Sunday, November 28, 2010

Good Birding Day - Bad Lighting Day

As the soon to be winter sun has settled lower in the sky, no matter where we shot today, the light was not in our favor. It seemed as the best shots were always in to the sun with no way around to find a better angle. I guess if we could have walked on water we would have been all set. Despite bad lighting, is there really ever a bad day birding when the variety is exceptional?

A couple of shots came out okay. Mr. Hawk once again allowed us to take plenty of shots and have an extended period of observation. That made the day worth it. The Waxwings, Bluebirds and Gold Finches were plentiful and lively. The antics of the Gold Finches are fun to watch as they position themself to get that perfect treat.

So what do you do with those less than perfect shots? Sometimes they are the best for applying a little artistic license and play with various filters to get a nice effect. I have found them a very useful tool as I am trying to teach myself watercolor painting. Another idea I employ is to resize the photo to around 4x5 inches. I made a computer template to fit some blank gift cards and bring the photo into a graphics program. It makes for a nice one of a kind card and the subject matter can be anything that fits the person receiving. A good example of an ideal photo to play with is like this one of a Cedar Waxwing. Very bad lighting but these make the best to play with. To this photo I applied several filters ending with watercolor.
Top it the original, second is the simulated watercolor.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday Adventure with a Purpose

I have never participated in the madness that is "Black Friday" but with my little point and shoot back-up camera MIA, and after carefully studying ads on turkey day, I woke up early with resolve to battle the masses and try to catch a deal. With my digiscoping set up ordered on Thursday night, it was a good opportunity to get the P&S to go with at a good price. I would prefer to use my DSLR and hopefully once it arrives can figure it all out.

I went to bed so early that I was up and wide awake by 2:00 am. To kill time before my planned departure time, I mixed up a batch of suet for the birds as I had put my last one out yesterday. The orange had already peeled and shreaded and the raisins and blueberries chopped. All I really had to do was melt the lard and crunchy peanut butter together. The corn meal, oatmeal, some brown sugar and a little flour was already measured and in a plastic bag. Mix all together and add in some bird seed. I use recycled containers from when I purchase and commercial suet cake fill and chill. The birds by and far favor the homemade. I believe it is the orange they really like. Yields 6 for a batch.

0320 and time to depart for Chain T that opened at 0400. I immediately proceeded to the back and found my intended, the Nikon Coolpix. As I have not ever had a Nikon camera, I was unsure about it and continued with my back-up plan to Chain W which opened at 0500. Without haste to the line for the cameras that were on sale I snagged two of the little Kodak's that were on sale for $59. One was for someone else.

When I arrived home I was anxious to give them a try and do some comparison to determine which one I will keep or sell later. I have to say, I am really impressed with the Kodak C183. I took identical shots with both and hands down, the Kodak was better. Keep in mind, the Kodak deal was $59 and the Coolpix was $79. I will wait and see which will work better with the scope setup.

Slacking this afternoon. Picked up Marley and Me at a dirt cheap price and Ali and I curled up on the couch to watch. In many ways, Ali and her mischevious behavior reminds me of Marley. Is ti just a Lab thing?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Day Swan

Visiting my parents for Thanksgiving, I walked down to the lake to see what was around. A young eagle that stays around the lake was flying back and forth and the only pictures I could get did not come out very well. Poor lighting and when it would stop and perch, always in deep shade. Oh for a sunny day.

As I was watching and waiting to see if the eagle would fly by, I just happened to turn to see what was causing all the Canada Geese to make such a ruckus.

The swan was coming in. No time to adjust so I just began taking with what was on the camera. I had to wonder where its mate was. A pair have been coming in about this time of year for the last several years. I just hope the mate was somewhere up the lake and has not met a more serious ending. Photos are of various stages of the landing process.

Shortly after the rain began so that was it for today. A good meal, a full tummy and now a little couch time. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wednesday Wings

Not feeling quite up to par this morning I only went out for a little while. I am a big believer that fresh air and sunshine are healers of the body and soul so let the healing begin.

I had not even made it down the drive of the park when off to the side I noticed two Red-Shouldered Hawks. This pair hangs together more than any I have ever seen. I love that fall colors of the foliage in the background. It just goes so well with the colors of the hawk. It usually seems when you get the opportunity for a nice shot, the background view is not the best.

I pulled to where I thought I could get a clear shot through the fence rails and cut the car off. I rolled down the window and crawled over to the passenger side. I got one shot of the one that was sitting on a higher post before it flew off. The one on the lower post was intently feeding on what looked like a snake.

A Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker was actively working several trees. Afer several attempts at a decent shot, I was finally able to catch it in a well lit tree with and unobstucted view.

The Cedar Waxwings have started coming in. This is not the best shot. The Eastern Bluebirds and Waxwings were having a feeding frenzy on mistletoe berries. Over the next few days I hope to get some better. The lively high pitched little sound they make had all the birds stirred up.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunny Sunday Shots

My friend and I met at the park early in hopes of seeing the Wood Duck but no such luck. We were both disappointed. Disappointment soon turned to thrill as we spotted what had upset a group of Mallards that were hanging out. At first I thought it was possibly one of the beavers that live in the pond, but more exciting, a pair of otters. They swam about diving and swirling in the water. What a fun to watch.

Moving on to the back part of the park where the deer hang but no luck. Runners had already come through. A brief look about and on to another part of the park to see if possibly the Wood Duck was hanging out there.

We decided to take on last walk and see over the main bridge and got another thrill. A juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk flew in close. After a few minutes, it made a futile attempt to dive at some of the Mallards. The two photos of flight are during the attempt on the ducks. No luck.

It flew to a tree and sat with its back to us for the longest time. We laughed saying it was embarrassed by its attempt at the ducks.

The Kingfisher that usually hangs out in that tree was in the next tree over fussing and being indignant that the hawk was in its tree. The hawk made a move towards the end of the limb and we expected it to take off towards the Kingfisher but it only turned and watched us for a while. We continued to watch it for a long time hoping that when it flew we would get some good in flight shots. It was determined however it was not and after 20 minutes or so of watching it we left.

All and all, a very good day!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Ducky Morning

An absolutely beautiful autumn day. You could not have asked for better weather. All the creatures were out and about scurrying around for food. My friend and I walked around the park looking for something interesting to photograph. A lot of people were out bird watching and early runners trodding loudly disturbed most everything early.

My biggest thrill was on my way out. My friend mentioned about one particular duck she spotted earlier that morning. It sounded like a Wood Duck. Could it be? They are the most beautiful of all our native ducks.

We stopped in an area where the Mallards were congregating and there amongst them, one male Wood Duck. What a thrill. The only unfortunate thing was they were all in deep shade. One of two of the photo's came out okay. We discussed that on a cool morning you would think they would want to get in a sunny spot to warm.

I was a little late this morning and after talking with my friend, found when she first arrived this morning she had gotten a few shots in good lighting of the duck. My intent is to be there early in the morning and keep my fingers crossed.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


There is something to be said for the power of solitude. It can be isolating or it can be rejuvenating. After several hours of walking this morning, I began to feel a soothing calmness come over me. My body and brain both relaxed for the first time in several weeks. I found myself thoroughly enjoying complete aloneness almost dreading the thought of running into anyone on the trail. No phones, no one calling my name, just peace and quiet.

Usually as I walk I am always searching for birds or any other wildlife that may be present. Somewhere off in the distance, I could hear a woodpecker and only saw two Carolina Wrens. After three visits to this park this year, I am always amazed at the lack of birds. I believe it is because there seems to be a lack of natural food sources. There is an eagle that sometimes hangs out down by the river but I was late getting there this morning and decided not to go to that area. The usual park I visit has a variety of natural food sources that attract a large variety of species.

I arrived at the river without encountering a single soul along the way. There were a couple of people on the other side and after a wave and short rest I was on my way. I backtracked and cut down another trail and a mile later was back down at the river further up stream. Amazingly, I still did not cross paths with anyone. Finally, something photo worthy. I believe it is a Lesser Yellowlegs. I searched the bird book and there were a couple that looked similar but I believe I am correct. Another short rest and back on the move.

Coming back up is always the toughest. With little to distract the growing tightness in my legs, I made a point of finding trees with holes. Something to take my mind off the tiredness and an excuse to stop every now and then to take a picture.
After arriving back up at the main junctions in the park I started running in to people and it seemed as if there were as many dogs as people in the park.
Guilt flooded over me as I thought how much Ali would have enjoyed the walk. After I arrived home, I did a quick get her ready and off to the local park we went. We spent about an hour walking which with her is a lot of stopping and sniffing. She had to do a meet and great with every dog that came by so I think she had a good little afternoon walk also.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday Morning Walk

Taking a day of vacation in conjunction with Thursday off for Veteran's Day and my every other Monday off so that gives me five days. Yeah! Not bad for one day of vacation. Very nice morning. Cool but as the sun rose, it became comfortable in a warm jacket.

Lots of birds out early searching for seeds and insects. More action seemed to be going on in the parking area of the park so I spent at least 15 minutes there before I continued my walk.

The Goldfinches were really working on the seed pods of the Crepe Myrtles. In one tree there were probably close to a dozen birds and same in an adjacent tree.

The Yellow Shafted Northern Flicker was flying about belting out and in general seemed to be upsetting and keeping the other birds moving.

About half a dozen house finches came in at once. They were perched high in a tree but eventually, one came down to see what the Goldfinches were making such a fuss about. It never flew in the tree but cleaned up the ground under the tree of all the seeds the other finches dropped as they pryed open the seed pods.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pocosin Lakes

Trying to plan my upcoming trip, I was curious as to whether the waterfowl migration had begun. I sent an email to the Fish and Wildlife Service in the area and shortly received an informative email back which I much appreciated. A few swans, geese and ducks have started coming in this week. Recommended prime viewing in between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Works great with the timeline I was aiming for.

Last year when I visited it was in April and the migratory waterfowl had long since left. There were however lots of Glossy Ibis, White Ibis and Great Egrets. My first time seeing a Glossy Ibis so I was thrilled. I did learn one lesson. I was taking pictures out of the car window and did not realize how much the vibrations would affect the photos. This upcoming trip...turn the car off.

Pocosin Lakes NWR is located in eastern North Carolina on the Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsula and was established in 1990. Tens of thousands of tundra swans, snow geese and a variety of ducks find winter sanctuary in the refuge each year.

The area is also home to the largest population of black bears in North America. The red wolf that was delcared extinct in 1980 was reintroducted into the wild in 1987 on this peninsula. It is the only mainland site in the world for the wild red wolf population.

In the Pocosin Lakes area, there are six major water bodies that are adjacent to or surround the NWR. They are the Scuppernong River, Pungo Lake, New Lake, Alligator River, the northwest and southwest forks of the Alligator River and Lake Phelps. Lake Phelps is the second largest natural lake in North Carolina.

Pungo NWR was established in 1963 and encompassed 12,000 acres and is adjacent to Pocosin Lakes NWR. Pungo NWR combined with Pocosin NWR and became the Pungo Unit of Pocosin Lakes. Both now encompass 110,000 acres.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Long Morning Walk with the Hawk

I had an unbelieveable morning. I went out with intentions of taking test shots this morning trying to determine what the issue were I have been having with the camera. I had stopped at various locations to shoot in a variety of light conditions and was taking notes as I shot so I could compare once I uploaded them to the computer.

I walked up to within five feet of a hawk that was sitting on a broken tree. I was so busy looking at the leaves I didn't even notice it. We both looked at each other for about 30 seconds. It flew by me so close I could have reached out and touched it. I watched and noticed it did not fly but a couple of trees away and had perched on a rather low branch. The photos are in sequence of the stops it took.

I slowly walked around the bend and took a few shots however I knew they would not be very good because of the light. After a couple of shots and I continued walking up the trail. I could not believe it, the hawk flew right passed me and landed in a tree just a little up the path. I continued walking and stopped and took several shots. Once again I continued up the path and again, the hawk flew past me and stopped in another tree. I could not believe what I was experiencing. More shots, walked up the path and again, here comes the hawk. It was truely beginning to be errie by now. When I would stop to take photo's, the hawk would turn its head back and look straight at me. Just makes you wonder what it was thinking. I feel sure it did not feel threatened. There is no way it would have let me get that close otherwise.

I had hoped to see how long this would continue but about this time, a group of school children came running down the path. Oh well, maybe another time if I am lucky.

As I was leaving, the Kingfisher that I have been trying to get a decent picture of was hanging out in its favorite tree. It is quite some distance away and had decided it was simply out of lens range. I thought what the heck as I my intent was to take test shots. Well doggy! Compared to previous shots, same tree, similar light conditions, much clearer. Maybe I have found my issue.