Thursday, December 12, 2019

Crops & Clips: November potpourri

Finally, we have had a male Ruby-throated Hummingbird visit our backyard feeder. For several years all have been females-- not that I object, but I did wish to get one which shows this species' most prominent feature, a colorful throat patch. To see it, the light must be just right. 

The color of a hummingbird's gorget (an old  term which described the metal protective collar worn by a knight in armor) is due to iridescence. The otherwise dark feathers are coated with tiny lens-like platelets which reflect and refract the light when facing the light source:

Ruby-throated Hummingbird 05-20191117

"Look this way, please..."

Ruby-throated Hummingbird 03-20191117

This is a female out in the wild area:

Ruby-throated Hummingbird 20191127

Getting out early helps us avoid the heat of day, but poses photographic challenges. Low light requires high sensitivity (ISO) settings which produce very blurry images. Up until  about 15 minutes before sunrise, the best I can hope for is a shot which will  help me identify a bird in flight or sitting on the top of a tree against the morning sky. The combination of fog and darkness obscures the fine feather marking but sometimes produces pleasing effects. This Great Blue Heron was patiently fishing in the wet prairie in morning twilight:

Great Blue Heron in fog 20191120

A Great Egret flying over before sunrise picks up color but looks a bit "grainy:"

Great Egret before sunrise 01-20191125

I was surprised at how a camera can sometimes "see in the dark."  Twenty minutes before sunrise on November 16, the wind was blowing as a cold front approached, I captured this view with my little pocket camera, a PowerShot SX700 HS. Its image stabilization produced a fairly sharp image with an exposure of only 1/20 second at ISO 1000, hand-held:

Cold Front sunrise minus 20 min 4-20191116

Only 10 minutes later, when my DSLR was still set for flying birds (ISO cranked all the way up to 16,000 and at an exposure of 1/50 second) I saw the form of a Coyote loping downwind along the gravel road towards me. The resolution of the photo was horrible, but I think the experience was worth sharing:

Coyote 01-20191116

Perhaps the Coyote heard the clicking of my shutter or recognized my profile against the shrubs behind me, but he suddenly pulled up and fled:

Coyote 04-20191116  

This as another DSLR "shot in the dark," of a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron in deep shade exactly at sunrise. It seems counter-intuitive, but I had to decrease exposure compensation (i.e., tell the lens not to try so hard to brighten the scene) to bring the exposure speed up to 1/50 second at ISO 1500, hand-held:

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron 01-20191130

The first rays soften the white plumage of another Great Egret:

Great Egret 01-20191130

So much for all the blurry stuff. A real treat was this male American Kestrel which greeted me later every morning for more than a week. My problem was that I had to approach him with the sun at his back. This required a rather circular approach to avoid getting too close as I passed the bird. I did take "insurance" photos even when the light was behind him in the event he decided to fly off, as often happened. 

In this shot I moved to place the trunk of a palm tree behind the bird, hoping it would provide some contrast with the light quartering from behind it:

American Kestrel 01-20191125

A few more steps provided side-lighting as the bird ruffled his feathers, preparing to flee:

American Kestrel 05-20191126

Here he is in full light, against the blue sky:

American Kestrel 01-20191126

The local Bald Eagles were getting ready to raise a new family. On November 26, when I arrived at their nest at about 8:30 AM the female (Jewel) was roosting on the nest support branch just in front of the nest. I checked usual roosts but found no other eagle present. The nest appeared to be empty.

Bald Eagle female 01-20191126

At 8:57 AM the male (Pride) flew in from behind the nest with an unidentified prey item. He left the prey in the nest and the female joined him and started eating. 

Bald Eagle female and male 03-0191126
Bald Eagle female and male 02-0191126

Pride then flew up to the same branch which had been occupied by Jewel. The female continued eating. They both then flew up to a perch above and just left (east) of the nest.

Bald Eagle female joins male 04-0191126
Bald Eagle male and female move higher in tree 06-0191126
Bald Eagle male and female move higher in tree 07-0191126

They began calling and then copulated at 9:19 AM.

Bald Eagle copulating 05-20191126
Bald Eagle copulating 04-20191126

Following this they roosted side by side. They remained in this position when I departed at around 10:00 AM. 

Bald Eagles after copulating 06-20191126

Their first egg was deposited on or about  November 30, and the first eaglet should hatch after 5 weeks, around January 4.

My new iPhone 11 Pro MAX takes very nice low-light photos. This was the wet prairie about 10 minutes before sunrise. A Great Egret and several White Ibises are foraging:

North wet prairie iPhone 01-20191208

A view of the Pine Bank and the east shore marsh in the foreground, before the sun has touched the treetops:

Pine Bank and east marsh 20191208

= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

Linking to Misty's  CAMERA CRITTERS,

Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,

Linking to SKYWATCH FRIDAY by Yogi, Sylvia and Sandy


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


  1. Great set of photos. I do love all the birds of prey and the kestrel is so pretty. Having said that I wish we had humming birds here. Have a good day, Diane

  2. Great photos!
    Love the Kestrel! I have never seen one in the wild, only at a bird rehab place.
    Have a wonderful weekend!

  3. It's amazing you got 3 shots of a hummingbird just sitting!

  4. I like the shot of the Great Blue Heron in the fog. And beautiful sky shots!

  5. Such a great morning... getting up and out early is the magic ingredient. And the one I’m unable to include in my life. Thank you for letting me go virtual birding with you. (The other ingredient I’m missing is your photographic talent ). I really can imagine being along on your walk as I read your post.

  6. wow! wonderful photo series of our feathered and furry friends and sky shots too!

    Happy Moments to You,
    A ShutterBug Explores,
    aka (A Creative Harbor)

  7. Great series of bird photos. Always good to see the eagles.

  8. Hello, I love the beautiful landscapes. The birds are gorgeous, awesome captures of the Eagles. I love the Kestrel, Great Egret and the YC Night Heron too. Lovely collection of photos. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Happy Saturday, enjoy your weekend.

  9. Great action shots of the coyote. Love all the eagle photos.

  10. Stunning. All your pics. I especially like the GBH photo...very moody.

    Sorry for being tardy visiting today. Internet connection issues. Thanks for joining us at I'd Rather B Birdin

  11. I always like your wildlife photos but today my favorite is the bottom photo.

  12. Love your captures, also the grainy ones, because of the lack of light - like that of the coyote! Still clear enough the see the shiny green wings of the male hummingbird:) And your photo visits of the eagles are always so interesting for All Seasons!
    Many thanks of the description of preparation for Christmas you gave in your comment! You are a versatile person (probably because you are a doctor). never thought someone interested in birds could be so socially oriented :) Ever thought of writing a book about your trips in nature? If they are interesting to someone like I, who knows nothing of birds, it might be a treat to others too! Have a beautiful December week:)

  13. I've never seen lighting like you caught in the photos of the egrets. So beautiful.

  14. If I had hummers of any sort or gender in my garden, I would never get to work! (and that would be a good thing!).

    Cheers - Stewart M - Paris, France

  15. Great series of photos! I always enjoy "looking through your lens".
    Thank you for joining us this week at

  16. Wonderful images! Thanks for sharing some techniques.

  17. wonderful Photos!!!These are all impressive scenes!!!
    Happy New Years,
    greetings Elke


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