Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wordless Wednesday 10/28/09

Box Elder Bug (Boisea trivittata)

There are some pretty amazing small things in the world if you take a moment to get in for a closer look...

As always, click on the photo to see a larger, more detailed image.

Get Wordless over at Wordless Wednesday

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Bird Photography Weekly #61

I was happy to actually get out and do a bit of birding this weekend. Yesterday we had some intermittent rain, but managed to get a bit of birding in (and I got a state bird, but more on that in a later post.) This morning broke bright and warm after last night's pouring rain. I joined our friends Paul and Diana on one of their trips to Horn Pond - a local patch that they've been birding for several years. And in addition to knowing the area well, they are great birders as well, so their trips are always fun and well attended. - this morning was no different. Some nice looks today at some of the regulars, as well as some fall migrants (including brief looks at Fox Sparrow - a bird I've been trying to get a photo of for some time, and still haven't succeeded yet.) We did get some good looks at the (or one of the) resident Great Horned Owl. The light wasn't great, but tried to get a few photos nevertheless.
Well, when I got in, I was a little less than thrilled with the photos I got, but managed to salvage them a bit using Photoshop. (With the exception of sizing the images to take up less space on line, the "Before photoshop" pics are on the left, and the "after photoshop" pics are on the right)

Some differences in color and contrast between the first and second sets resulted from changing the angle from which I was photographing the bird, trying to get the sun behind me. I did get one more shot in before the bird flew deeper into the woods, with the sun a little more behind me. Notice the color subtleties are a little more evident still. (Still not great photos, but the best I got this weekend)

PS - as always click on the photos to see larger versions!

To see some great bird photos from around the world, check out:

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A few quick photos

I've been having some pretty big gaps between posts this fall. There are lots of things I can blame it one - jobs, health, lack of bird. (Well the last one isn't a real good excuse, as there have really been some nice birds in the area - I've just not made it out to see them due to... well, job and health)

Just to keep the blog active, and so I don't forget how to when I do have something good to post (I just can't wait for the Rio Grande Valley Bird Festival in a few more weeks) - here are a re more pics of some more 'common' birds...
Pale-bellied Brant - someday I'll get a pic in good light where you can differentiate the eye

Great Black-backed Gull - the big one

And the ubiquitious Ring-billed Gull.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Autumn weekend Birding

It felt great getting out this past weekend. Saturday morning Pamela and I headed up to our favorite stomping grounds - Plum Island. It seemed like Yellow-rumped warblers were simply everywhere (see my previous post) and even though they are our most common warbler, when you have them in this quantity, it brings a new level of interest. (And when you have flocks of warblers, you never know when something less common might be mixed among them - this time we didn't).
While scanning the ocean another group of birders were checking out a sandpiper that caught their interest...

After spending a bit of time watching it, he did fly a bit and show off it's white rump.

We did have a few other nice sightings, although nothing particularly rare - a Blue-grey Gnatcatcher was a surprise, and we enjoyed prolonged looks at a very strongly marked Peregrin Falcon.
After lunch at one of our favorite Thai restaurants, we decided to head into Cambridge to add a bird to our Massachusetts lists. (OK, honestly - I wanted to add a bird to my MA list - Pam isn't quite as much a lister I am.) A Lark Sparrow had been spotted a Danahey Park for the previous few days (and had been in the same place last year at the same time, but we never checked it out). We quickly found the bird mixed in among several Song, Savannah, and a few Field Sparrows.

On Sunday morning, we picked up Paul and Diana early and headed down to meet our friend Eddie, who was leading his annual sparrow walk for the Brookline Bird Club at Cumberland Farms Fields in Middleboro. We did pretty well, seeing plenty of Song, Savannah & Field Sparrows, a single Lincoln's, a few Indigo Buntings, Bobolinks and Eastern Meadowlarks, and surprisingly (well to me) quite a few Tree Swallows still. Also, there were two Dickcissels that had been around for a few days...We continued on to Burrage Pond WMA in Halifax where we saw a few birds, but I found a lot more interest in some of the other wildlife...

Last but not least - when we dropped off Paul and Diana in the afternoon, they pointed out a large spider that had been building some large webs near their front door. I've yet to determine what it is...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Bird Photography Weekly #59

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Dendroica coronata)

Another attempt at photographing some of our more common birds. The Yellow-rumped Warbler is one of (if not the) most common warblers here in eastern Massachusetts - and especially now in the autumn, when most others are moving though and south towards warmer climates. This weekend these guys seemed to be everywhere, and even the most pitiful attempt at pishing drew a crowd of a dozen or more at most thickets.

To see some great bird photos from around the world, check out:

Friday, October 9, 2009

Want to learn sparrows? Get to your local community gardens

At least I think it's one of the best places to find fall sparrows.

Due to some unfortunate health circumstances, I've not had much opportunity to get out in the last week or so. But today, I was feeling ok and a little more than optimistic that I could hold out for a few hours, so I decided to head out for some fresh air and hopefully a few birds. Staying local (in case I was overly optimistic), I went over to Horn Pond in Woburn, just a few block from where we live. The local Wood Ducks were about and the young males are just starting to get some of their gaudy color...
That red eye looks almost evil to me without the rest of their!

And the local Kingfishers were still about. I've been trying for a while now to get a good picture of one of these birds, but no matter how much I practice my ninja-birder stealth, barely making a sound, rarely even moving a twig - they still go rattlin' off to the other side of the pond when I try to snap the shutter...

But the highlight of the day were the sparrows. As I started to say above, I've always found our local community gardens a great place to look for sparrows in the fall. We are getting to the point where a lot of the plants are going to seed -a feast for the sparrows, and a good number of other birds too. Today while visiting, I saw the expected Song, Savannah, Chipping and Swamp Sparrows that you can usually rely on throughout the summer. The White-throated Sparrows that will be with us through the winter have also arrived. But this is also a good time of the year to catch a few less common ones as well.

Song Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow

Lincoln's Sparrow isn't that rare around here, but they are always nice to see...

But the highlight sparrow of the afternoon had to be the Clay-colored. Not common around here, but certainly found in migration...
I know, I know - I'm not flexing any photographic muscle on these shots, but I think they are good enough for the ID. And you think those are bad, that's nothing compared to this...

This was another less common sparrow that I saw and couldn't get the camera to focus on before it flew.
Any guesses? Any? Come on, give it a shot. I already told you it wasn't common here in New England, but we do get them. Not that it helps, but this is an immature bird, and it's pretty good size. I'll put the answer in the comments section in a few days if you want to hazard a guess.

Other birds that I saw today on my walk included a few Ring-necked Ducks, an American Coot, still a few Eastern Phoebes around, as well as a few Red-bellied Woodpeckers.

A personal highlight was getting a Eastern Screech Owl to respond to my tremolo, so I must finally be getting a little better at it. (We heard one a few weeks back in the same location when my buddy Paul did his Screech Owl imitation, which is about the best I've ever heard. If I can ever do it half a well as he can, I'll be thrilled)

Oh, and I have to admit, I often forget to try to photograph the really common birds - but every now and again, I'll remember and get something that I really like - like this photo I got of a Black-capped Chickadee.
I think that's a good point to wrap it up... Cheers!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Moonwalking Red-capped Manakins

Well, I have been stuck indoors for the last week or so, so I've not got much to post about.
What I have been able to do is spend some time doing research for a potential trip that we hope to take to Costa Rica in the spring. And in doing so, I have come across this video a few times, as this is one of the birds that I hope to see while we are there - and if we're lucky maybe even see this behavior!
It has made the rounds more than once on the birding blogs, but in case you've not seen it yet...

I'm a little put off by the addition of the music - it was cool enough without it.
A bit more info about Kimberly Bostwick's paper and work can be found here.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Bird Photography Weekly #58

Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Tyrannus savana

A beautiful bird that really and truly gets people's attention, for any of a number of reasons. The first obvious reason is that wonderful long tail. But up here in New England, this is a species that only shows up every now and again - as it's breeding range in more in Mexico and Argentina. It seems that they are given to vagrancy, as we do occasionally have one appear for a few days every few years, usually in the autumn. Nevertheless, it is a stop-press bird when one does show up. These photos are digi-scoped of a bird that showed up in coastal New Hampshire a few years back.
There is, in fact, one being seen right now on Cape Cod. I cannot go to see it, but I've seen a few photos and it is a very pretty bird. If you see this post, and you can get there, I would highly recommend keeping an eye on MassBird for latest sighting info and getting down there to see it if you can!

To see some great bird photos from around the world, check out:

Friday, October 2, 2009

Some photos... just because

If you've read some of my previous posts, you know that I've not managed to get a lot of birding in, and with my on-line galleries being off-line for a bit of time, I hadn't posted any pics in a bit. Well, the galleries are back on-line, and due to some unfortunate health concerns, I find myself at home today instead of work. While not feeling completely up to writing a lot, I wanted to post some photos from the last few weeks... nothing spectacular here - just making an effort to keep the ol' blog going for when I do have more exciting things to post (like the upcoming Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival in November, a potential trip to Costa Rica in the spring, and a trip to Peru next year with Gunnar of Kolibri Expeditions - lots more to follow soon on that last item!)

The first few photos I took a few weekends back while enjoying both birds and sculpture at the Decordova Museum with Mark Lynch and Sheila Carroll

A young Chipping Sparrow
Northern Parula - one member of a mixed flock of migrating warblers that day.
This Palm Warbler was another fall migrant, this time seen while birding with Paul and Diana at Horn Pond last weekend. The fall warblers certainly seem much less interested in showing off (and getting their pics taken) than in the spring. Much harder (for me at least) to get good pics.

And here are a few pics from the last time we visited Plum Island. I don't expect to be seeing these beautiful Great Egrets for too much longer this year...

And haven't seen these guys in a while, but last Saturday afternoon there were quite a few Merlins on the island - though never in quite the right light for photography...

That's it for now. There are a lot of great rarities in the area that I was hoping to get to see & photograph (Fork-tailed Flycatcher on the cape, Bell's Vireo in NH, Pink-footed Goose in ME) but the weekend doesn't look too promising. If I do though - you can be sure that I'll be blogging about it!!!