Purple Finch, Kennebunk, Maine, USA — I continue to be amazed at the success of my backyard photo blind project…way beyond my expectations. I spend about 2 hours there each day when the weather allows, mostly in the late afternoon when the light is at its best. While I am, of course, missing all the birds that do not come to our yard (warblers in particular this time of year and the more obvious shore and water birds, not to mention raptors) I am seeing lots of birds I did not expect from my casual feeder watching in previous years. The Purple Finches are among them. We rarely had them at the feeders on the deck, but this year we have them daily at the feeders by the blind. For a while there I was not seeing the adult male, but he has been coming the past few days, several times a day. Yesterday I had the immense privilege of watching him do his mating display. He was moving rapidly and not sitting anywhere long, and I did not get to the video button in time for video, but I got many stills of his various poses. The Purple Finch display is a mix of begging postures…wings drooped and fluttering rapidly, chin up, just like a nestling…and aggressive displays with his crest raised and his back arched and his tail cocked up. It is really something to see! You will want to view the still image as big as you can make it. 🙂 I am also posting a short animation of the action. Though this is the best of 4 attempts, the frames are not perfectly aligned and at 4 frames per second, it does not capture the wing fluttering at all, but you can see the rapid changes in posture and attitude. Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos. Video assembled in ImgPlay.
House Wren, Kennebunk, Maine, USA — I am hoping this House Wren will attract a mate and nest in our yard, or one of the neighboring yards. It has been vocal on occasion and will respond to a recording of its song. I already had some grab shot photos of it on the feeder…just perching, not feeding, and I was delighted when it worked the area under the feeders and came this close. Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos. And I did catch it singing, though from within a bramble.
In the past year I have taken three trips to California: San Diego, Sonoma, and Arcata. I have also been in Columbus, Ohio and twice, spring and fall, to the Erie shore. I have spent time in Nevada, Texas, and New Mexico in the west. Trips to Alabama and North Dakota span the mid-section. Space Coast in Florida, Optics sales in Massachusetts, Long Island in New York, and Cape May in New Jersey. Closer to home I got to Acadia National Park in June, and spent many happy hours chasing dragonflies and the play of light across the landscape. I was in Montreal Canada in March, and the midlands of England, Southern Germany, and northern Holland in August. It has, as always, been an amazing year.
I continue to shoot with the Canon SX50HS for wildlife, but this year I added the Samsung Smart Cameras, first the W270F and the the W800F, for scenics and any time I need to process quickly. By the end of the year almost all my processing was being done in various apps, primarily Snapseed, on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014.
So if you have 17 minutes, and would like to join me for a New Year celebration of my past year in images…
It is not often that you see a Wood Thrush, let alone see one singing out in plain sight. This one was no more than 20 feet from the boardwalk yesterday at Magee Marsh and delighted a small group of birders at the Biggest Week in American Birding for a good 20 minutes before moving on. It was a one of those moments that will be remembered, and treasured, by all who shared it (with the possible exception of the Wood Thrush).
I even remembered to shoot some video so you can hear the song.
Canon SX50HS. Program with iContrast and Auto Shadow Control. -1/3EV exposure compensation. 1800mm equivalent field of view. Video was handheld.
And for the Sunday thought. Despite threatening rain, poor light, and low temperatures, yesterday was as good as I have ever seen Magee Marsh. There were warblers, sparrows, natcatchers, flycatchers, thrushes, tanagers, orioles, grosbeaks, egrets…everywhere. They were down low and close in to the boardwalk. It was very special. Among the huge crowd of birders, there was a hush. Gone were the mobs gathered to see a single good bird that clogged the boardwalk during the past week (as well as the shouted instructions of the professional guides). There were clumps of birders where there were clumps of birds, but never such a crush that you could not pass…and never such a crush that you could not see. Twice I had warblers working and feeding within arm’s reach. You could stand in one place and watch 10 warblers of 3 species glean the fresh leaves for bugs. I came back after a 90 minute loop once around the boardwalk feeling satisfyingly full of birds, full of delight…content…deeply happy. What a gift!
And it was not a feeling you had to be a birder to appreciate. Many, maybe a majority, of the people on the boardwalk yesterday were civilians…folks for whom birding is not a major preoccupation or recreation…just plain folks drawn by the rumor (and the media accounts) of something special happening at Magee Marsh on International Migration Day. And they were in the zone! They were just as delighted and just as amazed as those of us who could actually identify the birds we were seeing. You didn’t even really need binoculars or any skill with them. The birds were that close! A treat, a blessing, anyone with eyes and ears could appreciate.
Hence the hush. The happy low current of laughter. The occasional quiet cry of outright delight. Surrounded by bird song and birds in motion, the humans just naturally fell into an attitude of true worship. Souls opened. Delight flowed in and out with every breath. People smiled at each other…smiled at the birds…smiled at the songs…smiled in themselves. And we knew, every one of us, that we were in the presence of a miracle…in the zone of the holy…caught in a flow of love that can only be called divine.
I, for one, wish church could be like that more than it is. That is all it would take, really, to put faith back at the center of lives. Just a regular dose of deep delight in the presence of wonder!
As I mentioned, one of my goals for this trip to North Dakota, was to get a good shot of a Yellow-headed Blackbird. I did not know that when I left home. I only discovered it after seeing the first YHBB of the trip and realizing that, despite several attempts in the past, I still did not have a good image of a YHBB. North Dakota was obliging!
I now have my fill of YHBB (for now…YHBB is like Chinese…you are hungry again soon 🙂 )
And for the video fans in the house, here is a snippet.
Canon SX40HS. Program with iContrast and –1/3EV exposure compensation. 1680mm equivalent field of view (840mm optical zoom plus 2x digital tel-converter). f5.8 @ 1/400th @ ISO 100. Processed in Lightroom for intensity, clarity, and sharpness.
The video is at 1240mm equivalent, hand-held, with the Canon SX40HS.
Limpkins are highly adapted feeders. They live almost exclusively on Apple Snails, which they find in muddy bottoms by feel of beak or feet, then carry to shallow water or the shore to eat. Adult Limpkins use the specially adapted scissor or tweezer-like end of the beak to cut the Apple Snail out of it shell, often in several bits, picking the inside of the shell clean. You find the clean, empty shells on shore wherever Limpkins have been feeding. They also eat a few other kinds of less abundant snails, some seeds, and the occasional small frog…but Apple Snails are what they are made to eat.
This Limpkin, at Viera Wetlans in Melbourne FL, was totally oblivious to me, standing maybe 15 feet up on the dyke, as it dispatched the Apple Snail…not a big Apple Snail by Florida standards. It took it about 5 minutes to get the snail out of its shell, and then it was gone in one glup (see the snippet of video). And then the Limpkin headed back toward deeper water and more snails.
All shots with the Canon SX40HS at 650mm equivalent field of view. f5.8 @ 1/640th @ ISO 200. Program with iContrast and –1/3 EV exposure compensation.
Processed in Lightroom for intensity, clarity, and sharpness. Video processed in Sony Vegas.
After my last wren gaff (misidentifying a Winter as a House in print!) I am checking this one twice (three times even) but I am pretty confident this is a Carolina Wren…despite the fact that it was making a not familiar sound for a Carolina…and despite the white tips showing on the wing feathers. I assume the feather tips are because the bird was fluffed funny and the call was just one I have not heard, in my very limited experience of Carolinas, before. They don’t get up to Maine so I only see them while traveling. It happens that in the past year I have seen, and photographed, several, but this has been a strange year all around. 🙂
Taken with the Canon SD100HS through the eyepiece of a ZEISS DiaScope 65FL spotting scope. The day was deteriorating fast with heavy cloud cover coming in and a threat of rain, but there was still enough light for 1/100th second at ISO 250, at the equivalent field of view of a 2240mm lens on a full frame DSLR (f6 effective). This is impressive focusing for auto focus on a Point and Shoot.
Processed in Lightroom for Intensity and Sharpness.
And, a snip of video shot with the same setup. On my last Canon I had to fiddle with the control button, but there is a dedicated video button on the 100HS that makes it easy. Hopefully I will remember to hit it more often.
I was taken with the way the little wind waves distorted the reflections of the fall foliage in the corner of this small pond and attempted to capture it several times. It was a natural abstract. Auto focus was tricky but it locked on the reflection if I caught a still moment. I also shot a short video clip which captures more of what the eye would see…and makes it less of an abstract.
Canon SX40HS at 112mm equivalent field of view, f4.5 @ 1/60th @ ISO 200. Program with iContrast.
Processed in Lightroom for Clarity and Sharpness.
The video is just as it came from the camera (and as processed by YouTube on upload). The sound is a mixture of wind and cars on the road behind me. You might want to mute it.
On my last stop on the way out of Henriticus City Park in Chester VA, on the deck overlooking the only open water in the old oxbow marsh, I heard this Carolina Wren singing up a storm in the trees on either side, but, though I tried several times, I could never locate it. Carolina Wren is one of my challenge birds. I don’t see them often, and, though I have several shots and a bit of video, I still don’t have a shot that really satisfies me. Still there was lots to take in on the sunset marsh, and I was using the zoom to frame everything from the broad expanse to little bits of marshy abstract pattern. When I turned to leave, I caught a glimpse of movement down low in the trees under the deck. Sure enough the wren was skulking in fairly dense cover down there. Then it finally popped up in the open and I zoomed out to 840mm equivalent and got on it. I had little hope the new camera would be able to lock focus. It was dark in there, and there was no shot clear of some obstructions in the foreground, so I was surprised when the green focus indicator popped up on the second try with the bird sharp beyond the foreground twigs. Life is good. I took several shots, and then remembered to shoot a bit of video. Handheld video at 840mm equivalent…right! I am totally amazed at how good the image stabilization on the Canon SX40is is. Though I wandered a bit, there is no camera jitter. Amazing.
Canon SX40is at 840mm equivalent field of view. Both shots f5.8 @ 1/100th @ ISO 800. (Again, impressive to be able to hand-hold 840mms at 1/100th of a second…and I am really pleased with the image quality at ISO 800 in relatively difficult lighting.)
Processed in Lightroom for Intensity, Clarity, and Sharpness. Cropped slightly for image scale and composition.
And here is the video, after processing for Sharpness and Contrast in Sony Vegas. The original is full HD. You can see this in 720p.
They don’t call it a Song Sparrow for nothing! Few birds I know of sing with such absolute energy as the Song Sparrow. He tips back his head, opens his beak, and launches the song toward the sky. I know the dangers and failings of anthropomorphizing, but the Song Sparrow certainly appears to take joy in singing…and pride in being the loudest male on the patch.
Song Sparrows are everywhere this time of year within a mile of the coast, wherever there is a patch of Beach Rose clinging to the dune or the rock.
Canon SD4000IS behind the 20-75x Vario Eyepiece on the ZEISS DiaScope 85FL for the equivalent field of view of a 1700mm lens on a full frame DSLR, 1/640th @ ISO 125, f4 effective.
Processed in Lightroom for Clarity and Sharpness.
And here is a bonus pose at about 3500mm equivalent field of view. Followed by a snippet of video of this and a second bird.