California Darners!

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It is still, possibly, weeks before the first real Dragonfly hatch in Southern Maine. I will get out to check the ponds today. I did, however, get my first dragonfly fix of the season in California this past week with this pair of what I make to be California Darners from Arcata Marsh Wildlife Center. Fine specimens and the first test of my new camera rig on dragonflies. I think it might work : )

Olympus OM-D E-M10 with 75-300mm zoom. 600mm equivalent. At least 2 of these use the 2x digital extender for 1200mm equivalent field of view. Shutter preferred. 1/800th @ f6.7 @ various ISO. Processed in Snapseed on my tablet. Assembled in Pixlr Express.

Purple Gallinule!

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The Purple Gallinule is not particularly a hard bird to see. You just have to be in the right place in its limited range at the right time. It is just that I never seem to be there. I saw a male in Florida on my first birding trip there 11 years ago, and a female two trips back, but other than that…nada. So to say that I was excited to see one at the Smith’s Oaks rookery on High Island Texas is an understatement. I got some shots of it peaking and poking among the vegitation, but just before I left, it popped up on top for just a few seconds and I got off a few full body shots. I did not have time, even, to shift the camera out of flight mode, so the rapidly moving bird is not tack sharp. Not the best, but my best so far!

Olympus OM-D E-M10 with 75-300mm zoom. 600mm equivalent. ISO 400 @ 1/250th @ f6.7. Processed in Snapseed on my tablet.

Smith’s Oaks Spoonbills

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We will drop back this morning…a week and a bit…to my visit to the Rookery at Smith’s Oaks on High Island in Texas. I have seen Spoonbills nesting before but never in the numbers that frequent High Island. I took the opportunity to practice my flight shot techniques,  since I had numbers of cooperative subjects. There are really few birds as striking as a Roseate Spoonbill in full breeding plumage. Odd. But still striking. :-)

Olympus OM-D E-M10 with 75-300mm zoom. 600mm equivalent. My custom flight program. Processed in Snapseed on my tablet. Assembled in Pixlar Express.

Nesting Building among Wrens

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Along the edge of one of the ponds at Arcata Marsh Nature Center there was a male Marsh Wren guarding territory and building a nest every 100 feet or so. We had a chance to compare three males working closely together. Nearest the corner of the pond was Macho Wren. He seemed to think that zipping rapidly back and forth across the corner of the pond, singing loudly (and not very musically), with his tail cooked up tight over his back in maximum excitement posture would win him a female, even though we never saw him actually do any work on a nest. Next down the shore was The Rookie. Clearly a first year male, this wren picked up the right materials and brought them to the nest site, but generally dropped them before getting them into the nest. He had read the instructions in his genetic code…but did not quite understand the point of them. Finally we had Home Depot Wren, utterly competent, filled with porpose, building not just a nest but a castle. He never dropped a thing. He was weaving a base of wet reeds and roots of cattail pulled up from below the water line. I suspect it will be waterproof when dry, and lining and thatching it will cattail down. The roof arched up several inches. Spacious accommodation for a growing family! And, on each trip out for materials, he took time to find a reed and sing his best song! Now that is my kind of Wren! I hope the females of his species recognize and reward his efforts. He deserves to pass on his genes.

I have to say…for me, there are few things in life more filled with quiet joy than an intimate view of a Wren building a nest.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 with 75-300mm zoom. 600mm equivalent. Shutter preferred. 1/800th @ f7.1 @ various ISOs to suit. Processed in Snapseed on my tablet. Assembled in Pixlar Express.

Ring out the News! Happy Easter!

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Shout it out. Sing it out. He is risen. He lives! And because he is risen we live. Because he lives our lives are a celebration. If only we could be always as simple (and as infectious) as the wren!

Happy Easter.

Marsh Wren Trimuphant!

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They call the festival “Godwit Days”, and when the migrating Godwits are in the bay on the mud flats in their 300,000s, it certainly justifies the name, but Arcata California in the spring will, for me, forever be about the Marsh Wren. I know of no where with a similar abundance of wrens. On a good day, there is a singing male every 30 feet or so along the cattail shore of many of the ponds at Arcata Marsh Nature Center at the edge of town. This year they seem to be past establishing territory. Most of the males I saw were collecting nest materials, and only taking a few moments out to sing over their work. That still gave me several opportunities to shoot the singing males on reed tops or sharp folds in last year’s leaves.

On a good day, the spring light in Arcata is also just right for wrens…with just enough warmth to bring out the rich hues of the plumage.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 with 75-300mm zoom. 600mm equivalent. 3 of the 4 with 2x digital extender for 1200mm equivalent field of view. Shutter preferred. 1/800th @ ISO 400 @ f7.1. Processed in Snapseed on my tablet. Assembled in Pixlar Express.

Texas Paintbrush

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My day on the Bolivar Peninsula was mostly dreary weather-wise, but the light was excellent for photographing detail, as in these Texas Paintbrush flowers that lined many of the roads at the tip of the peninsula. After I had passed about my dozenth stand of them, I managed to get the car off the road in a sheltered spot and take a few photos. They are beautiful flowers, intense enough for even a dull day.

Sony NEX 3NL with 16-50mm zoom. Wide angle view at 24 mm equivalent . Close up at 75 mm with macro. The main challenge with the macro was, as is often the case, the wind. Processed in Snapseed on my tablet.

Avenue of the Giants

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Switching gears from the Gulf Coast of Texas to the coast of Northern Californica, I am in Arcata CA for Godwit Days. I always fly to San Francisco (it is expensive to fly to Arcata) and drive half way up Rt 101, stay the night in Ukiah, and then drive up through the Redwood forests of Humboldt Redwoods State Park the next morning. My yearly dose of Redwoods. There is a road that parallels 101 called the Avenue of the Giants…which winds through the major Groves of the Park in the valley of the Eel River. Miles of huge trees and dappled light.

Sony NEX 3NL with 16-50mm zoom. 24mm equivalent. Processed in Snapseed on my tablet for HDR effect. Assembled in Pixlar Express.

Twofer on Rails.

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I don’t see many Rails in Maine. The Sora, a least should be there, but, evidently I am not often where it is. So when a friend told me about an easy Sora in a ditch along 8 Mile road on Galveston Island while I was at Feather Fest last week, I had to go see. And wouldn’t you now, while photographing the Sora (which was as easy as promised) what should wander out in same section of ditch but a Clapper Rail. The Clapper is much more restricted in its range, and, according to the range maps, does not reach Maine at all, so it was a real treat.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 with 75-300mm zoom. 600mm equivalent. Shutter preferred. 1/800th @ ISO 640 and 1600 @ f6.7. Processed in Snapseed on my tablet. Assembled in Pixlar Express.

Nest Building Egrets

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As I mentioned yesterday, I had an amazing Sunday on the Bolivar Peninsula, starting with yesterday’s canopy feeding Reddish Egret, moving on through Skimmers, Gulls, and Terns at Rollover, and finishing up with a visit to the rookery at Smith’s Oaks on High Island. The rookery has recovered well from the almost total devastation of the hurricane. The smaller trees are growing in nicely to replace the giants that the birds used for nesting, and with a few impromptu platforms placed on the stumps of the larger trees, the birds have adapted. In many ways, from a photographer’s point of view, the rookery is a better place today than it was before the storm. The birds are considerably more visible than I remember from my last visit (but that was at least 10 years ago, so I do not count too much on the memory). At any rate, the rookery made a fitting last stop on what was already a pretty spectacular day of birding and photography.

There was a lot of nest building going on, even though most nests already had eggs in them and the birds were actively sitting. The males seem compelled to keep bringing branches and the nests are so ramshackle that they probably do need frequent repair. This pair was putting on a good show. I especially like the evident (if indecipherable) attitudes of the two birds.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 with 75-300mm zoom. 600mm equivalent. My custom flight program. ISO 200 @ 1/640th @ f10. Processed in Snapseed on my tablet.