On our first morning of the ZEISS Digiscoping workshop with the Yellowstone Forever Institute in Yellowstone National Park, when everyone was still getting their sea legs with the digiscoping rigs, we stopped for this American Bald Eagle that posed in perfect light for as long as we wanted to work with it. As we watched, a pair of Magpies came to harass it. The Eagle was not about to budge, even when the Magpies pulled its tail, but it made for some interesting photo ops. 🙂 Sony a6500 with 20mm f2.8 behind the eyepiece of the ZEISS Harpia with the zoom set to about 2.5. That would compute to about 50x on the scope and about a 1000mm equivalent focal length. Program mode on the Sony. Processed in Polarr.
I am just back from 5 days in Yellowstone National Park, where Melissa Pinta and I taught a ZEISS digiscoping workshop for the Yellowstone Forever Institute. These are from our first wildlife encounter in the park (not counting the Elk on the lawns at the entrance in Gardner). We were headed for the Lamar Buffalo Ranch where the workshop was to be held and came on this small group of American Bison in the beautiful light of late afternoon. As we watched, the sun came over the group and we had to unpack the ZEISS Harpia spotting scopes and tripods from our luggage and set up…it was after all, a digiscoping weekend. 🙂 The first shot is with my Sony a5100 and the 18mm equivalent ultra wide before the cloud moved, and the second shot is digiscoped with the ZEISS Harpia 85mm and the Sony a6500 with the 20mm f2.8 (kindly provided by Sony for the workshop). The two images were taken from the same spot. Digiscoping, for those unfamiliar with the term, is the art of taking a photo with a digital camera through the eyepiece of a spotting scope, generally using some kind of mount or adapter to hold the camera (even your phone) centered over the eyepiece. ZEISS provides such an adapter for Mirrorless Camera Systems, like the Sony aXXXX series. The equivalent focal length, and magnification, can be much greater than you can get with a conventional camera lens, and, of course, especially if you use your phone, it is quick easy once you have the scope set up to just grab an extreme telephoto view. The way I do it is still Point and Shoot…since I let the camera do all the work of exposure and final focus. 🙂
Villa Carmen Biological Station also has a feeding area and blind where several species of Tinamous come in. This is the Undulated Tinamou, the only one we saw during our visit. But then, any clear sighting of a Tinamou is to be treasured. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Anti-motion Blur Mode. Processed in Polarr.
I mentioned how impressed I was with the numbers of insects using the endangered Northern Blazing Star boom on the Kennebunk Plains Wildlife Management Area here in southern Maine this week. Here are 4 leps (to add to the White-lined Sphinx Moth posted earlier). Painted Lady, Common Wood-nymph, Monarch, and what I think is a Wandering Gem moth. Something very Gem like anyway. The moth was tiny…it just covered the tip of my finger. Sony RX10iv at 600 and 1200mm equivalent (1200 at 2X Clear Image Zoom). Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and assembled in Framemagic.
One of the highlights of the Manu Road on the eastern slopes of the Andes in southern Peru has to be the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock. The Cock-of-the-Rock is a member of the Cotinga family of birds, found at cloud forest levels in the Andes from Columbia to Bolivia. It is at least unofficially the national bird of Peru, and certainly emblematic among the birds of South America and the Andes. It is the must-see bird in any visit to the Manu Road. Fortunately, Andean Cock-of-the-Rocks are leking birds…the males gather twice a day in favored patches of forest to display. During mating season, which varies depending on how far south you go, the males are attempting to attract females and the displays are both energetic and spectacular. The rest of the year, they are just showing off for each other. The leking seems to be tied to the level of the light…and the males gather in early morning and late afternoon…later on dark mornings and earlier on dark afternoons. I am told that the best of the leks along the Manu Road was lost to a landslide several years ago, so almost everyone who sees the Cock-of-the-Rock in the Manu region sees it at the lek just above Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge. You can make a reservation to visit the hide (or blind) in the morning or afternoon. Our reservation was for the afternoon, at 4PM. We arrived at Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge at lunch time, and I watched as the clouds moved in, with a light rain, by 3PM. I was concerned that it was going to be too dark and too wet for photography, and we talked about canceling and coming back another day. We consulted with the keeper of the lek. He did not hold out much hope for better light on any day in our time-frame on the Manu Road, so, in the end, we kept our appointment. The hide at the lek is covered, which is a good thing, and it actually stopped raining by 3:30. The light levels were low, but I set the Sony RX10iv for Anti-motion Blur mode…designed for just such situations…and hoped for the best. Perhaps due to the weather, there were only a handful of other people in the blind that afternoon. The first male arrived only moments after we got in position, and over the next hour or so a few more came in to challenge him. We did not see any face to face displays, at least where you could see both birds, and the males stayed pretty much deep in the foliage, but it was still one of those experiences were I had to keep reminding myself to breathe. I could have, perhaps, gotten better shots on another day…but I am happy with what I got. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Anti-motion Blur Mode. Processed in Polarr.
My friend Stef and I took a loop out through the Kennebunk Plains Wildlife Management Area yesterday to take in, among other things, the last of the Northern Blazing Star bloom. Blazing Star is endangered in Maine and the Plains are one of its last strongholds. I was reminded just how important a resource it is. Besides flocks of busy Goldfinches and Pine Warblers, the Blazing Star along Day Brook Pond was full of insects…butterflies and moths and bees and flies. When I first saw this White-lined Sphinx Moth I took it for one of the Clearwings. I have seen both Snowberry and Hummingbird Clearwings working the Blazing Star in the past. A closer look showed that despite similar size and behavior, this was a different moth. No transparent wings. I had to look it up when I got home. The White-lined Sphinx, like many Hawk moths, is mostly nocturnal, and mostly seen early and late, during dawn and dusk, so I can be forgiven for assuming it was a Clearwing. If I remember correctly, my only other sighting was years ago by artificial light on our back deck, feeding on the potted plants we keep there, when I, like many others, called it a Hummingbird Moth because of its size and behavior. (That name actually belongs to the Clearwing.) The White-lined Sphinx Moth occupies a huge range, all of North America and parts of Central America, and there are apparently known populations in Europe, Asia, and Africa. This one was very cooperative, working the same patch of Blazing Star for 15 minutes or more, and coming in close enough for lots of photos, before zooming off in search of a new patch of flowers. Sony RX10iv at 1200mm equivalent (2x Clear Image Zoom). Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr.
By the time we left the Cock-of-the-Rock lek above Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge on the Manu Road in the Andes of southern Peru, it was already early evening. As I remember it, we were still walking down to the van, which was parked several hundred yards from the entrance to the lek, down the road at a little pull-out, when Pepe, my guide, called out Umbrellabird! The Umbrellabird is one of the Cotingas, closely related to the Cock-of-the-Rock, and the male, when in breeding plumage and displaying, is just as spectacular in its own way. The umbrella is truly impressive. Not that I would know from personal experience. This is a female. Still, Umbrellabird is listed as uncommon in the foothills and flood plains of the Amazon, more common in the north than in the south, and “most often seen in flight, crossing rivers” so I am happy to have seen this perched bird at all! Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Anti-motion Blur mode. (The camera takes 3-4 exposures and intelligently stacks them.) Processed in Polarr.
“If your eye is generous, your whole being is full of light!” Jesus
I don’t know about you, but I have never enjoyed a clear blue sky. I far prefer my skies to have some “drama” in the form of clouds. Of course, I don’t enjoy the pouring rain either, unless I am safe inside, but a few clouds, strategically placed, or even a really interesting layer of cloud with some sun showing through, or at the extreme, a storm sky coming on fast…that is my ideal sky. I never tire of the interplay of light and shadow that is the weather. And I have never convinced myself that a clear blue sky day is weather at all. I think of it, whether summer or winter, whether the earth is green under or white, pretty much as the absence of weather.
Which I think, overall, is a pretty good attitude to have. Things being what they are, in this world (at least where I live) it seems we have have more cloudy days than blue skies…and at least as many outright stormy days as completely clear. And that is just talking about the external weather. If we turn the conversation toward the spiritual, then, even more so (again, at least from where I live) you have to expect some clouds and even maybe a storm in any given five-day-outlook. It is just the way the world is. It is just the way we are in the world.
The trick is in knowing that God is in the clouds as much as in the sun…that God is in the storms as much as in the sunny days. More! At least that is the way I see it. In the clouds and storms we see God at work…whether we are talking about the external or the interior weather. In the clouds and storms God is continuously remaking and renewing creation. The clouds and storms are God’s blessing made real…God’s work in us and in the world made visible in ways we can not miss. Or at least that is what I am thinking right now. I will have to try to remember that the next time I get caught out in a downpour, or blown away by wind too strong, or swept up in a tornado that seems to never end. Should any such weather come my way…I will have to try to remember that I really do like clouds.
The Sparkling Violetears at the Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge gardens, on the Manu Road in the Andes of southern Peru, were attempting to dominate the feeders. They zoomed in from their observation posts whenever another hummingbird dared to approach any feeder. On occasion, they even faced off with each other over the ownership. This shot and the video complication below are examples of that. The other Sparkling Violetear is out of the shot, obviously, up and to the right. The video contains shots of the same bird on two different perches, but in conflict with the same opponent. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr. Video compiled in ImgPlay.
As with yesterday’s White-bellied Woodstar, the Wire-crested Thorntail did not show up until after the cloud forest clouds had begun to drift across the garden at Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge, late in the afternoon, on the Manu Road in the Andes of southern Peru. And I only saw it that once. We were told it favored the flowers at one end of the deck, but that patch was being guarded by a particularly aggressive Sparkling Violetear. The Thorntail apparently had to wait until the Violetear was off chasing another intruder, well away from the flowers, to risk coming in. Of course it could have come in several other times when I was not looking, but I did keep my eye out for it most of the afternoon. This was a case of turn and shoot, and I got a burst of maybe ten shots off before the hummer disappeared back into the brush and trees around the garden. These are the best. Sony RX10iv at 1200mm equivalent (2x Clear Image Zoom). Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr.