Thursday, July 19, 2018

Crops & Clips: Favorite outtakes

Getting out a half hour before sunrise on our local wetlands creates a photographic challenge. At first it is simply too dark. By the time we reach the lake it is about 20 minutes before sunrise, so this photo of a Great Blue Heron is not "pixel perfect." Yet, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it looked like an ink sketch.

Great Blue Heron before dawn, March 27, 2012:

Great Blue Heron before dawn HDR 20120327

A Green Heron perched against the rising sun on July 10, 2018. I liked its energetic posture:

Green Heron silhouette 01-20180710

Terribly underexposed images of Mottled Duck before sunrise, July 3, 2018:

Mottled Duck before sunrise 01-20180703

Mottled Duck before sunrise 02-20180703

Mottled Duck before sunrise 03-20180703

Even though these photos nearly ended up on the digital dustbin, they impart a serene kind of beauty in form and action, if not in feather detail.

This past week the dust blown in from Africa is working its magic, providing us with rosy pink sunrises. I like to walk out to the west end of this "peninsula" and listen as the open lake carries in the sounds of distant bird calls and songs:

The peninsula 20180716

This is the view to my left, along the eastern and southern shores:

View to southeast corner 20180716

Too much light can also be a problem. As the sun rises, the white plumage of the egrets reflects its rays and requires adjustment of the exposure. (Taken with my Canon EOS 80D with a fixed 420 mm lens system at f/5.6 and exposure of 1/800 sec, ISO 160 and compensation reduced  by 2 full stops to capture the egret's feather detail):

Great Egret 02-20180718

I have been experimenting with early morning flight shots. Luckily, at 6:42 AM yesterday (July 18), two minutes after sunrise, an adult Bald Eagle flew over the lake. It was too far away to grace the pages of "National Geographic," but I documented it for my eBird report:

Bald Eagle adult 01-0642AM 20180718

Remarkably, only four minutes later, an immature (first year) Bald Eagle flew in the same direction, almost over my head! It was the female eaglet from the nest we have been monitoring for over 8 years. Despite the short range, I did not capture much detail, but I thought the bird looked majestic just the same. Curiously, she was carrying some vegetation in her talons:

Bald Eagle immature 05-0646AM 20180718

Bald Eagle immature 07-0646AM 20180718

Last week two Pileated Woodpeckers flew by and then roosted together atop a power pole at the far end of the wetland patch:

Pileated Woodpecker males 01-20180707

Red "mustaches" identify them both as males. One hammered for a moment and then they exchanged a few unpleasant words before flying away:

Pileated Woodpecker males 02-20180707

Earlier this month I caught sight of a Bobcat as it crossed the gravel road about 1/4 mile away. I shot a burst of about a dozen images before it disappeared. They were very blurry, so I stitched some of them together to display them in sequence (click to enlarge):

 
 Bobcat composite 20180702

On July 13 I had to settle for another very "bad" photo, when the Coyote (first ever seen in this area and discovered a month earlier by my neighbor Scott) suddenly appeared along the path. 

It  stared right at me from a range of over 100 yards. As soon as I reached for the camera it turned and fled. In the space of one second I captured 5 images of its tail end before it disappeared. I will not brag about the quality of the photo, but this one is a "keeper." 

Coyote crop2 20180713

Another "first" sighting for my location this week was a Northern Curly-tailed Lizard. Native to The Bahamas, they were deliberately released in Palm Beach County to control insects in the sugar cane fields:

Curly-tailed Lizard 01-20180715

Curly-tailed Lizard 02-20180715

On my way home I stay on the (east) shady side of the road:

View to south on gravel course 20180716
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Linking to Misty's  CAMERA CRITTERS,

Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,

Linking to SKYWATCH FRIDAY by Yogi, Sylvia and Sandy

Linking to WEEKEND REFLECTIONS by James

Linking to BirdD'Pot by Anni

Linking to Our World Tuesday by Lady Fi

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday by Stewart

Linking to Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday) by NC Sue

Linking to ALL SEASONS by Jesh

________________________________________________

Please visit the links to all these memes to see some excellent photos on display

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Thursday, July 12, 2018

Common Nighthawk: Crepuscular insectivore

Most mornings, Mary Lou and I start out into the Wounded Wetlands at daybreak. More accurately, our walk usually gets underway about a half hour before sunrise. At that hour,  depending upon atmospheric conditions, the day may or may not have "broken." If the moonless sky is completely clear it can be nearly black as midnight.
  
This inexact crepuscular period known as dawn or twilight serves as mealtime for one of our common summer resident birds, the Common Nighthawk.

The male nighthawk has a bright white throat patch, which is indistinct or absent in the female:

Common Nighthawk in flight 20170611

Sunrise is still 25 minutes away, but the cloud tops are illuminated, and this is prime time for nighthawks:

View to west before sunrise 02-20180701

In mid-June, the Planet Mars shone brightly red, alone in the early morning sky, until the rotating Earth "caught up" with the full Moon, shown here about 1/2 hour before sunrise on June 29:

Strawberry Moon 02-20180629

Sunlight had not yet reached the ground when a storm cloud over the Everglades to the west caught the sun's rays. The Moon (now two days past full) appeared against a blue sky just before sunrise:

Strawberry Moon and Cumululonimbus 03-20180629

Sometimes a layer of high clouds reflects the light of the sun nearly an hour before sunrise, or storms darken the early morning or late afternoon sky, at which times nighthawks extend their foraging period.

Common Nighthawk in flight 08-20180619

Inappropriately named, the nighthawk is not a raptor. It "hawks" flying insects with its huge gaping mouth.


 Common Nighthawk 01-20180621

It sleeps most of the night like you and me and most other "birds." Its sharp nasal "peenk" call greets our ears as we step out of our front door. Walking along the gravel road, we are startled by a "boom" close overhead as a nighthawk dives down and then turns sharply upward.

Common Nighthawk in flight 02-20180619

During the day, nighthawks rest on the ground or roost longitudinally on tree branches or utility wires:

Common Nighthawk landing 03-20180622

Common Nighthawk at sunrise 20110422

Common Nighthawk on wire 20130417

Rarely, one will perch crosswise as do "normal" birds:

Common Nighthawk 20170425

There are usually three or four nighthawk nesting sites along the mile-long gravel course in our wetlands. The birds reveal them by the agitation which builds as we approach. The pair circles us, calling and booming. If someone happens to venture too close to a nest or nestling, the female may attempt to distract the intruder by flying directly towards him/her, then seeming to fall to the ground, with wings flopping and huge mouth open.

Common Nighthawk 20180702

Common Nighthawk 20130525

Common Nighthawk 2-20130525

Common Nighthawk distraction display 02-20170618

If this happens there may be danger of stepping on eggs, hatchlings or a flightless juvenile bird, as they are remarkably well camouflaged. This nest contains two eggs:

Common Nighthawk eggs 05-20170611

Here is a closer look. The eggs are deposited on bare ground:

Common Nighthawk eggs 03-20170611

The newly hatched chick can be almost invisible. I almost stepped on this one, located in the middle of the path, before the female warned me of its presence:

Common Nighthawk nestling 2-0160723

Here is a video of a Common Nighthawk distraction display:



If the video does not display in the space above, 

CLICK HERE

Nighthawks are swift and remarkably erratic flyers, executing split-second changes in direction and altitude as they spot prey items, making them extremely difficult subjects for in-flight photography. One trick which I have learned is to keep both eyes open, one looking through the camera viewfinder and the left eye tracking the bird as it zigzags through the sky.This takes some practice as my brain compensates for the parallax between the apparent position of the real bird as compared to its image, similar to the way a heron's brain corrects for parallax which causes a fish to appear nearer and closer to the surface. (Does this mean I have developed a "bird brain?") .

My gallery of processed Common Nighthawk photos numbers over 300, but each of the flight shots represents at least 5-10 times as many attempts-- empty frames of sky and clouds, wing and tail tips, and blurry images. The difficulty is compounded by the poor light conditions. Even with my camera's light sensitivity cranked all the way up (ISO 16,000) and exposure compensation increased to overcome the glare from the sky, I must wait until sunrise for sufficient light, then reduce the ISO as the sky brightens up, allowing the camera to set the exposure, between 1/2000 and 1/3000 second, to stop their movement.

= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

Linking to Misty's  CAMERA CRITTERS,

Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,

Linking to SKYWATCH FRIDAY by Yogi, Sylvia and Sandy

Linking to WEEKEND REFLECTIONS by James

Linking to BirdD'Pot by Anni

Linking to Our World Tuesday by Lady Fi

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday by Stewart

Linking to Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday) by NC Sue

Linking to ALL SEASONS by Jesh


________________________________________________

Please visit the links to all these memes to see some excellent photos on display

________________________________________________

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Crops & Clips: Flashback to July, 2015

Once again, I am digging into the photo archives from three years ago, and finding images to depict my favorite memes: critters of all kinds, clouds, skies, reflections, fences, the seasons -- and scenes that speak for themselves. We started out the month at our condo in NE Illinois.

The creek in Glenwood Park, Batavia, on July 2:

Creek at Glenwood Park HDR 20150702

Butterfly Weed at Lippold Park:

Butterfly weed at Lippold Park 20150702

Yellow and gold adorned the prairie and its inhabitants.

American Goldfinch:

American Goldfinch 2-20150714

American Goldfinch 20150702

Common Yellowthroat:

Common Yellowthroat 5-20150703

Male Bobolink:

Bobolink male 20150703

Female Bobolink:

Bobolink female 20150703

Dickcissel:

Dickcissel 2-20150708

Eastern Meadowlark:

Eastern Meadowlark 20150712

Cedar Waxwing:

Cedar Waxwing 2-20150703

Black-eyed Susan:

Black-eyed Susan 20150712

Sunburst and clouds over Nelson Lake in Batavia:

Nelson Lake path HDR 20150714

We returned to Florida in mid-July, but found gold here as well, in this Needham's Skimmer:

.Needham's Skimmer 20150720

A Great Egret reflected on the lake's still surface:

Little Blue Heron 2-20150720

White Peacock:

White Peacock 2-20150720

A Wild Hibiscus bloomed at Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge:

Swamp Hibiscus 20150722

Smooth-billed Anis nested at Loxahatchee:

Smooth-billed Ani 2-20150722

Close-up crop of the ani:

Smooth-billed Ani detail 20150722

Buttermilk sky over the local Wounded Wetlands on July 30:

Buttermilk Sky HDR 20150730

End-of-month Phaon Crescent:

Phaeon Crescent, 20150729

= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

Linking to Misty's  CAMERA CRITTERS,

Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,

Linking to SKYWATCH FRIDAY by Yogi, Sylvia and Sandy

Linking to WEEKEND REFLECTIONS by James

Linking to BirdD'Pot by Anni

Linking to Our World Tuesday by Lady Fi

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday by Stewart

Linking to Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday) by NC Sue

Linking to ALL SEASONS by Jesh

 Linking to Fences Around the World by Gosia

________________________________________________

Please visit the links to all these memes to see some excellent photos on display

________________________________________________