I’ve posted other articles on this blog about Cambridge, Maryland, so this is nothing new. But every time I visit my spot on the Choptank River I come away with a few more worthwhile images of ducks. They’re fun to watch, and lovely to look at. This year the birds have been a bit scarce wherever I’ve gone for photos, and Cambridge was no exception. Must be the warmish winter we had, which didn’t push as many ducks southward as usual. But that’s the nature of nature – it can be pretty unpredictable.
I can count on finding American Wigeons at this spot. The drakes’ showy green head patches make them easy to identify. Sometimes they’re an olive green… usually with a golden iridescence like the drake on the left. Sometimes they’re a rich, brilliant emerald green, like the drake in the photo below of a pair of wigeons. Note the white band over top of the head and extending down the forehead to the bill. This white marking has given the American Wigeon the nickname “Baldpate”. (continue reading…)
Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge is a short drive north of Absecon, New Jersey, and not far from Atlantic City. In fact, Atlantic City is visible from the main wildlife drive of the refuge. I haven’t had much luck finding subjects at this refuge on previous visits, but this trip was different. Along with the usual trickle of various ducks and Canada Geese, there were around 2000 Snow Geese on this visit.
They were spread out sparsely across the tidal marsh on the north side of the wildlife drive, feeding in the black mud of the marsh. But they were mostly too far off for reasonable photos. Luckily, they were also taking turns flying across the wildlife drive in groups of two to ten to land inside the impoundment. There they would bath and preen, cleaning their muddy heads of the black marsh mud accumulated while feeding. Then they would fly back to feed again.
With the holiday season in the rear view mirror, and this year’s frigid Winter fits of January melted away, it was time to squeeze in a trip up north to try my luck finding ducks. A promising forecast of four days in a row of clear sunny weather became only three days as soon as I arrived at the first stop, Cambridge, MD. The second stop was Barnegat Light in NJ, followed by Forsythe NWR an hour or so south of Barnegat. In this first installment I’ll begin with the birds along the famous (among bird photographers) jetty at Barnegat.
You can almost always find the cute little busybodies called Purple Sandpipers nibbling their way along the huge rocks of the jetty at Barnegat. They are quite tolerant of people and you can expect to find them wandering right past you within a few feet with little regard for you or your camera. When they stop and pose in some great light, it’s time to start snapping shots. I was so busy watching for the ducks that I almost didn’t see this fellow hanging out right in front of me. (continue reading…)
Finally, it’s cooler weather and time for the migrations. I headed out to Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey for Eagles, ducks and shorebirds this week, but there wasn’t that much yet to photograph. I guess it’s still just a bit early. Despite that, I managed a few interesting photos, though not as good as I was hoping for.
At Conowingo Dam on the Susquahana River in Maryland the eagles were keeping to the middle and far side of the river, making them a bit too far away for good images of their fishing runs. Occasionally they would fly closer after a catch, like the photo at right, giving a better view. It seemed on this trip I was finally getting better at acquiring the birds in the viewfinder and tracking them. I’ve learned to acquire the birds early while they’re circling and looking, instead of waiting until it’s obvious it’s on a run. Practice, practice, practice. (continue reading…)
Yeah, it’s been way too hot to go out and do any serious bird photography, so I’ve been busy with other things – indoor things. I’ve put some long hours into writing more of the third book of my fantasy adventure trilogy. I also found the gumption to finally set up an e-commerce online web site to sell photo prints of my North Carolina wild horses photos. And, I’ve been photographing birds in the yard all during the summer, as has the wife.
The Bluebirds from my previous post got me started. Then the wife wanted to get in on the action, so I set up some prop feeders so we could get natural looking perches, and it grew from there. Shooting out a downstairs window that looks out on our feeder set-up has worked out well.
I had seen Bluebirds occasionally visiting our bird bath for the past few years, but otherwise I hardly ever saw them. Last Spring I finally broke down and bought a Bluebird house and put it up in the yard. Almost immediately I saw a pair of Bluebirds checking it out, and I believe they raised a brood. However, I never actually saw any little ones and was afraid to investigate for fear of scaring them away. This Spring I fashioned a snake guard for the Bluebird house post, and then made a little bowl feeder for dried meal worms which I placed some 12 feet in front of the birdhouse.
Before February closed out, in the midst of freezing temps and snow, I had a couple of days break with good weather. I took advantage of it by heading out to the N.C. coast on a day trip hoping to photograph some ducks. The morning was overcast, as was early afternoon, but about 2 p.m. the clouds blew away for almost 3 hours of light. The ducks weren’t coming as close as I had hoped, so I didn’t get any close-up portraits, but I did get a few passable flight shots, which was what I was after anyway.
I had to shoot these standing in salt water up to my waist. I was wearing insulated chest waders, and warm clothes, so I was plenty warm despite the cold water and wind. The only real issue with shooting in salt water is having to disassemble, rinse, clean, lubricate and reassemble the tripod afterwards. But that’s a part of the job with wildlife photography. (continue reading…)
In the dead of winter, when you would think there is not a lot of “pretty” to be seen… or photographed… we have ducks, and geese, and swans. Of the lot, ducks are my favorites. They’re not only fun to watch, but the brightly colored drakes are a pleasure to see. Even the more “drab” brownish females have a simple beauty of their own. They don’t have to be dressed for Mardi Gras to have eye appeal.
I don’t often have the opportunity to photograph Snow Geese. The past few years they’ve been rather elusive – even harder to find than Tundra Swans, another of my favorite subjects. But luckily I found a group of Snow Geese at an accessible site on Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge on the Outer Banks just a couple of days after my previous posting from the Choptank River in Cambridge, MD. Even more remarkable, the “Snows” kept flying in for about three hours while I was there shooting, giving me ample time to get many great flight shots – an opportunity I don’t often get.
With the holidays over I waited for a break in the dreary, overcast, rainy weather to get in some photography. I finally got a good weather forecast, so I made a trip north to a favorite spot of mine on the Choptank River in Cambridge, Maryland. The usual cast of characters were there – Canvasbacks, Wigeons, Mallards, Scaup, and the ubiquitous Canada Geese. Didn’t find any Scoters this time, and not a Redhead in sight, but the weather was suitable.
The first day was in the upper 40’s, though a stiff breeze made it quite cold. The second day didn’t get over 35, but with virtually no wind, it felt much warmer than the first day. There were fewer “flyers” this time compared to my last trip chronicled in my “Flight School” posting, but I still managed a couple of decent “BIF” (bird in flight) shots. (continue reading…)