Monday, March 31, 2008

On the Wing, Lesser Scaup

As I approached this pair of Lesser Scaup I began firing the camera, not until they took to the air did I get an image that made the grade. Lesser Scaup, like the Buffleheads are migratory visitors. According to my bird guides their nesting grounds are primarily in our upper Midwest and Midwestern Canada. If this is true they still have a long way to go before settling down for the summer.

During March and early April our area host many migrant ducks but as the weather warms only Mallards and Woodducks remain to nest. To date I have not captured a good shot of a Woody drake but I am working on it.

For those of you who are wondering, this is the little fishing machine that I pressed into photographic duty. It carries a 28hp gasoline engine on the rear and a 74lb. electric motor on the front. This particular lake, as many are, allows only electric motors to be used. For this I am thankful as it eliminates the disturbance created by speeding boats and allows all to have a quiet time on the water.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Lovely Buffleheads

Of all the ducks that pass through our area I think the Bufflehead drakes are up there near the top of the prettiest. Their brilliant white against a dark iridescent sheen creates an amazingly beautiful little creature.

Again this morning I took the boat in search of wildlife images. I noted Tom’s (Wom Tigly) comment about being able to approach wildlife better when using means other than walking. The boat is an advantage. As I am no saint and certainly cannot walk on water unless it is frozen it will take me places that I cannot go otherwise. The disadvantage is that we are not many months past the close of the duck hunting seasons. All of the migratory birds are veterans. The sight of a boat means trouble for along with it comes men, shotguns, and death. The ducks know what the effective range of the shotguns are and will flush before I can approach that close.

I have been using a 400mm lens on these excursions and it is bare minimum. All shooting must be done hand-held for sitting a tripod on a rocking boat would be of no help. Even with image stabilization and an ISO of 400 many of my shots do not exhibit the degree of sharpness that I desire. Focusing is also hit-or-miss since it is nearly impossible to hold the focus point on the subject for more than a moment. With that being said I have had enough success with the boat that I will definitely try to get in a few more runs before the migratory waterfowl has passed by.

Fishing is beginning to get underway here also. I dropped a line for a little bit this morning and picked up both a perch and a bluegill in 39 deg water. The first catch of ‘08

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Common Loon

There is nothing common about the beautiful contrast and colors of the Common Loon.

Today I splashed my little boat for the first time this spring and took to the water in search of images. The air temp was 29 F this morning with a stiff North/North West breeze. This was my first attempt at photographing birds from the boat. Bobbing about in the small waves, driving the boat with a foot controlled electric motor, and trying to manipulate a 400mm lens all at the same time was quite a chore. Many of my shots ended in the recycle bin but there were enough keepers to make the morning more than a success.

This Loon allowed me to approach within about 30 yards. After I had shot about 40 images it tired of the game and dived. In a few minutes it resurfaced some distance away and I moved on in search of other subjects. The Osprey on my new header was another capture from this morning's boating excursion.

I will continue to post shots from our Florida trip interspersed with shots that I am currently capturing.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Little Blue Herons

On a cool windy evening I sighted my first Little Blue Herons. The Herons were gathered along the waters edge in the warm sunlight; sheltered from the cool breeze by the high marsh grass.
Note: I edited this post as I had previously incorrectly identified these birds as Blue Herons when in fact they are Little Blue Herons.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

SkyWatch Friday, Dusk at Lake Parker

I captured this photograph shortly after the sun had slipped below the horizon. The last moments of my time at Lake Parker was also the most beautiful.

Although this was to be my last shot at Lake Parker before beginning the long drive home I will continue the Florida series as I have many more shot to share with you.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Great Egret

A very elegant bird, the Great Egret population was once decimated by “Plume” hunters. In the past there was considerable demand for their long lacy breeding plumage. High fashion ladies hats were often adorned with the long lacy feathers.

Today the population has recovered from this wasteful practice and Great Egrets can frequently be seen slowly stalking the shallows of Lake Parker in search of prey.

I found it to be somewhat difficult at times obtaining correct exposure of these birds. The whites frequently were hot while the background was underexposed.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Pattering Coot

Coots, being a relatively heavy bird in relation to its small wings, cannot take off from the water smoothly. Instead they must patter until they reach the speed at which they are able to become air-borne.

As you can see from this photograph they are moving quickly at this stage as three splashes are still hanging in the air while the coot is touching down yet again.

This photograph is yet another capture from Lakeland Florida’s, Lake Parker.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Female Hooded Merganser

Continuing on with my Florida Bird Series; we encountered a pair of Female Hooded Mergansers one morning. I don’t know where the boys were hanging out as the two females were all we sighted.

As I continue to work through the birds I photographed on this trip I am astounded at the variety of species represented around Lake Parker. I visited this lake three mornings and one evening. Here at home in Pennsylvania I believe I could pursue birds for an entire year and still not photograph as many different species as I did at Lake Parker in about twelve hours of shooting.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Snipe Hunting Anyone?

I’ll interrupt the Florida series to post an unusual bird I captured today.

While checking out a wetland on our family farm I flushed a small flock of birds which I thought were woodcock. I thought it unusual for woodcock to be in this grassy wetland. These birds flushed, flew a short distance and dropped back into the wetland. As I approached it was nearly impossible to see them as they sat very still. Fortunately I did manage to pick out a couple of birds in spite of their excellent camouflage.

While working with the photos I realized that these were not woodcock. A trip to the bird guides informed me that they are Common Snipe.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Impromptu Photo Session

During our visit to Bok Sanctuary a gentleman approached Chad. He informed Chad that they had came without a camera and ask if Chad would photograph this young lady in front of the tower and e-mail them the photo-file. Chad, always the accommodating helpful young man that he is went right to work.

I always enjoy watching Chad work as he exerts considerable energy and strikes some interesting poses himself :)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

SkyWatch Friday, Bok Tower

The Singing Tower at Historic Bok Sanctuary
Lake Wales,

Concerts are held twice daily at the Bok Belltower. The top of the tower holds a carillon consisting of sixty bells ranging in size from sixteen pounds to over eleven tons. The total weight of the bells is over sixty tons. The carillon is played with a keyboard and pedalboard. All connections are mechanical and the expression of each bell is accomplished by the amount of force the carillonneur applies.

Bok Sanctuary is a beautiful experience both visually and musically.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Pied-billed Grebe

The Pied-billed Grebe is an interesting little bird to watch. It was a little concerned about my presence and would occasionally take evasive action by diving or sinking under the surface, swimming a little way and slowly rising among the lily pads.

I have watched Loons many time perform evasive action by diving and swimming away under water. When Loons dive or resurface they do so relatively quickly but a Pied-billed Grebe’s reappearance is so slow as to barely make a ripple on a calm surface.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Stately Great Blue Heron

No series of Florida would be complete without a photograph of a Great Blue Heron. Unlike my last trip to Florida where Chad & I captured a GBH spearing a crappie, on this trip I only observed them standing and watching intently.

Perhaps you are tiring of my Florida bird series. Please vote on today’s poll to indicate your preference.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Duck Identification?

Identifying the birds I photographed around Lake Parker has been a most enjoyable endeavor. A good photograph displayed on the monitor has been quite helpful while referring to the bird identification guides. In the case of this pair of ducks, positive identification has eluded me.

The female, to the left, displays feather and bill markings consistent with a Mallard hen but the drake remains somewhat of a mystery to me. The bill coloration and markings are consistent with an American Black Duck as is the body coloration while the dark green stripe on the head is not. My best guess after quite a bit of research is that it is a Black Duck/Mallard cross. What ever they are I found them to be a pretty pair of ducks in a great natural setting, perfect for another Southern Country Capture.

If anyone can positively identify this duck I would certainly appreciate your comment.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Feeling a little Squirrely?

The Gray Squirrels at Lake Parker are always on the lookout for a handout. They appear identical to their Pennsylvania brethren with the exception that they are only about one-half the size

Saturday, March 15, 2008

American Coots

American Coots are prolific around the shores of Lake Parker. I continue to marvel at the variety of bird species represented at this city lake. At this oasis in the midst of the city, the birds are able to live for the most part unmolested without the fear of humans. In many ways conditions here are better than for the birds living in more remote rural areas.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Sky Watch Friday, Spanish Moss

While visiting Bok Tower with Chad we were both busy searching for and composing shots from around the scenic gardens. I didn’t have Sky Watch in mind when I captured this shot of the sky framed by a tree heavily laden with Spanish Moss.

If you find yourself in the Orlando/Tampa area and have never visited this exquisite garden; allow me to recommend it. Bok Tower offers a beautiful quiet respite from the rush and bustle of the typical tourist trap.

For more information click Here

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

White Pelicans, a Helpful Tip

One morning while shooting alone at Lake Parker I was busy photographing some White Ibis in a feeder creek. A gentleman out for his morning stroll stopped to tell me that a beautiful flock of White Pelicans was feeding in the channel out from the mouth of the creek.

The pelicans exhibited a considerable degree of teamwork. The flock would spread out in line of battle, shoulder to shoulder and begin swimming. As they moved forward the pelicans on the ends would begin to move ahead of those in the center until suddenly they would pivot inward forming a circle. Once the circle was formed all heads would go down shoveling up the encircled fish. After a few moments spent swallowing the catch they would once again repeat the exercise.

Thanks to a kindly tip from a complete stranger my morning was much more productive than it otherwise would have been.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Once in a Lifetime Encounter

Capturing this Osprey photograph was a unique once in a lifetime opportunity. This was the closest that I have ever been to a wild free Osprey and with little doubt I will never get this close again.

For the full story of this encounter visit my son Chad’s Photoblog.

The Osprey, also known as a Fish Hawk and sometimes referred to as a Fish Eagle, normally does not allow a human to approach closely nor is it often seen on the ground. At the beginning of this encounter I was concerned that it had its feet entangled in a mat of debris and fishing line. That was not the case. Apparently it was gathering nesting material and did not want to leave its bundle behind when approached.

The Ospreys population was driven close to extinction by the use of the pesticide DDT. The DDT caused thinning of the Osprey’s egg shell which in turn caused egg breakage during laying and incubation. Since the ban of DDT in 1972 the Osprey population had rebounded nicely. When leaving Florida I noticed that most pairs of utility poles between Lakeland and Kissimmee sported an active Osprey nest.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Hear ye Hear ye………..

The Grackle seems to be telling everyone about Florida’s Boating Regulations.

In the mornings the top of each tree around Lake Parker held at least one male Grackle. I always look forward to the return of the Grackles here in Pa. as one of the early harbingers of spring and just today I sighted my first for the year.

This evening, as my wife and I traveled to Hagerstown Md., I also noticed a reddish cast in the tops of some maples. Certainly spring is only around the corner.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Blue-winged Teal

I encountered this beautiful pair of Blue-winged Teal on Lake Parker early one morning. These pretty ducks will soon begin their northward trek to their breeding grounds. I have never observed nesting Blue-wings in my area. Audubon’s confirms that New York state is the southern edge of their nesting area here in the east.

On a personal note; since returning home from Florida I have suffered a particularly bad case of the flu but thankfully today, for the first time in a week, I feel that I have returned to the land of the living.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Bath Time, Immature White Ibis

An immature White Ibis enjoys its bath while an adult looks on.

The White Ibis is one of the most numerous species at Lake Parker. As I continue to review and process photographs from our Florida vacation I am amazed at how many species are present at this lake. I have found it necessary to refer time and time again to Audubon’s field guide.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Skywatch Friday, Tropical Sunset

Strolling about my IL’s development I was busy looking for a presentable Florida Sunset shot. Trying to remain somewhat true to my blog name I did not want to show the multitudes of houses which grace the streets.

By aiming a little high and using a 105mm lens I was able to exclude the dwellings and with a F10 I obtained enough DOF for pleasing results.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Limpkin Reflection

A small creek that drains into Lake Parker provided Chad & I some outstanding reflection shots. Many birds were feeding in its calm waters including this Limpkin. The Limpkin is a goose sized wading bird. It spent most of its time with its head underwater searching for food.

Many of the birds we observed at Lake Parker will be arriving in Pennsylvania in the coming weeks but some, like this Limpkin, will never venture north.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Hunting, Snowy Egret

Watching this little Snowy Egret hunting was a treat

It was stalking slowly through the shallows carefully placing each foot lightly upon the waterlogged debris. Then with three taps of its foot it would attempt to drive prey into the open water while it watched intently. The Egret continued this hunting technique for a few minutes before flying to another part of the marsh that it hoped was more productive.

This photo, as are most in this series, was captured with a Canon 30D & a 100-400mm L lens

Sunday, March 02, 2008


Nestled in the heart of Lakeland, Florida is Lake Parker; a 2,200 acre lake surrounded by native vegetation. Lake Parker Park, a 100.5 acre city park provides waterfront access to the beautiful wildlife filled marshes. The abundant birdlife here is habituated to human presence providing the photographer with an exceptional opportunity to photograph the birds in their natural setting.

This Tricolored Heron was busily engaged in fishing. Although not a sharp photograph, I find the motion depicted in this photograph appealing.

Saturday, March 01, 2008


We were welcomed to Florida by a large flock of Grackles hanging out at the Florida I-95 Welcome Center. This Grackle was gracious enough to pose perched upon the Welcome sign.

I had been looking forward to this trip for a number of reasons with the opportunity to photograph Florida’s birds near the top of my list of priorities. I have gone through my images deleting those that have technical difficulties or where the subject was posed in an unattractive position. 1,093 images remain. The daunting task of selecting the best images is still ahead. I will be sharing those with you in the coming days.