the Hairy’s.

I am by no means an expert birder, so my conclusions may not always be correct. I’ve studied the Audubon Guide, iBird Pro, and Peterson’s Guide to help me better determine which of the two similar woodpeckers this one is in these photos. They are almost identical and one of the guides states that the bill is the only reliable way to distinguish between the two.

Here are two more photos of this species.

Can You Identify This Bird?

Okay, photographers and birders, can you identify this bird?

My friend, Bryan Hill, suggested that instead of identifying the birds I am posting here to allow the reader to try to id the bird first. I liked Bryan’s idea, so here goes!

Let me know what bird you think this is and tomorrow I will share more information that I found on this particular species.

Thanks! And here’s another photo of this bird.

The Brown-Headed Cowbird

I observed another new bird at our backyard feeder today. I was photographing out of my blind again and this bird just came in and landed on the deck railing. It has a brown head with an all-black body. After clicking a few shots it flew down to the ground and started eating seed that had fallen from the feeder. Then a similar looking female joined in the action.

It turns out that this bird is called the Brown-Headed Cowbird. What a name! I love it!

This bird typically walks on the ground to find food and often holds its tail over its back while it is foraging. Diet consists of insects, fruits, grains, and seed. It is found in Pennsylvania throughout the year. The female does not sport the brown head but is all an off-gray color.

Two Eastern Towhees

Today I photographed two Eastern Towhees — a male and a female which came to our backyard!

I first spotted a male Towhee yesterday for the first time this year. I actually heard many of their unique calls over the past few weeks but didn’t see one until yesterday. Their call sounds like they are saying, “drink you tea.” I could mimmick the call with my own imitation whistle and repeatedly received a call back.

The Eastern Towhee is basically a large sparrow. The male is mostly black with rusty sides and a white underbelly. Another distinguishing feature is two white corners of its tail. I spotted the red eyes, just as the description states in my iBird app. This description also explains that the name “Towhee” is an imitation of this bird’s call and that a group of Towhees are called a “tangle” or a “teapot” of towhees. (iBird Pro, Eastern Towhee)

Not long after I captured one decent photo of the male Towhee, I saw a female come in to for lunch. It didn’t take long before it snagged a mealworm from a log, which it proudly displayed from it’s tightly clamped beak.

The Eastern Towhee is an active bird with a unique and inviting call. It’s red eye is unmistakable. Listen for its call and look for one the next time you are outdoors. The Towhee is a wonderful bird to watch and photograph!

My Favorite App

$14.99 for an app. My daughter thought I was nuts! But this powerful app has quickly become my favorite app so far!

Earlier this week I posted a blog entry revealing the difficulty I had in identifying a bird I photographed in my backyard. Now, I can sit in my blind, or later in my recliner, and punch a few search parameters into my iPhone and quickly id a bird. It is that easy!

iBird Pro has 924 different species in its database. The app is easy to use and very powerful. You can also add your own photos of each species to the database if you desire.

iBird Explorer Pro contains many features that will help me identify, study, track, and share my favorite birds. I love it!

Check it out at: http://ibird.com/

 

 

What Bird is This?

I spent some time in my blind this evening watching and photographing a few birds and a chipmunk. I always enjoy this time spent outdoors and the blind really conceals me and most of my movements. Every once in a while, moving my camera into the right position scares a bird away, but overall it works very well to get some decent photos of these amazing birds.

For you birders out there, what species is this?

It looks like some variation of a sparrow to me, but I am not a birder. Any help you can offer in properly identifying this bird is much appreciated!

Broken Beak

I am sure many birds show the wear and tear of daily living, but this Cardinal caught my attention with what looks to me like a bit of a broken beak!

We’ve been watching a pair of cardinals coming to our feeder over the past month and we enjoy seeing these red beauties. Their color is bright and brilliant!

But look at his beak. Doesn’t it look to be broken on his left side? At the very least it is well-worn from breaking open a lot of seeds.

Here’s another perspective. Look at that beak!