Cold Mallards

Mallard ducks on the winter Mousam

We are having a real cold snap here in the last week of December. Temperatures are not getting out of the single digits (above zero) for the better part of a week, and it is, according to Accuweather, 24 below zero right now in pre-dawn Kennebunk. The Mousam river is freezing right up to the edge of the rapids at Roger’s Pond Park, and the Mallards are not enjoying it. The clear blue skies and sun help, by later in the day. If there is no wind, and your are dressed for it, it can be quite pleasant. (I wear two layers of high tech longjons under my pants and coat, and my Tilly wool hat, but I have not found gloves thin enough to drive and photograph in that keep my hands warm enough.) Of course, all the Mallards can do is try to stay out of the wind and soak up sun. Sony RX10iv at 600mm. Program mode. 1/1000th @ f4 @ ISO 100. Processed in Polarr.

Robin in the Cherries

American Robin in ornamental cherry tree, Roger’s Pond Park, Kennebunk Maine

The ornamental cherry tree at Roger’s Pond Park in Kennebunk Maine is a winter magnet for birds: Robins like this one, Bluebirds, Cedar Waxwings, and House Finches in particular. They seem to only come on really cold days, but we are having a cold snap right now (it is -2 with a wind-chill of -25 as I write) and already yesterday morning the Robins were in the tree. Sony RX10iv at 600mm. Program mode. 1/1000th @ ISO 100 @ f5.6. -.3EV. Processed in Polarr and Photos (I have found that the Auto Light tool in the native Photos App on my iPad can easily adjust shadow and contrast to put the finishing touches on a photo I have already processed in Polarr. 🙂

Bluebird on ice…

Eastern Bluebird, near our back deck feeding station, Kennebunk Maine.

A companion to the Chickadee post from a few days ago. The birds have been very active at the back deck feeding station. We have meal-worms out for the Bluebirds, and I scattered cracked corn for the Juncos. The Titmice and Chickadees and Downy Woodpeckers are there in greater numbers. We get the occasional White-breasted Nuthatch, and the past two days there has been a lone American Tree Sparrow with the Juncos. We even had one of our rare visits from the Red-bellied Woodpecker. Lots of action in the cold and snow. The Bluebirds, especially this year’s young, will occasionally sit for a picture on the deck mounted perches, but most of the time they fly up into the trees along the edge of the yard as soon as I open the door to the deck. This is one of the pair of adults. Sony RX10iv at 600mm. Program mode. 1/250th @ ISO 100 @ f4. Processed in Polarr.

Rose Hip Variation

Beach Rose Hip under ice. Kennebunk Maine

In a variation in yesterday’s theme, Beach Plums are, of course, actually rose hips from the Rugosa Rose, an invasive species brought in to stabilize dunes and since run wild all up and down the East Coast. When harvested and made into jelly, they are Beach Plum Jelly. This one wears a coating of ice from a recent storm, turning into native sculpture. Sony RX10iv at 600mm. In-camera HDR. Nominal exposure: 1/125th @ f4 @ ISO 100. Processed in Photoshop Express.

Beach Plum Christmas

Beach rose fruit (plums) at our local beach after the storm

I don’t know why but this just seems to be a Christmasy image. I am sure there is some deep theology there in the thorns and red fruit and the ice, but mostly it just looks festive…decorated for the season…and somehow seasonal. So I will post it this Christmas morning…wishing you all, again, a very Merry Christmas. Love, joy, and peace to all. That is what it is all about, today and every day!

Sony RX10iv at 600mm. In-camera HDR. Processed in Photoshop Express.

Chickadee on ice…

Chickadee, on the back deck, Kennebunk Maine

Taking a break from my Birds and Nature Tours Portugal trip to the Tagus Estuary and the Alentejo, here is a little Chickadee on the back deck feeding station this morning. Everything is coated with ice, but the birds don’t seem to mind. Sony RX10iv at 600mm. Program mode. 1/250th @ f4 @ ISO 160. Processed in Polarr and Photos on my iPad Pro.

Imperial Eagle

Immature Imperial Eagle, Alentejo, Portugal

Helder, my guide during my week with Birds and Nature Tours Portugal in the Tagus Estuary and the Alentejo, said he prefers to call this the Iberian Imperial Eagle, though in the guides you will find it as Spanish Imperial Eagle. They are, according to Helder, easier to see in Portugal than in Spain. This is an immature bird, still hanging with the parents, near the nesting territory between Castro Verde and Mértola in the Alentejo of southern Portugal. And indeed, Imperial Eagles were not hard to see where we traveled. We saw several over 3 days in the region. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom Birds in Flight settings. 1/1000th @ f4.5 @ ISO 100. Processed in Polarr.

Passerines of the Tagus Estuary, Portugal

Stone Chat, European Goldfinch, Corn Bunting, European Robin, Chiffchaff, Eurasian Tree Sparrow

I have a great deal of admiration for any photographer who successfully photographs Passerines in Europe. Passerines are “perching birds”, sometimes called “song birds”…generally small inhabitants of fields, forests, gardens, and lawns…the little birds that often most enliven our lives because they live so close to us, and because they sing. Unfortunately, in most of Europe, until recently, they were also hunted for both food and sport. (There are still countries in southern Europe where hunting song birds is common, if now illegal.) Because of the hunting pressure over hundreds of thousands of bird generations, the passerines of Europe are wary of humans…extremely wary…so wary that it is almost impossible to get close enough for frame-filling images without a lot of patience and a good “hide” (we call them “blinds” in the US…some way of disguising your human presence). Even birds that have been relatively “tame” in England on my visits there, like the common garden Robin or Goldfinches, are skittish and flighty in Portugal. On my trip through the Tagus Estuary and the Alentejo with Birds and Nature Tours Portugal, we had some success sneaking up on birds on the fence lines in the car (essentially using the car as a hide)…some…maybe 1 in 25 birds…sat for a picture, and none allowed close approach. I am told that it is easier in the spring when the birds are establishing nesting territories, there are more birds about, and they are bolder. The panel above shows some of the closest encounters we had in the Tagus Estuary in December: (reading left to right and down) Stone Chat, European Goldfinch, Corn Bunting, European Robin, Chiffchaff, and Eurasian Tree Sparrow. We encountered these birds everywhere, and in great numbers. Getting photos was a whole other thing. Don’t get me wrong. It might have been frustrating, but it was also fun! Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode. Processed in Photoshop Express. I hope, one of these years, to get back to Portugal in the Spring.

Greater Flamingo, Portugal

Greater Flamingos, Tagus Estuary, Portugal

We saw flocks of up to 1000 Greater Flamingos way out on the shallow sandbars of the Tagus River in Portugal, but close views were hard to come by. These birds, an adult in pink, and the immature more subdued in basic gray and dingy white, were in what I assume was still a tidal pool just at the edge of the estuary, just beyond where solid ground became the rule. My guide for Birds and Nature Tours Portugal assured me that they can be seen quite close when they congregate in the rice fields of the estuary, but we did not happen on any during my visit. Wonderfully impressive birds at any distance. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode. 1/1000th @ f4.5 @ ISO 100. Processed in Photoshop Express.

Purple Swamphen

Purple Swamphen, edge of the Tagus Esturary, Portugal

The Purple Swamphen is not an uncommon bird in Europe, or even Portugal…it is just that its range is both isolated and restricted. I think it has mostly to do with its habitat needs. It needs marshy pools with reeds, not too tall and not too short…just prefect for clambering around a foot or three off the water. That is where we first saw this bird…well up in the broken reeds. This bird frequents a small pond on private land that Birds and Nature Tours Portugal has access to, just on the firm edge of the Tagus Estuary, along a fresh water stream, in the middle of a Cork Oak grove. This was a distant shot, from the other side of the pond and the pond’s width up on a hillside, but the Swamphen is not easy to see, and this is one spot where it can be seen regularly. If you noticed the resemblance to our North American Purple Gallinule then you are not far off. The Swamphen is larger and generally darker, but very similar in appearance. There is even an escaped population of Purple Swamphen coexisting with our own Purple Gallinules in south Florida. Because of the extreme crop needed, I enlarged this image in BigPhoto before cropping, and then processed it in Photoshop Express. It will still pretty much fall apart if you attempt to enlarge it, but at posting size it at least gives a good impression of the bird in its habitat. Sony RX10iv at 600mm. 1/250th @ ISO 320 @ f4. Processed as above.