The flu has forced me to stay home these past two weeks and I have not gone out to take any picture, or visited your posts as often as before. The following photos are the results of my editing of recent shots of backyard birds that show some different views of the two most common visitors to our feeder in the winter.
About two weeks ago, I also caught a Great Blue Heron jumping around a pond, probably on a fishing expedition.
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.
The following photos are some of the favorites that you, my WordPress readers, have either liked the posts where they were posted in, clicked on their images to see them in larger size, or mentioned them in your comments.
Friday morning, a Great Blue Heron was standing in the water at the refuge, looking left then right. As the light was near perfect, I started to photograph it. When it decided to take off and fly away, I just kept pressing the shutter.
A Great Blue Heron held in its bill a small fish that it had caught. A Willet had just caught a bigger fish, and flew up right in front of the heron. I was too far and actually did not see this small drama until I got home and displayed the image on my computer monitor. It looks like the Willet was bragging about its catch, and the heron was by no means happy.
Here’s a closer look.
You won’t believe how many times I have missed capturing, or badly captured, birds in flight. Two days ago, at the refuge, I finally was able to get several good shots of a Great Blue Heron as it took off from the marsh.
On the same day, a Great Egret also put on a good show.
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.
Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge is at the Northern end of Cayuga Lake, one of the 11 finger lakes in New York state. It is less than a quarter of the size of Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey, but has much of the same wildlife, with the addition of Sandhill Cranes and Black Terns that are not usually seen in New Jersey.
We drove on Wildlife Drive through Montezuma NWR, stopping occasionally to take pictures.
A young Bald Eagle surprised me by swooping overhead and diving toward the marshes. It was too fast and moved around too much for me to get good pictures, but the following will give you an idea of the drama evolving in the sky.
However, the young Bald Eagle failed to catch any fish.
There were several Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets that landed near Wildlife Drive then stood or walked in the water.
There were many Ring-billed Gulls and Canada Geese at Montezuma NWR. One gull was hovering over the marshes and crisscrossing the sky, asking to be photographed.
This Great Blue Heron was catching fish literally left and right. In the five minutes I spent photographing it, it managed to snatch five fishes out of the water. They were small but enough of them would be equal to a big catch. When I left, it was still looking for fish.
There must have been at least a hundred Egrets and several Great Blue Herons at the refuge yesterday. They were very active fishing and flying from spot to spot, a golden opportunity for me to capture more BIF photos.
Here’s a sequence of a Great Blue Heron taking off.
Less than two months ago, I posted photos of a Great Blue Heron under Fish for Lunch. Today, I saw another Great Blue Heron wading carefully in a pool at Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge near Smyrna, DE. I had my camera aimed and focused on it for at least five minutes, but it kept advancing step by step, catching no fish at all.
Suddenly it turned around.
The following images perhaps need no narrative.
When I left the house this morning to go to the recently reopened Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, it was 17 °F (-8 °C), perhaps too cold for the birds to show up. Sure enough there were not many, and most of them were seagulls that live there throughout the year.
However, just as I was about to leave the refuge, I saw a Great Blue Heron catching a fish for lunch.
All of the above, and some other intervening action, mostly shaking and turning (not displayed here), took less than a minute.
He was standing on a bank of the marshes, his back turned to me, his face to the water. I stopped to take his picture, and as I aimed my camera at him, he turned around, a severe look on his face.
So I drove on. The tide was falling, and water from the marshes was pouring out toward the ocean. At one of the outlets, I found a Hooded Merganser swimming by himself, coming very close to where I was, as if he had not noticed me. This was the closest I had ever been to these usually shy ducks.
There were female Hooded Mergansers in the vicinity, but they were paired with other males. None paid any attention to our handsome bachelor!
I moved on to another pond and saw a pair of Northern Pintails busy in their favorite pursuit: dabbling in shallow water to find plants and crustaceans to eat.
After a while, they paused and struck a classic pose, with water still dripping from the male’s bill.
Great Blue Herons are large enough birds that I found it relatively easy to photograph them in flight. Here are some photos I took at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge a few days ago. They are of three different herons.
All of the above herons flew only short distances to position themselves at a different fishing spot. They probably never went higher than 20 ft (6 m) above the surface of the pond.
The link for this challenge is: https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/eye-spy/
When I photograph birds and animals, I try to get a good eye expression, or at least get their eyes in clear focus. Here are my entries for the challenge, all from photos taken this year, some as recently as yesterday.
True to their name, Great Blue Herons are the largest herons in North America with striking shapes and colors that are hard to miss. Yesterday I saw a dozen of them at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge on the other side of I-95, opposite Philadelphia Airport. Despite the near freezing temperature, they were busy catching their breakfast.
The above fellow or gal was very skilled. It caught three fish within 13 minutes!
Later I saw another Great Blue Heron catching frogs.
Here’s a shot of a Great Blue Heron spreading its wings. Despite their enormous size, these herons weigh only about 6 lbs (2.7 kg).
Two days ago, a Great Blue Heron was stalking fish at the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge.
I saw it repeatedly stab at something in the water, but never saw it catch anything, unless it swallowed its prey even before coming up for air.
Meanwhile, a nearby Great Egret had better luck and seemed to enjoy its tossed fish.