Thursday, April 30, 2009

SkyWatch: Sunrise on the Chesapeake

Saturday morning’s sunrise found me aboard the Afternoon Delight cruising out onto Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay in search of Trophy Striped Bass. This shot was taken through the windshield using flash to light the interior of the boat.

This shot from outside the cabin captured more of the spectacular sunrise over the water.

The day started with a terrific sunrise but the day's fishing left much to be desired. Although Captain Hank worked diligently throughout the day only two stripers were hooked.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Two Views: Singing Red-winged Blackbird

A common sight around the local wetlands is that of the singing Red-winged Blackbirds. As one of the early migratory arrivals they began appearing while ice still covered the local lakes and marshes filling the air with their song.

This first image was captured one spring morning when heavy rain clouds darkened the sky. The low light levels did not allow me to capture as crisp an image as I desired but I do like the pose and the overall appearance of the shot

A sunny April evening provided direct light for capturing this bird singing loudly from atop a fence post. Both shots were made hand-holding my 100-400mm lens.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Northern Shoveler

The spring migration of waterfowl is rapidly winding down in my area. During my visit to the lake Saturday morning a few Loons and the lone Redhead were still present along with this flock of Northern Shovelers.

I decided not to press closely to the Shovelers until after sunup. I approached only near enough to capture identifying images at ISO 800 and 1/80th of a second. The morning was brightening as the sun neared the horizon but before it could crest, the flock lifted off and flew north across the lake rising above the trees and continuing on in that direction until they disappeared from view.

According to one birding guide the Northern Shoveler is the first duck to fly south in the fall and the last to journey north come spring. Although I was hoping to capture better shots, in this my first photographic encounter with the species, I am very pleased to add another duck species to my photo collection.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Down on the Farm

A mother Cow watches over as her new arrival poses for the Camera

I find that I always post wildlife so here are some domestic critters for a change. The calf pictured here is about two weeks old and its mother is extremely protective of it. Out of all the cows in our herd this is the one you have to be careful of when working with her calf.

For more Critters of all types visit our friend Misty’s Camera Critter Blog

Thursday, April 23, 2009

SkyWatch: Early Morning Osprey

The warm rays of the early morning sun light this Osprey as it prepares to take flight against a cloudless April Sky.

With the next click of the shutter I captured the image displayed in the blog header.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Quick Move: Red-breasted Merganser Hens

I first noticed these Red-breasted Merganser hens flying towards me apparently intending to land near the boat. With a bass tournament underway they had numerous boats to contend with and apparently had not noticed mine.

Once on the water they quickly spied me and immediately took flight, leaving me with this unique image of them as they ran frantically across the water.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Lonely Redhead

For the past three weekends I have encountered a single Redhead Duck during my weekly visits to the lake.

While researching this duck one source noted that this species has suffered from habitat destruction and hunting to the point that it is now one of the least common of the North American ducks. Other sources referred to it as the most common breeding diving duck in the United States. Although the information from these sources seems to conflict perhaps they are both correct as many of our diving ducks nest in Canada.

What ever the correct information is remains a question for me but I can attest to seeing one lonely Redhead during each of my visits and this is the best photograph I have captured to date.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Bufflehead Drake

Attempting to get a good photograph of the Bufflehead Drake has proven to be quite a difficult task. The Buffleheads visit our area for only a few weeks each spring. I was surprised yesterday to find that they were still at the lake.

Although, these ducks are not overly wary, they are small and require getting quite close with my 100-400mm lens but what has caused the greatest difficulty is the contrast between the areas of white and iridescent black plumage made even more problematic with the bird’s eye being located in the black area.

Yesterday I was trolling along the shoreline near noon when I noticed a flock of Bufflehead hens with an immature drake and one mature drake resting in a small cove. Cranking in the lines I prepared to make an ultra-slow approach allowing the wind to drift me near the ducks. I was concerned that a couple kayaking behind me would spoil my plans but instead they held back and watched as I worked the birds.

Soon these colorful little diving ducks will be moving on to their nesting grounds but this time they have left me with an image that I will treasure.

Note: I also captured the new header image yesterday when an Osprey allowed me to approach its perch quite closely. I continued to fire the camera as the Osprey took to the air in the warm light of the early morning sun.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Two-headed Lake Monster

Two-headed Lake Monster?
Not quite!

This Pied-billed Grebe sat quietly in the shallows as I passed nearby with my boat this morning. As I came near the bird sank out of sight below the calm water with barely a ripple to indicate that it had ever been there.

This morning was an outstanding morning of waterfowl photography. Species photographed included; Horned Grebes, Osprey, Mallard, Bufflehead, Red-head Duck, Loon, Gulls, and Canada Geese.

Fishing was good also and I returned with a nice catch of Bluegills destined for the frying pan.

For Critters of all types visit our friend Misty and Camera Critters Blog

Thursday, April 16, 2009

SkyWatch: Swooping Osprey

This is what it may look like to a fish when, too late, it heads for cover alarmed by the large bird dropping from the sky at an incredible rate of speed. A moment later the Osprey’s talons would descend, grasping the fish with its razor sharp claws as they pierce through the fish’s body in a grip of death.

A clear blue sky is the easiest background for capturing flight shots. With nothing to distract the cameras auto focus the camera will quickly focus on the bird and the bright sunlight allows for action freezing shutter speeds.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Great Blue Heron in Flight

A Great Blue Heron can appear awkward when taking flight

During flight these impressive birds are transformed into a study of poise and grace

This is the same heron displayed in yesterday’s post photographed when I approached too close for its comfort with the boat.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Great Blue Heron Scenic

A Great Blue Heron standing on the remains of an old beaver house watches the water intently

Usually when shooting wildlife I find myself trying to get the best close-ups possible but sometimes I miss the best that the situation has to offer by excluding too much of the surrounding environment.

I was intrigued by the possibilities this encounter with the heron in the shadows and the sunlit lake to the right offered. I bracketed the exposure in my attempt to achieve a satisfactory balance between sun and shadow.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Leaping Deer: Another Take

After the near miss of the deer leaping the fence a few days ago I knew that I had to give it another try when the situation again presented. I felt that I was ready to do better the next time having learned how the deer would respond in this situation.

These deer have been frequenting a pasture field on our family farm. They are accustomed to my dad driving the John Deere Gator about and scarcely pay it any attention unless it is driven too close while they are enclosed by the high tensile woven wire cattle fence which has an average height of 54 inches. When the deer notice the Gator getting too close they will casually walk to the fence and leap to the other side.

I waited until we again had a bright sunny evening with the deer feeding in the pasture.
Slowly approaching the deer with the Gator, I stopped and readied the camera when they reached the fence. Obligingly this young buck took the leap as I fired two frames.

Mission accomplished!

Soon the deer were peacefully feeding in the adjoining hay field; no longer feeling threatened as there was no fence to impede their escape if it became necessary.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Return of the Osprey

I sighted my first Osprey for the spring last weekend but it wasn’t until this weekend that I was able to capture an image of one.

This Osprey flew over me while I was fishing yesterday, flying to the far end of the lake before perching in on a dead branch. Imagine my surprise at finding the Osprey still perched where I had seen it land earlier as I approached the end of the lake some two hours later.

As I photographed the Osprey from the bouncing boat I could hear it calling intermittently. Later I observed two Ospreys soaring above the lake so I presume that this bird was calling for its mate.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

High Jump: A Near Miss

Sometimes action takes place when we full expect it and are ready to make the capture, other times it happens that we are not expecting it at all and never get the camera into action.

In this case I seen what was unfolding and was only able to be partially prepared by the time the deer made the leap.

Visit Misty’s Camera Critters Blog and join in with a Critter of your own

Friday, April 10, 2009

Spring Blooms

Colt’s Foot is now blooming every sunny day in my area. It is usually found along roadsides where open ground is shaded by deciduous trees during the summer months keeping competing plants and grasses at bay.
Colt’s Foot flowers close at night and during periods of cloudy weather. They only open during times of sunshine

The blooms on this ornamental shrub in my lawn only needs a few more warm days before they open completely. From the looks of the long range weather forecast it may have some time to wait.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Sky Watch: Enjoying the Evening Sunshine

A pair of starlings sitting in a tree caught my attention for a moment this evening. As I have been focusing on the waterfowl migrations lately my supply of new sky images is sadly lacking. With this in mind I headed out intent upon capturing an image for this Sky Watch post. Of course I needed to include birds in the composition.

For Beautiful Skies from around the world visit the Sky Watch gang HERE

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Red-breasted Mergansers

The Red-breasted Mergansers are common visitors during the spring migration but oddly enough in the past I have encountered only hens on our local lake. This all changed one recent morning when I encountered a flock of mergansers containing two males.

The mergansers allowed me to approach to within range of my 100-400mm without undue concern.

As I paralleled the feeding birds they dived repeatedly, returning to the surface within a few seconds. As this was my first encounter with the colorful males I focused most of my attention upon them.

This was my second encounter with the Red- Breasted Mergansers this spring. During my next visit to the lake three days later only a large flock of females were present.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Fishing & The Common Loon

I first encountered the Common Loons many years ago when as a teenager I began car-topping a little 12’ jon boat to a nearby lake for fishing. I enjoyed hearing their lonesome calls and on occasion was close enough to make out their striking plumage. I didn’t pay enough attention though to realize that the loons were transients passing through on their annual migration. My attention instead was centered on the fishing.

With the rekindling of my interest in wildlife photography I find myself paying much more attention to details and digital photography allows me to easily check image dates to see when my first and last encounters with a given migratory species occurs.

Upon arriving at the lake on a recent morning I observed six loons fishing directly in front of the boat launch. Moving into the area I was soon treated to an interesting and beautiful display as the loons continued their fishing with little concern for the presence of my boat. Occasionally the water would boil beside the boat with minnows flying through the air as a loon pursued them to within inches of the waters surface. Other times a loon would pop up nearby and look around for a moment before submerging.

Finally after shooting around 150 images I reluctantly left the loons to do a little fishing of my own.

This image of the Loon stretching its wings is my favorite from the extended photo session.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Help Wanted: Duck Identification

With Sunday’s weather being exceptionally nice my wife decided to accompany me to the lake for an afternoon of waterfowl photography mixed with some good old fashioned bluegill fishing.

The bluegills were active in the sunlit shallows along the shoreline but it wasn’t long until my attention was drawn to a mixed flock of ducks cruising mid-lake. As we approached I noticed that the majority was female Red-breasted mergansers but two of the ducks were different.

Homing in on the two odd ducks I soon realized that the nearest duck was a female Scaup but the other duck, the black one, was a species I had never encountered.

The closest duck I can find in my bird guides is the Surf Scoter but with some differences. The Surf Scoter references show a band of white across the forehead and the tip of the beak black whereas both of these markings are missing here. Also my area is not listed as being part of the Surf Scoters range.

Perhaps this duck is an immature or it is sporting summer/winter plumage different from my reference materials. Any help to ID this duck is appreciated!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Getting Closer: Wood Duck

When trying to capture good portraits of wildlife nothing can take the place of getting close. Wood Ducks have been particularly challenging for me as our woodies know all too well that humans mean trouble.

Visiting the wetland Saturday morning I concealed myself reasonably well by wearing camo and hiding in the surrounding vegetation. After a wait of over an hour a pair of wood ducks swam rapidly across the small opening while a cloud passed across the sun. Disappointed but not discouraged I continued my wait and was soon rewarded when this lone drake swam into the open less than twenty yards away providing me with my best wood duck portrait to date.

I had only time to fire a few frames until he noticed something was amiss and lifted his crest in alarm. Moments later he was airborne, the entire encounter only lasted a few seconds but that was all it took to captured a couple of memorable images.

Note: Betsy in Tennessee was kind enough to direct me to her recent Northern Flicker post in a comment on my Camera Critters post. What I assumed to be a courtship display apparently was a mating dispute between two males. There were other flickers in the area perhaps the female was among them but upon leaving this perch both of the “boys” flew off together. Go figure :)

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Courtship: Yellow-shafted Flicker

My plans for visiting the lake this morning were thwarted by high wind so instead I chose to visit a small wetland near home. Numerous waterfowl species were present including Canada Geese, Wood Ducks, Mallards, and Ringed-necked Ducks but photography was quite difficult due to the brush along the waters edge and the shyness of the ducks. I did manage to capture my best Wood Duck drake photos to date and will share them in a later post. Also I sighted my first Osprey for the year.

The highlight of the morning was this encounter of a pair of Northern Yellow-shafted flickers engaged in their spring mating ritual.

I was busy photographing a single flicker, attempting to capture a good portrait while the branches it was perched in swayed in the high winds, when the second bird arrived. The scene became much more interesting as the two birds began interacting.

It is difficult for me to believe that a full year has passed since Misty Dawn invited me to participate in her new meme Camera Critters. Thanks Misty for a great meme and thank you for all of the dedication and work keeping it going.

Visit Camera Critters, if you haven’t already post a Critter of your own, and join in for the second year of CAMERA CRITTERS.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

SkyWatch: The Looming Storm

Thunder Storm approaches Veterans Memorial Bridge

First opened for traffic in 1930 Veterans Memorial Bridge spans the Susquehanna River between Columbia and Wrightsville Pennsylvania.

Recently my wife & I visited Amy (Ash’s Eye) & Justin at their home in Columbia. Wanting to take some outdoor family photos, Amy suggested visiting the small park and boat ramp at the bridge.

As we finished with the shots and were preparing to leave I noticed the darkening western sky with ominous clouds which were beginning to blot out the sun. The lighting effect seen on the bridge is the effect of the sun intermittently shining through the broken clouds along the front edge of the storm.

Shortly after arriving back at Amy & Justin’s home the full wrath of the storm arrived bringing with it heavy rain and hail.

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Full Stomach: Red-tailed Hawk

When this Red-tailed Hawk flew up from along the creek my first impression was that there was something wrong with its profile. As it wheeled through the air it appeared healthy and strong and I thought no more about it until later when examining the images I had captured.

If you look closely you will find the birds crop distended greatly. I believe my intrusion caused the hawk to leave its kill but at least I didn’t spook it until it had filled its stomach.