Yellow-rumped Practice

Yellow-rumped Warbler, Lighthouse State Park, Cape May NJ

Except for Tree Swallows, which are legion, Yellow-rumped Warblers are certainly the most abundant perching birds in Cape May this week. The trees and brush are full of them. After your 40th shot of a YRW at close range, and especially considering the shots I got in Maine just before I came down here, they really are not much good as photographic subjects…I mean, how many YRW shots does any one photographer need? And that is just this year. I have YRW shots, from Maine, Ohio, Texas, and New Jersey, going back years :)  I think I even have a few from Georgia and Florida. Still, they are good practice for when you do see something more special you would really like a picture of…so, of course, I take every opportunity I am presented….fill my SD card with YRWs…every outing in Cape May. Who wouldn’t? When you get jaded enough not to at least practice on the YRWs, you really should pack up your camera and turn in your photographers’ pass to the universe. :) Or that is what I think.

(I am really hoping the irony is coming through here…if it isn’t, please put a grin on, and reread that first paragraph ;)

Sony HX400V at 2400mm equivalent (1200mm optical plus 2x Clear Image Zoom…and this is a full frame, uncropped shot). Shutter preferred. 1/500th @ IS) 160 @ f6.3. Processed in Lightroom on my Surface Pro 3 tablet.

Palm Warbler working the grass.

Palm Warbler

Although 95 out of every 100 passerines passing through Cape May yesterday were Yellow-rumped Warblers, there were a few other species. This Palm Warbler was one of three feeding with a large flock of 50 or more YRWs, just behind the Hawk Watch Platform at Cape May Point, Lighthouse State Park. There is a picnic shelter there, with tables, and this time of year I like to sit at the end of a table nearest the brush beyond the little bit of grassy area and pick off warblers and sparrows as they glean seed from the grasses and bugs from the brush. Like all the birds backed up against Deleware Bay in Cape May during migration, the birds by the picnic shelter are so busy feeding up for the crossing that they pay little to no attention to humans. We had about 45 minutes of sun yesterday afternoon, and I spent most of it at the picnic shelter. Believe me when I say, I was just as busy as the birds!

Sony HX400V at 1200mm equivalent field of view. Shutter preferred. 1/500th @ ISO 125 @ f6.3. Processed in Lightroom on my Surface Pro 3 tablet.

Cape May Warbler :)

Yellow-rumped Warbler in Cape May NJ

No, of course it is NOT a Cape May Warbler…but it is a warbler in Cape May. A Yellow-rumped Warbler like the hundreds that have been coming through Southern Maine, but here, at the tip of Cape May Point, where the migration is constricted by the Atlantic on one side and Deleware Bay on the other, the Yellow-rumped Warblers are thick, dripping from the trees as they say. It was actually raining when I took this shot, but I could not resist when the warblers repeatedly popped up on this branch maybe 10 feet from my face. I kept wiping the camera with my hand, and dried it off well when I got back to the hotel, and it survived. Not a great shot, as warbler shots go…simply not enough light…but still! :) And not bad at all for ISO 1600 from a Point and Shoot camera.

Sony HX400V at 1200mm equivalent field of view. Shutter preferred. 1/640th @ ISO 1600 @ f6.3. Processed in Lightroom on my Surface Pro 3 tablet.

Wide on the Little for Wednesday

Sweep panorama near the mouth of the Little River on Laudholm Beach

On Sunday my photoprowl featured heavy skies over the October landscape. This is a sweep panorama taken just back from the mouth of the Little River where it crosses Laudholm Beach. I like these tall/wide shots, taken with the camera in portrait orientation. Of course this shot is all about the lowering sky, the sweep of the sand, and the curve of the water. The hint of color in the distant trees is an added highlight.

Sony HX400V. Processed in Lightroom on my Surface Pro 3 tablet.

October Marsh

Little River Marsh, Laudholm Farm, Wells ME

When October sends a gloomy day…you take gloomy day pictures. There is still a beauty to be had. The sky broods. The colors burn like late embers. I seem to be stuck in cliche mode, but you get the gist. This is from the observation deck on the boradwalk trail at the Well National Estuarine Research Center at Laudholm Farm in Wells, Maine.

Sony HX400V in-camera HDR. Processed in Lightroom on my Surface Pro 3 tablet.

October Sky, Laudholm Farm

Laudholm Farm, Wells ME

This is not the first time I have shot this view, and it almost certainly will not be the last. :) It is such a classic that the University of New Hampshire Panorama Project has put a panorama post on the spot, though this shot is from nearer ground level.

It is an in-camera HDR, and I used Program Shift to get a smaller aperture and greater depth of field, even on this day of subdued October light. Sony HX400V at 24mm equivalent. ISO 80 @ 1/500th @ f5.6. Processed in Lightroom on Surface Pro 3 tablet.

Masked Shrew. Happy Sunday!

Tiny Masked Shrew by my foot.

Tiny Masked Shrew by my foot.

Funny story. Carol and I went for a walk on the Carson Tail at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Headquarters yesterday afternoon. The day was struggling, with a bit of momentary sun here and there to lift it from its late October gloom, and rain threatening on the horizon. The maples are passing fast, and the oaks this year, most places, are going direct from green to brown. Still, it was good to be out. A Hairy Woodpecker flew ahead of us for a ways, until it was displaced from a particularly attractive (apparently…and to woodpeckers) dead branch tip by a Red-bellied Woodpecker. We don’t see many Red-bellieds here in Southern Maine, compared to Hairy and Downy that is, so that was a special.

We turned the corner by the overlook at the junction of Branch Brook and the Marriland River, where they join to become the Little River, in time to see 4 people…two couples, old and young…clustered around something on the trail, clearly excited about it. As we approached, they were debating what it was…mouse? mole? vole? They moved on and left their find to us. It was tiny and it was fast, but it did not seem to be going anywhere in particular. It certainly was not trying to get away. It scampered repeatedly across the trail and burled under and ran over the litter of fallen maple and oak leaves, as though looking frantically for something it had lost…its house keys perhaps, or a coat button. And it was strange. It was mouse like, but had tiny ears and a long mobile, almost prehensile, snout. Its tail and nose were both too long by far for a mole or vole, and it was so small…barely as wide as quarter, and only two quarters long, not counting the tail. We stood watching it, and I, of course was trying to get a shot of it as it zipped around under us.

Then suddenly it scampered up on my shoe and looked for a way up my pant leg. I was wearing field pants cinched with elastic around the ankle so It was defeated there, but then on its way down, it found one of the ventilation holes in my Crocs and nipped inside next to my foot…right inside my shoe. Perhaps that is an added benefit of the box toe on the Crocs: Room for visiting rodents. Fortunately, it popped back out and went off to explore the leaves beyond the edge of the trail. Carol was finding all this very exciting, but she was nearly and clearly, as they say these days, creeped out by the creature’s familiarity with my pants and shoes and wanted none of it for herself. She was rapidly backing way down the trail. The creature, however, apparently liked the experience in my shoe, because it came back for more, exploring several of the Croc holes before we moved on…though it never got right inside again. Maybe my socks smelled like insects? It kept me very busy, because, of course, I wanted a picture of it with my shoe. Priorities you know. And I got it going in…or thinking about it…but I never got it coming out…that would have been a picture! I think it would have played with us as long as we wanted to stay there, but I had visions of it actually getting caught inside my shoe, and hurt, so we moved on.

Of course I wanted to know what it was, so I did some research when we got home, first in Kaufman’s New England Guide, and then, when I could not find an exact match there, on-line. Kaufman’s got me as close as Shrew…not mouse, or mole, or vole…but certainly some kind of shrew. Eventually, by process of elimination, and consulting mammal lists for Maine, I narrowed it down to Masked Shrew…which is logical, as the Masked Shrew is the most common shrew in North America…and why should my first shrew encounter be anything other than the most common? The shrew population in New England is reputed to be among the most numerous of any mammal, but they are very rarely seen in daylight (though they are active around the clock), so they are, in fact, very rarely seen at all. They live among us, but we know it not :)

Last night, as I lay contemplating the writing of this story when I should have been sleeping, it occurred to me to wonder how “shrew” came to have its meaning, its monumental Shakespearean meaning, of “bad tempered woman.” I mean, there was nothing bad tempered about the Masked Shrew…on the contrary it was friendly and almost too cute for its own good. I am not sure but what, if it had gotten in my shoe once more, I would have been tempted to bring it home :)

Research. It turns out that shrew is a pure English word that seems to have sprung into existence, in either its rodent or anthropomorphic sense, about the time Shakespeare used it. There is some theory that moles and shrews were thought to have a venom that produced bad temper in women when bitten…and I suspect, from Carol’s reaction, that just being bitten by a shrew would be enough to produce bad temper in most women even without venom…but I simply can not imagine the shrew I encountered biting anyone…let alone a woman grown enough to cause her husband trouble. There has to be more to the story than that…and I certainly suspect the shrew has gotten a bad rap! One wonders, in fact, if Shakespeare coined the “bad tempered woman” usage based on his own dramatic conceit and the physical characteristics of a particular actor assigned the first role…perhaps that prehensile, unattractively mobile and narrow nose? The shrew is certainly in the habit of poking it where it does not belong, if my Crocs are any indication. Of course, we shall never know. Lost in the mists of time and among the many myths of Shakespeare.

It is Sunday, so of course, you are expecting the spiritual side of all this (or at least I am). I hope I have conveyed some of my delight in the shrew encounter. It filled me with quiet amazement…flooded me with pleasurable wonder. Exactly the opposite of bad temper…the shrew gave me the inestimable gift of good temper. Such a treat! You don’t often encounter wildlife that is willing to climb into your shoe. That sense of familiarity, of intimacy, is very special, and I feel wonderfully privileged to have been included. And that, my friends, is the pure essence of spirituality…the sense of being privileged to be included in something wonderful. Or that is what I think. Thank you, Masked Shrew, and I can only hope this piece does at least a little to undo the harm Shakespeare did your reputation. :)



Warbler of Autumn

Yellow-rumped Warbler

We do have other Warblers in Southern Maine during migration, but this year we are seeing huge numbers of Yellow-rumped Warblers coming through. I am not sure how that will play out nationally, but I suspect it was a super year for Yellow-rumps on the breeding grounds north of us. :) This specimen was along the Timber Island Trail at Rachel Carson NWR last Monday, being cooperative as only a migrating Yellow-rump can.

Sony HX400V at 1200mm equivalent field of view. Shutter preferred. 1/640th @ ISO 125 @ f6.3. Processed in Lightroom on my Surface Pro 3 tablet.

Space Needle from Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle

Space Needle from Seattle Olympic Sculpture Park

Having a couple of hours on my hands yesterday afternoon in Seattle while my client did other meetings, and being the best day in Seattle so far, I took a walk down to the waterfront park, and south along the waterfront to the Olympic Sculpture Park, and back around and uphill to the hotel again. I have to think that the Space Needle was an integral part of the artist’s conception here. The possibilities of framing the Needle through the sculpture are too many, and too apt, for it not to have figured into his thinking. :)

This is another in-camera HDR from the Sony HX400V at 24mm equivalent field of view. After my normal processing in Lightroom, I made a virtual copy and used the Vertical alignment tool to automatically pull the background buildings upright and eliminate the perspective distortion. Worked like a charm with a single click.



view from the roof of my hotel :)

I am in Seattle for a few days, working on a digital imaging project for a client. They put me up at the Mediterranean Inn just up the hill from the Space Needle. They have a roof garden/observation deck on the roof that offers this classic view of downtown Seattle. It rained all day, until about 4PM, and I got back to the hotel just in time to catch the low afternoon sun across the bay lighting up the city.

In-camera HDR with the Sony HX400V. 24mm equivalent. Processed in Lightroom on my Surface Pro 3 tablet.