Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Osprey on Thompsons Beach Road

I discovered Thompson Beach Road in Heislerville, NJ by accident. I knew it was there from my trips to Heislerville Fish and Wildlife Management Area, but I had no idea it was THE spot for Osprey in Cumberland County.  There may be up to a half-dozen sitting in the trees along the road at any one time.

You can get some good photographs with only a 400mm lens, as there is an occupied nest directly on the road.  With the mother incubating her eggs right now, I chose not to disturb her.  There's no need; where there is an incubating female, the male is sure to be close by.  The male usually hangs out in the dead trees that are anywhere from 10-30 feet away from  his nest.  The best time to photograph this particular male is in the morning.  I arrived on this day late in the 2 o'clock hour, which ensured that the Osprey would be side lit.  With the branches of the tree blocking some of that sun, it afforded me few keepers.

I would recommend 560mm - 700mm for photographing the rest of the Osprey in the area.  In the late afternoon, they will be frontlit and sitting in the trees on the opposite side of the road. 

All shots were taken with a Canon 50D in bad need of a sensor cleaning and a 400 5.6L lens. The final shot is not cropped.

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2011.05.28  Osprey with Late Lunch

Friday, June 3, 2011

Avalon, NJ by Kayak 2011.05.30

I was able to grab a kayak from my friends at Bay House on a Budget and hit the marshlands surrounding Avalon, NJ.  My favorite birds to shoot are wading birds, which forage only at low tide because they need to stand upright in the water while they hunt.  Low tide, unfortunately, was timed to be close to the harsh noon sun directly overhead so photography conditions were not optimal in terms of lighting location and the high power level.

Hungry birds, however, were plentiful.  At one point, I witnessed two snowy egrets, several species of gulls and a yellow-crowned night heron in the same exact area.  One of the egrets still had his breeding lores and was especially ornery toward his companion. When the non-breeding egret stumbled upon a blue claw crab leg in the shallow water, the more aggressive egret pounced in an attempt to steal it.  Though he was unsuccessful, he was able to ensure his competition for food wandered aways off. 

2011.05.30  Snowy Egrets Fight over Crab Leg
Since I used a relatively closed aperture to account for the whites under the harsh noon sun, I was able to capture the faces of both egrets clearly even though the head of the egret with breeding lores is obscured by the departing egret's legs.       

Cape May Point State Park, NJ 2011.06.01

There is a great diversity of species in one of the best parks for birding in the U.S. right now: glossy ibis, great egret, snowy egret, great blue heron, red-winged blackbird, mute swan, mallards, turkey vulture, Canada goose and their chicks, nesting least terns, Forster's terns, numerous gulls and many small birds in the brush that fly far too fast for me to identify.

Glossy ibis seem to be plentiful this summer as compared to last. Not only did I see a flock of at least a dozen with two snowy egrets in a small pond near the back of the red trail, but I've consistently seen them flying over the Garden State Parkway en route to the numerous marshland areas.  (If you're not from the tri-state area, South Jersey is largely rural with vast marshlands in the southernmost areas.)

I took my hike during the worst possible time for photography (11:00 a.m. through noon) but still managed a few shots:

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Though generally skittish, snowy egrets will tolerate human presence if they're hungry and there's a lot of food around.  I photographed this snowy for at least 20 minutes and he clearly stared right at me here without flying off.

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Though tough to see here, that's a blue damselfly in the egret's beak.  That gives you an idea of how quickly these manic hunters can move.  Click on the photo to see the larger version on my flickr account.

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2011.06.01  Red-winged Blackbird
Birders know that the red-winged blackbird is the real sign that spring is in the air, as opposed to robins which tend to winter in PA and NJ.  These small birds have the most distinctive call I have ever heard.  It almost sounds electronic.

2011.06.01 Resting Terns
Forster's terns hanging out on the pier on the pond.  They are not afraid of humans. They're smart enough to know that they are much quicker and faster than any human outside of Kenya.  Also an intelligent species, researchers believe that their migration is governed by internal sensors attuned to the Earth's electromagnetic field.