Oh to be spring....well almost. After a day and a half of almost solid rain and cold temperatures, the sun coming out today and temperatures in the mid 60's is an absolute treat. With mating and nesting in full swing for the hawks, I went out to check on a local pair of Red-shouldered Hawks. I was very much surprised by their selection of a nesting tree this year. Over the last three years they have always picked a tree with a good pocket area from the main trunk to where the branches start going out.
The nest this year looks very small and in a rather precarious position. I have some worries that the nest will make it to fledge time. Hopefully the adults will shore it up a bit.
The otters that have been coming through the park for the last several years arrive within the first two weeks of March and stay anywhere from 3-5 days before moving on. I had gone Monday to check but no sign and then sleet came mid day. I decided to go first thing this morning as the weather was going to deteriorate later in the day with rain tomorrow. My gut feeling paid off.
Again this year the light was just horrible. They seem to arrive when it is very overcast and by the time the weather clears they have moved on. Following that pattern they will be gone by the weekend when nice weather arrives.
I did manage to get a few shots this morning though not the best. They are delightful creatures to watch.
After I arrived home, I realized I had left something where I had been sitting so had to turn around and go back.
When I started across the bridge I heard noises and lots of splashing. I could see that it was the otters and thought at first they were just playing. Oh no....spring is in the air and those mating instincts were calling. I only had my 100-400 lens with me but took a shot knowing it was almost too far away. Where was the Tamron 150-600.....at home, being prepared to ship back. &(*&$@# auto-focus just stopped working!!!! So much for that lens.
A sure sign that spring is not far away is the arrival of the Osprey. Late this afternoon as my friend and I were getting ready to leave the lake, I spotted one coming in. We both jumped out of the truck, grabbed our cameras and began shooting. They are such fun to photograph. This one was surely hungry as time after time it went down to the water. Unfortunately those shots turned out too dark. When it would get some height, there was just enough light coming over the trees to get some decent shots. I look forward to spring and enjoying the antics of these birds.
The morning started out very cold after a late afternoon and early evening storm that laid down a thin layer of ice. I just could not believe we were having yet another round of frozen precipitation. The wind chill made it just too cold to go out this morning. By the end of the day most of the ice on hard surfaces had melted although it did not get far above freezing today. Old man winter is holding on hard!
Over the last two weeks, I have seen a Pileated Woodpecker checking out various trees around the yard. This afternoon as I walked out to go put food out for the deer, I grabbed the camera. While still overcast and gray, it had lightened up a bit so thought perhaps I could get a decent shot if I saw it.
The Pileated WPs always seems so elusive and camera shy it can be hard to get a good shot. This afternoon it was so focused on working on the tree it paid little attention to me. It would seriously work on the hole then stop, lean way back, look around for a while and start back on the tree.
I think these are such cool WP's. I love to hear the noise they make.
I have still been reserving judgement on my new lens until I could give it another go on some wing shots. My first attempts ended in total frustration with few usable shots. After doing quite a bit of reading and talking with folks, I went out today with the intent on testing again by changing various camera settings to hopefully find a solution.
I met several other experienced photographers and together we tried various settings and talked out problems. We even tried different cameras to rule out an issue with the camera I was using with was a Canon 5D Mk III.
My first thoughts were to increase tracking sensitivity, Frustration on missed shots began immediately. One of the gentlemen shooting with us said it should be reversed from what I was thinking. I moved the tracking sensitivity to zero. Better but still no cigar. The lens still seemed to lose focus easily and began hunting. I moved the lever from the full to the 15m to infinity position. Huge difference. Next I changed the AF point from single to area. Another improvement. After that the recommendation was made to change to back focus. A bit of getting use to but I think I will like it and it seemed to help in more quickly establishing focus on a moving bird.
By the end of the day, there was improvement from the first shots of the day. I can only speak from personal experience but I still find that the lens is slow to focus, even in good light. Hopefully with some additional tweaking and practice, I can nail down the idiosyncrasies of this lens. At this point I am not sure that it will be a successful lens for wing shots. The recommendation was made to try on a camera with a cropped sensor. My next go round out I will take my Canon 7D out and give it a go on that one.
Trying to compare lenses, I next tried several shots with the Canon 100-400. Definitely quicker to focus and a better quality shot. Once thing I noticed when comparing the metadata for each of the cameras, the Tamron was registering a focal length of 600mm for each shot although I know I had backed it down from 600. Not sure what was going on with that.
I am still pleased with the Tamron for still, portrait type shots but I am beginning to wonder if it is going to be successful for wing shots. I am hope some additional tweaking and practice will prove it useful for those. At this time the focus still seems very slow resulting in blurred shots for moving birds. It is definitely not a slap on you camera lens and expect peak performance.
This seems to be like the winter that just won't end. It was not too bad today but still cool. Slowly but surely there are signs that hopefully winter is coming to an end.
The hawks were out flying there courtship dance today and seemed quite upset that a pair of owls were vocalizing to each other. I kept trying to spot the owls but reached a point where I could go no farther in to the marshy area. I was really hoping to get a shot of one.
I only had a little over an hour to look around as I had a class later in the afternoon that I could not miss. Sunday looks to be a promising weather day so hopefully some good action somewhere.
I sort of laughed at my desperation to see some color and flowers. When I went by the local farm supply store to pick up a couple of bags of deer chow, I spotted this piece of equipment and thought how it reminded me of some type of strange mechanical flower or mushrooms. I think a couple of passerby's thought I was a bit crazy out taking photos of this piece of equipment. Maybe they were right but I liked the colors and the shapes.
As much as I like the color shot, I think it looks really cool in B&W. A definite focus on form rather than color.
My sister-in-law passed away on Thursday afternoon so I have not had time to get out. We did a quick planning for a memorial service was yesterday which turned out nice and once it gets warm, we are planning a celebration of life pig-picking. She wanted people to remember the good times and we will do our best to give her a blow out get together.
I really did not have much heart to go out today but walked around in the yard looking at all the daffodils starting to bloom. At long last signs of spring are beginning to show.
A pair of doves that had been walking around under the feeder flew up to a near by limb. They proceeded to groom both individually and as a pair. They were definitely doing some bonding.