Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Cape May State Park and Nature Conservancy

Two of my favorite places for nature meditation are the state park in Cape May Point, and the nearby Nature Conservancy. Both always yield something of interest, and both provide an environment for contemplation and discovery.

A few highlights ...

Least Tern

Laughing Gull

Spotted Sandpiper
The Swamp Rose Mallow throughout the marshes was stunning ...

Swamp Rose Mallow

Swamp Rose Mallow
Mute Swans are exotics, and pose problems for native species, but there is no denying that they are beautiful birds, and magnificent in flight ...

Mute Swans
Equally magnificent in flight is the Osprey ...


This young Great Blue Heron caught a hearty breakfast, but could not figure out how to manipulate his catch so that it could be swallow head first. He flew a short distance to a dry patch of ground, dropped this fish, stabbed at it once or twice, then picked it up with head positioned correctly. In third picture, note the "throat bulge" of the swallowed fish ...

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron
Watching the Snowy Egret foraging in shallow water was a thing of delicate beauty (unless you happened to be a small fish) ...

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret
Good Birding!!

Egret Convention at Heinz NWR

I was stunned on my recent visit to Heinz NWR in Philadelphia by the number of egrets (mostly Great, also Snowy) in the empoundment (along with many Great Blue Heron). Impressive and picturesque.

Egret Convention - I count 35+, a small portion of the gathering.

25+ egrets in this photo, plus at least 3 Great Blue Herons
 Still early August, but the signs that summer is nearly over were seen everywhere: recently fledged Barn Swallows, young Marsh Wren foraging for itself, Red-winged Blackbird feeding a fledgling, and a vangard flock of Semi-palmated Sandpipers.

Barn Swallows
Marsh Wren
Red-winged Blackbird with fledgling
Semi-palmated Sandpipers
 Although I could not find them, cicadas were singing loudly in the trees. Along the pathway, Cicada Killer Wasps were also active. 

Cicada Killer Wasp
Boardwalk at Heinz NWR
Good Birding!

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Plum Island Highlights

From our morning on Plum Island, my favorite photo is this Common Tern carrying food ...

Common Tern
In the most interesting category is this Ring-billed Gull. Dark wing-tips on primary feathers strengthen the feathers where the stress from flying is greatest. Note how the ends of the primaries (particularly on the left wing) are curled up ...

Ring-billed Gull
 And finally, three additional "keeper" photos ...

Greater Yellowlegs

Piping Plover

Least Sandpiper

Monday, August 08, 2016

Whale Watch Highlights

Our trip to Newburyport was supposed to include a pelagic birding trip, but that was canceled and we settled for a regular whale watch. There were a few pelagic birds along the way, but they were too distant for good photographs.

As always, some of the most interesting photo are serendipitous ... unplanned, and even unknown until reviewed as the fact, as with the passing Common Tern in this photo of a Hump-backed Whale

The whale watching was quite good, with "Owl," a 30 year old Hump-backed Whale doing a series of picturesque dives ...

In the estuary of the Merrimack River, the outflow met the in-coming tide and stirred the fish in the water. The abundance of food at this point is evident is the number of Common Terns fishing ...

Good Birding!!

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Parental Aggression

Recently we did a trip to Newburyport and Plum Island for birding and whale watching.

At Sandy Point, the Common Terns provided the most action and entertainment. In this brief series, a Mom (or Dad) brings food to Son (or Daughter). But he doesn't know quite how to swallow the food ... and drops it. A neighboring youngster sees an opportunity for food and moves in. But Mom springs to action and quickly disabuses the intruder and drives it off with a whack at the rear end.

Good Birding!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Brown Thrasher - new neighborhood breeding bird

I have had Brown Thrashers make rare and brief appearances in the yard, usually early in the breeding season when they are still moving.

However, for the last several days, Brown Thrashers have been regular, with signs that they are nesting very close by. The one photographed here is a fledgling - rather quiet, but still hopeful of being fed, with occasional attempts at begging from any likely bird in the vicinity.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

New Camera Body

Thursday my new camera body arrived - Canon 7D Mark II (upgrading from the 7D).

Miserable gray weather, so trying it out has been limited to the back porch. But so far I am pleased.

20.2MegaPixel (versus 18MP) and a better processor means I can crop without loosing resolution. Better sensor means I can shoot at higher ISO without noise. Most pictures here were taken at 1600 ISO - previously I rarely went above 800 and preferred 400.

Lighting and weather today have been dreary, but the camera has responded well.

Many features still to work with, but the spot focus option and spot metering is great for birds which often hide in the leaves. Several of the pictures here would not have been possible with my previous camera. Second 2 photos below cropped about 25% of original.

Gray Catbird
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Northern Cardinal (fledgling)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
 Spot focusing makes possible a sharp image even though it is partially obscured by foliage.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak
In the dreary light, the camera is still able to capture detail of this fledgling as it begs to be fed ...

Rose-breasted Grosbeak (fledgling)
Fledgling Rose-breasted have one of the sweetest begging calls of any bird - not at all harsh, or noisy - the opposite extreme of the very loud and noisy Blue Jays.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak fledgling fed by its father.

Daughter Downy wanted dad to keep feeding her, but he refused, and eventually she figured out that she could get the food for herself ...

Downy Woodpecker (adult male) with fledgling female
Another spot focusing example ...

Northern Cardinal (fledgling female)
And finally ... just because there are so many of these creatures which do not understand "bird feeder."

Eastern Chipmunk
BTW, lens used is Canon 100-400 L. Most photos are 400mm focal length.


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