Today, following the example of Eliza Waters (https://elizawaters.com/2019/01/21/brrrr/), I went to Colonial Lake close to home to photograph ice formations. The lake is man-made, capturing water coming from Shabakunk Creek, damming it, then releasing it further downstream back into the same creek.
It was around 20 °F (-6 °C), the lake was completely iced over, but the water underneath had to flow along its usual path.
There was a Great Blue Heron nearby, wondering what all the fuss was about.
One of the must-have equipment for wildlife photography in general, and bird photography in particular, is to have a telephoto lens powerful enough to capture subjects with sufficient details and sharpness, without having to come too close to them. Since most of us can’t afford super telephoto lenses, also called second-mortgage lenses, some of us resort to using an extender, which is much less expensive, to increase the reach of our lenses. With a 1.4 extender, a 400 mm lens will be equivalent to a 560 mm lens.
I have had such an extender for two years, but almost never used it because the results had been disappointing especially in terms of sharpness. Finally, looking at photos posted by Jerry from Quiet Solo Pursuits here on WordPress, I decided to give it a try with the Canon 5D Mark IV that I have been using since last year.
Following are some of the shots I took yesterday at the refuge and at Colonial Lake under a bright sun with the 100-400 mm lens and a 1.4 extender.
Buffleheads are the smallest diving ducks, no larger than 16 in (40 cm) in length. They are a joy to see as they appear to be constantly smiling and moving about, bobbing, and diving to find food. They swallow their catch of crustaceans (shrimps) and mollusks under water, and I have yet to see a photo of one Bufflehead holding food in its short, smily bill.
In past years I usually had a hard time taking good pictures of them, especially the male ones, because their eyes are often lost in the dark patches around their heads. This year sunlight was with me, most of the time, as you can see in the following photos.
Colonial Lake close to home is quite small, but it has a good variety of wildlife. An old Canada Goose, named Hank by the locals, does not seem to fly any more and enjoys eating the bread crumbs and cookies that people throw to him.
Squirrels are abundant, and at this time of the year they are stocking up on acorns and other wild nuts to prepare for winter.
An Eastern Phoebe had something in its bill, but I couldn’t tell what it was. They usually eat small insects, and sometimes small fruit or seeds.
A Ring-billed Seagull landed with a splash and caught something in its beak.
The champ was a Great Blue Heron who caught three fishes in less than 10 minutes as I photographed him.
I walked around Colonial Lake near home yesterday and took pictures of the following flowers. I am guessing the names of the first two, so please feel free to correct me if you happen to recognize them with their proper names.
One day last week I had to stop several times to let turtles cross the road in front of me. Here are a few shots of them at different places in the refuge, and one shot at Colonial Lake closer to home.
At the beginning of last century, Terrapins were eaten by humans, almost to extinction. It was only two years ago in 2016 that New Jersey officially banned the hunting of Terrapins for any reason. They are currently classified as a species of Special Concern. Snapping Turtles are classified as Least Concern.
Cedar Waxwings are quite common birds native to North and Central America. They live all year round in our area. However, it was only until yesterday that I could photograph one. It was perched high on a branch by the water at Colonial Lake. A band of them were flying around eating insects. They are normally fruit eaters but there was no fruit to be found yet at this time of the year.
The American Robin shown below was making so much noise and movement that I had to take its picture.
The target for its cries was another Robin, who watched it very nonchalantly.
Here are the two of them in one photo.
Perhaps the shouting Robin was a juvenile clamoring for food, and the older bird did nothing, as a way of telling the younger one to go find its own worm. Just my guess.
Early this morning I went to Colonial Lake, a small lake about 5 miles (8 km) from home where at least one Bald Eagle has been seen on a daily basis. Not more than 15 minutes after I arrived, an eagle swooped down and plucked a big fish out of the lake. I was not quite ready yet, so my first shot is not the best, but at least you do see the action.
The eagle took the fish to a high branch on a tree and proceeded to eat it there.
He ate the whole fish in less than 10 minutes, after which he took off right above me to go for a drink.
He had several drinks, looking up each time to check his surroundings.
Then he shifted position.
Then he flew up to a nearby tree, perched on a branch, and looked down on the lake and the other birds there, ignoring the few humans who wandered around along the lake shore.
I think he eventually took a nap for I did not see it move from his perch for almost half an hour.