Thursday, May 31, 2012

Muskrat and River Otter

I see both of these creatures on the river.  As I am standing on the shore, I have had them pass right at my feet, so they are not particularly shy if you do not move and they don't sense any danger from you.

The otter is probably twice the size of the muskrat although as they swim, they superficially appear very similar.  Notice, however, on the otter how broad and triangular in shape the nose is as well as the somewhat flattened appearance of the muzzle. Additionally, note the smoother, less hairy overall appearance and brushy walrus-like mustache.

The muskrat, on the other hand, has a pointier nose, smaller, beadier eyes, and scruffier coat as well as sparser whiskers.  It is nice to know they are no longer trapped much for their pelts.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Alternate Fishing Techniques

When you think of a great blue heron fishing, you probably picture a bird up to it's knees in water, moving very slowly as it forages for minnows and small fish along the shoreline.  But, they are highly resourceful birds and, over time, I have seen some pretty amazing alternate techniques for catching fish.

Today's photos depict one of those alternate methods. The first time I ever saw them use this method, I saw four different herons all use it on the same day. I couldn't figure why I had never seen it before, but on this particular day, I saw it four times. Three of the four herons I witnessed succeeded in catching fish in this manner.

On two recent outings, I have also seen this same behavior. While I didn't understand why I was seeing it originally, since then I think I have gained some insight into when they choose to use this method and why they all seem to be doing it at the same time.

On both recent occasions, the tide was higher than the normal mean tide.  When that happens, beaches that are normally above even a high tide, become inundated, reducing available sites where they would use their wading technique. This photo shows a heron trying to wade on the edge of the marsh where the water is so high, it is almost having to swim. So, what is a heron to do?

Their answer is to fish while flying! Who would ever think that a bird that size could successfully sneak up on a fish and catch it from the air?  From what I have seen, they do it rather well. Sometimes they catch the fish without hardly getting wet.

And, sometimes they actually land on the water as in this photo.

This photo shows how they extend their neck out in front of them as far as possible. If you look carefully, you will see that his feet are half-way between his head and legs as he tries to keep them out of the water.

You can see the fish he caught using this method.

I noticed one further aid they were using on my last outing.  I watched as herons would fly up river over the water, but when they would get to a certain point, they would turn around and drop down closer to the water and fly back over the wide expanse of water they had just flown over.  As I watched one do this, I realized they were using the wind to slow them down so they could spot the fish better.  Kind of raises your estimation of how smart they are, doesn't it?

If you see a heron go from a normal flight position to soaring with its wings at an angle and it's legs extended down as though it is going to land, keep your eyes on it.  It is probably getting ready to try to catch a fish from flight.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mallard Hen and Drake

Photoshop is an amazing program.  Maybe not quite so well known is another program from Adobe called Lightroom, designed for photographers.  The combination of both are powerful tools for realizing your "vision" for a photograph.

This was one in a series of images where I wanted to lessen the photographic look and alter it to look more drawn or painterly.  The downy woodpecker I posted a while back is also an example of this (or a very similar) technique.

It was interesting to watch the hen as she stretched her leg out behind her.  It was all done in slow motion as it usually is, but I was also surprised at how slowly and carefully she brought the foot back to the log and very lightly felt to make sure it was there before repositioning her foot and putting her weight on it.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Bird Calls

Crows are one of the most useful natural alarms systems I know.  Crows live in social groups called murders and it doesn't take much imagination to understand why they got that label.  They hunt cooperatively, covering a fairly broad area and keeping in touch with each other by vocalizing.  What is just a "caw" to us is undoubedly loaded with meaning for them.

I pay attention to the crows maybe more than any other bird because they are the eyes and ears that will give me advance warning about some other interesting animal close by.  They have tipped me off so many times when I probably would have missed seeing a barred owl or a red-tailed hawk or something else out of the ordinary. 

They were extremely helpful in filming the red fox last spring that was routinely visiting our yard. They would tell me exactly where it was and where it was heading and whether I should get ready to film it.  In fact, the first time I saw the fox, it was crows that brought it to my attention.  The fox had caught a rabbit and took it down into the woods, but not so far that I couldn't see it.  This was in the winter with snow on the ground, so there were no leaves to hide what was going on and the snow was reflecting a good amount of light despite it being cloudy. The fox stopped and was tossing the rabbit up into the air (it was already dead).  The crows were in the trees above the fox, all making a din and telling it to get on with its meal so that they could scavenge what was left.

It is the same way at the river.  I always look to see what they are fussing about.  They coincidently brought a red fox to my attention there also.  The crow pictured above may appear to be alone, but it is part of a larger flock that was on the hunt and was reporting back to the group what it had seen.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Recognizing Bird Species

There are a variety of ways to recognize bird species when the bird may be too far away to identify by it's unique markings.  Flight characteristics are one way.  Does the bird fly straight, low to the ground, does it's body teeter back and forth (e.g., turkey vulture)?  Wing flaps is another.  Does it constantly pause after flapping a few times, does it never pause, does it flap it's wings unusually slow or fast? Even where it lands can be a means to identity.  A mockingbird will almost always pick the highest point in the immediate area to land on.  Plus, their tails constantly twitch, another means of identity.

A bird's profile can be another way to identify a species.  In this first photo, the size of the bird itself limits the number of possibilities.  The fish in it's talons also limits the choices.  A vulture, for example, cannot carry a fish with it's feet.  Little things like that can help to accurately identify a bird fairly quickly.

I try to identify them when I first see them from a distance to help me decide whether to get ready to film them or just let them pass.  You would be surprised how quickly they can cover the distance and be on you.  Several decisions have to be made about camera settings and such and the time can be used to get ready.

Since we are on the subject of profiles, here is another silhouette of the same osprey (they are both osprey profiles, by the way) that shows something unique to this bird.  It has the ability to cup the inner half of it's wings, which allows them to increase their speed significantly in a dive or when they want to get to another location quickly.  Why this particular bird is doing it in this situation, I'm not sure.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Show Me the Tummy

Spotted sandpipers fly so fast, they are hard to film.  They fly into an area so fast that I don't usually have time to react until what I'm filming is there backside as they fly away.  They haven't expected me to be standing at the top of the rip rap at the bridge where I have been standing lately, so when they fly in, a few haven't recognized what I am until they are almost on me.  The other day, one was getting ready to land three feet from me and let out with an "Eeek!"  I hadn't seen it fly in and the "eeek" was the first indication I had that it was even around.

I did see this one coming, however.  It was with a group of three.  They were going to land right where I was standing until they recognized I was a hoomon.  This was the split second where the sandpiper changed directions and flew away.  Turns out they can bank and leave deposits. Heh, heh.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Conservation of Energy

One of the highest rules in the animal kingdom is the rule of the conservation of energy.  This is also true in the human realm, but is artificially modified by another rule: the division of labor.  If each of us had to go out and forage for our next meal, we would quickly learn about the importance of the conservation of energy.

One of the main things I have seen on the river, which seems to violate this principal, is the osprey hovering.  Hovering takes, what appears to be, an inordinate amount of energy to perform, often with little in the way of return.  Hovering (in energy expenditure) appears to be the equivalent of doing sit-ups or, at the very least, pull-ups.  I watched an osprey recently and noted that it hovered over one area for the better part of an hour.  Now, they don't hover constantly.  They will hover a little bit, soar in a circle, return to the same general spot and hover once more.  They do this over and over again.

What they are doing is trying to spot a fish in a location where they have had a high degree of past success.  The fish aren't always there, though.  So, while they CAN hover, it isn't easy to do.  There are basically two positions to the manuever, both shown here.  The head acts as the fulcrum, which allows their eyes to remain more or less stationary, while their body rocks from an open-winged to a close-winged position.  The legs are extended and allowed to swing to give them balance.  If a fish is spotted, they immediately go into a dive, quickly descending to a position just above the water, where they can hopefully glide in and catch the fish.  From my own experience of watching osprey hover, however, I would have to say that the percentages of success are low.  And that is why I question the method.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

They Just Don't Like Each Other

Not the greatest photograph technically, but I still thought you would find this image fascinating for what it depicts.  The eagle had ventured too near the osprey's nest.  It may even have been intentional.  It looked that way to me.  The osprey's response was immediate and energetic.  As I have said before, however, I have yet to see such an encounter come to real blows.  It is mostly posturing, though I have no doubt it would have escalated if the eagle hadn't backed off.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Three Phases of A Bird's Morning

Birds go through three distinct phases of activity on a typical morning.  To get the most out of filming birds, it is a good idea to know what they are.  The first is called "the dawn chorus."  It doesn't start at dawn; it ends at dawn.  It starts in the barely perceptible change of light when night turns to twilight.  At this time of year, that is about four or four-thirty in the morning.  I never hear the dawn chorus on the river.  I hear it at home when I'm getting ready to leave.  There isn't much reason to be on the river at that time, since light levels or so low I couldn't film anyway.  The only reason I can think of to get to a location this early would be to enter a blind before the animals know you are there, but that doesn't fit my situation.  The birds always know I'm there and recognize that I don't represent an immediate threat, so they pretty much ignore my presence.

It is easy to recognize when the second phase begins - at dawn - but when it ends is not so easy to determine.  This phase is commonly called the "morning bustle." This is the period of increased activity centered on getting something to eat and is true for most creatures, not just birds.  This is the period which is most productive in filming most birds (excluding owls and other nocturnal species). The photo of the eagle above was taken very shortly after dawn.  You can see the golden light of dawn on it's white parts.  There were actually two eagles flying together and this photo was taken at the moment when the lead eagle spotted a fish near the surface of the water.  (They were flying up river.) 

On this morning, I had arrived at the river about ten minutes after dawn, later than I had wanted to. This incident with the eagle occurred less than ten minutes after arriving.  The eagle dropped down to the river, snatched a fish out of the water, and flew off across the river.  Less than a half-minute later, the other eagle did the exact same thing.

I stayed until eight-thirty, which most people would consider relatively early, but by then, the third phase of a normal day had begun.  It occurred earlier than usual, but I recognized that it had begun because I didn't see a single bird for half-an-hour.

This period is called "the hush" and builds through the day as most activity tapers off.  I could continue to stand there, but I have learned that I'm not going to see very much during this period of the day and I may as well put the time to better use.

If you think about it, What are the chances that the eagle would return soon and catch another fish?  Not very high - unless it was fishing for a family.  If it is only feeding itself, it most likely won't feed again until evening.  So, all those birds that have caught fish before you arrive are pretty much done for the morning.  That is why it is important to arrive at the beginning of this period of activity.  The action will not pick up again until late in the afternoon.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Wood Duck Family

It is a dangerous world out there for wood duck chicks, even more so before they are able to fly. Their only means of protection is to swim as fast as they can.  I remember seeing a female and her chicks serenely crossing the river last spring and, when they reached the middle of the river, a boat came roaring down the river bearing down on them.  The mother was in a panic, getting the kids to swim as fast as they possibly could to get them out of harms way.  And rightfully so.  You wouldn't believe how unconscious people can be about their surrounding environment, even while driving a boat.  Twice I have seen an eagle swoop right down in front of: 1. a boat with three guys and 2. two people in separate canoes.  None of these individuals appeared to see either eagle!  The mother got them to safety, however, and they went up into the safer environs of a marshy creek.

And that is where this mother and her chicks were headed - into the marsh in Graham Creek.  She lead them straight across the river past a sleepy heron standing out in the water on a rock, up the shoreline under the canopy of a tree where I had seen an eagle land only minutes before.  I kept my lens trained on the little family.  Who knows, I might get some great shots of an eagle picking off a duckling. What? And you wouldn't in my place?  But, thankfully, it didn't happen.  The last danger was me and she was quite aware of my presence.

When I first saw them coming, I retracted the legs on my tripod so it would be sitting just off the ground because I didn't want the pictures to look like I was shooting straight down on them.  So, when they went past, I was kneeling down behind the camera and presented an unrecognizable form to the duck.  She was uneasy, but not enough to cancel the outing.  She vary warily led them on past until they disappeared under the bridge.  The marsh has better cover and is probably a safer place to let them learn and grow.

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Successful Catch

In the entire time I have been filming on the Patuxent, I can count on less than one hand how many times an osprey has caught a fish right out in front of me AND caught it while facing toward me, not with it's back to me.  It has everything to do with the wind.  The prevailing wind from the west is blowing in my face as I stand on the eastern shore, so there are few days in which the wind cooperates.  Osprey - and all other birds for that matter - face into the wind to both take off and land.  If the wind is at their back, they cannot control their flight very well.  So, it is a practical matter.

It just so happened that a couple of mornings ago, a front was pushing through the area and the wind had turned around to the east.  So when this osprey dropped down and caught the fish, it was facing me. They never look down at the spot where the fish is located.  That is part of the reason why it looks so nonchalant when they do catch a fish since they never seem to look at it. In fact, in this frame and the one before, it appeared to be staring right at me.  It also did the tradition fly-over, showing me it's catch.  Notice how inordinately long the bird's left wing appears.  The other one is just as long, but it is foreshortened in this image. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Flight Rituals

The last couple of times I have been at the river, there have been so many eagles flying around, I couldn't keep track of them.  Just like roads, birds have aerial highways that they often follow.  There is a major highway that goes right down the shoreline on the other side of the river.  It isn't the actual shore which is another quarter mile or so back, but is defined by the marsh meeting the river.  Almost all the birds that enter this area follow that highway.

There is also an aerial highway that takes birds right over the bridge and into the marsh on this side of the river.  The other morning, two adult eagles flew right over me into the marsh.  It wasn't thirty seconds later and two more did the same thing.  Two came back out shortly after and started flying around over the river right in front of me and began one of those flight displays you hear about where they try to lock talons.  I have yet to see them actually lock talons and plummet toward the ground (at which point they break if off), but I have seen a lot of posturing, usually from a distance.  To my delight, this took place much closer where I could get better photos of the display.  I am holding out hope that one day I will be there at the right time to actually record a pair locking talons.

Despite appearances, the eagles weren't calling or making any noise.  In fact, until the other morning, I had never heard the call of an eagle.  Two flew in, one landed in a tree and the other continued up river.  The one in the tree started calling to the other.  That is the first time I had ever heard one and I wasn't too impressed with the vocalization.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Out of Sorts

On May 7 and 8, I posted two photos of (what I believe is) the same eagle sitting in a favorite dead tree near the bridge over Graham Creek.  The tree has been there forever but, wouldn't you know, it fell a couple days after I posted the photos.  It was not taken down by wind; it was just so rotted it fell over.  I was at the bridge and couldn't figure why I couldn't at least see the branch of the tree from where I stood just days earlier to film the eagle.  When I left that morning, I went to the shoreline a little further back where I was certain I would be able to see the entire tree and, sure enough, all that remained was a stump sticking up.

The other morning, this eagle flew in along the shoreline looking for that tree and you could tell it was upset that it wasn't there.  It landed in another tree nearby, but was there only a few seconds when it took to flight again and moved to another tree a little further down the shore.  The thing about that deadfall is it had no branches to get entangled with an eagle's wings and it had an unobstructed view of the river where it could sit for long periods and look for prey.  You could tell it was upset that it could no longer do that.

Here is what is left of the tree.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Muscovy Duck

Look who survived the winter.  Surprised me.  I thought for sure a fox or something would have gotten it by now.  It was standing right where I normally park on a recent morning and wouldn't get out of the way.  It was standing there looking at me and looking rather stupid so I gave it a little smoochy sound which induced it to turn it's head, at which point I took the photo.  In talking to one of the neighbors, I learned that the two other Muscovy that I saw with it last year were killed by a fox.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Young Eagles

I love the way eagles will lower the landing gear while they are flying at the drop of a hat.  It seems to me it is a sign of how comfortable they are in the air.  They'll lower their legs well before landing in a tree - or on land, for that matter - and well before catching a fish.  They will also extend them if attacked by an osprey.

The colors of sub-adults are highly variable, some being very dark while others are highly streaked with white.  Not only do the head and tail turn white in adulthood, but the rest of the body turns uniformly dark brown while the beak and feet turn orange.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Tall Grass

In May 10th post, I said that that picture reminded me of another photo.  Here is the one I had in mind.

This is another environmental shot of a great blue heron.  The two things I like about this photo are that the light bird is nicely framed within a shadowy area, making it stand out nicely and, if you know how large a bird they are, you realize how tall that marsh grass is.  When you view it from across the river, it doesn't look that tall.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Flower for a Mother

I wish I could have posted this on Mother's Day.  It was taken the day before.  Sometimes I will practice on very dark birds such as crows and vultures as they fly by.  This crow came unusually close to my location, so I took a couple of frames as it flew by.  Turns out it was carrying a flower.  An early present for the wife and mother of his children, no doubt.

Cameras are designed to produce a middle gray from whatever you point one at.  It sounds counter-intuitive, but if you want a dark subject like this crow to actually come out black, you have to dial in some negative EV (exposure value), otherwise the camera will render it too light.  I shot this with a negative 1/2 EV.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Steady, Steady

This is a sub-adult eagle that could be anywhere from one to three or four years old.  You can tell it is concentrating really hard on the fish.  It did catch one, although I wasn't able to get any photos of it because it was so dark and rainy on this morning.  The reason I know it caught one, is because another young eagle chased it all over the marsh trying to steal the fish.

The Patuxent River received the an F in the annual University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, the worse grade of any river in the Chesapeake Bay, other than the Elizabeth River down near Portsmouth, Virginia, which runs through old Navy ship building facilities.  The worst water quality in the entire Bay!  How can that be?  I know of absolutely no major industry anywhere along the river.  How can it have such terrible water quality?  Just think what an Eden it would be if the water was healthy.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Eagle Activity

I have experienced one or two other mornings like the morning pictured here where the eagles wee highly active.  Most days, I see them, but they spend most of the time just sitting in trees with only occasional activity.  On this recent morning, there were so many eagles flying around, I couldn't keep track of them.  Catching fish, chasing osprey, trying to steal fish from each other, just chasing each other around.  Unfortunately, none of the activity occurred close enough to get high quality images.  The closest was this adult who nonchalantly descended to the river and snatched a nice shad from the surface.  Unlike osprey, an eagle cannot regain flight if it ends up in the water, so they are limited in how far below the surface they can grab a fish.  If they do end up in the water, they have to swim to shore.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Trying To Keep Your Head Above Water

I have never seen the Patuxent River higher than it was the other day - without major rain being the cause.  I think it was a spring tide caused by the alignment of that super moon we had last weekend and the sun.  Another five inches and it would have been over the dock on which I often stand.  It was up onto the road surface down at the bridge across Graham Creek which usually only happens in a major storm.
The high water left no beaches showing, but pushed up into the growth along the river banks.  It didn't present any problem for this great blue heron, though.  He knew where a log was suppose to be whether it was underwater or not and was able to take advantage of a fine place to fish.  I lost count of how many fish I saw him catch.  Probably on the order of twenty or more!  Most looked like menhaden. I swear he was getting bigger as I watched.  Ha!

Fish are naturally attracted to structure, as any fisherman knows.  So the fish were coming in along the log and he would ambush them.  Fish may even see a motionless GBH as some type of structure in the shade of which they can hide under normal circumstances.  That would provide a definite advantage to have your shadow be a natural lure for attracting fish.  As I watched it catch fish, I looked down into the water at my feet.  I could, at most, see only a couple inches into the water at the submerged boulder rip rap along the bridge.  You have to wonder, how is it they can see into the water so much better under those conditions?  Remind me sometime and I'll tell you something I've noticed about the GBH's eyes.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Aerial Acrobats

I don't apologize for the low quality of these photos.  It was the best I could get on this dark morning at a distance that reveals the limits of the lens I was using.  At close distance, this lens does fairly well, but a long distances, the detail breaks down.  But, I figured it you wanted to see some of the antics eagles pull when they are in the air, you will have to accept that the images are not very good.  Canon has another 400 mm lens that is much better, but it is $6K more than I paid for this one.  I'm taking donations, though, if you want to email me...

Yes, in one or two of them, the eagle is upside down.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Every Move You Make - I'll Be Watchin' You

Here is the photo of the great blue heron I mentioned the other day in the blog about how it knew I was focusing my attention on it even though I was a hundred yards away.  You can see it has it's eye on me.  This was late in the season and most other birds had flown south.  I think he stuck it out for the winter. I like how it shows the environment he lives in.  It reminds of another photo which I will post sometime over the next few days.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Timing is Everything

I just knew the eagle was going to fly.  Some birds have an innate sense when your interest concerns them.  I remember a great blue heron at North Beach a couple of years ago well off the road in the middle of some marsh grass.  I thought the bird in a of a sea of grass would be an interesting environment portrait, so I took a photo.  I was on the side of the road and there was absolutely nothing in the way of humans or birds around.  Once I had taken that photo, I decided to move up the road where I could take an even closer image. Traveling on the road was going to take me closer, but at an oblique angle, so that I wasn't walking straight at the GBH.  As soon as I folded the tripod legs in and started walking up the road (keep in mind, I was probably fifty yards from this bird), he looked at me, croaked, and left for parts unknown.  I don't know how he knew I had an interest in him.  I was reading an entry the other day by John J. Audubon and he described exactly the same thing with a great blue heron.  Maybe there is something about that species...

As I drew closer to the eagle sitting in the dead tree, I fully expected it would also fly, so it was with no small surprise that I reached the spot I was hoping to reach and the eagle hadn't left.  Maybe he had grown use to pedestrian traffic.  While it is a fairly rural area, it is part of a route used by both bikers and joggers.  At any rate, he paid me no mind and continued with his surveillance of the river.

I don't know if you have ever noticed, but birds don't wear watches.  They could care less about being somewhere at a designated time.  When they are perched, it is a good opportunity to preen feathers or sleep or maybe try to spot a fish, but they have little motivation to get up and fly.  I have watched exasperated many times with the camera trained on a bird waiting for that first second or two when they take off.  How long do you think you could do it?  Sometimes it has nothing to do with patience; it has more to do with an aging body and an aching back.  And, I can almost guarantee that it will be in the brief time you decide to take a break, that they will decide it would be nice to visit the other side of the river.

So you can imagine my delight when the eagle decided to dive down to the water after only thirty minutes or so.  Snap, snap, snap, snap, snap, snap.  If you have a camera with a burst function, I don't recommend using it.  Sure as shooting (pun intended) as soon as the buffer fills and you can take no more images, something REALLY interesting will happen.  So, I use a modified burst where I selectively fire off the shutter at a little slower pace, but end up able to take ten or twelve images rather than the six.  You have to consciously think not to simply press and hold the shutter down, but its worth it in the extra images you will end up with.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Practicing Majesty

This is probably about a four-year-old eagle.  That is how old they are before they morph into a white head and tail and while his head is almost completely white, you can see streaks of white on his underbody and his tail still has dark brown in it. 

After being there for a while, I got bored with waiting and decided to imitate some other birds by whistling.  While I never have been able to whistle very well, he did perk up when I would imitate different calls and cock his head and look at me like he was thinking, "What the hey?"

He was facing in my direction when I first arrived and after some time, he decided to turn with his back to me.  He had to take a lot of care to make sure he didn't misstep and that is why he is looking down.  He very carefully made sure he had a good hold before taking the next step in the process of turning around.  Now you know where the term "spread eagle" comes from.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Bald Eagle

Yesterday morning was a bust.  Cloud cover caused light levels to be so low that the only way to eek out enough shutter speed was to turn the gain all the way up - in other words use the highest ISO setting the camera was capable of handling.  There is a catch-22 in doing so in that what you gain in shutter speed, you lose in image detail.  So, despite there being some activity, the resulting photos were disappointing.

I decided to call it quits early and turned to pack it up.  Then my eyes fell on a dead tree down near the bridge over Graham Creek where osprey will occasionally sit and look out over the river.  It would seem to me it would be a perfect spot to watch for fish since it stands right on the edge of the river, but birds don't utilize it as much as I would expect.  I looked through the telephoto to see if there might be something sitting there and to my surprise, there was an eagle perched on a branch.

Since my car was parked in that direction, I decided to see if I could get closer and perhaps take a few decent photos.  I expected the eagle would become unnerved and fly before I could get very close.  I stopped about half-way there and took a couple of "grab shots."  A grab shot is where you take a photo just so you have something in case further photos don't work out.  Then, I moved closer, stopped again, and took a couple more photos.  I kept doing this until I was as close as I could get to the eagle.  It was unfazed by my presence and sat there for more than an half-an-hour posing, preening, and pooping.

If you are ever waiting on something to happen so that you can take a photograph, you don't want to simply have the camera in your hand.  If you do, you will never catch the action.  You have to have your finger on the shutter and your eye to the viewfinder ready to instantly take the image - or you will miss it.  You would be surprised how much activity can occur in the eternity it takes you to put the camera up to your eye, find the subject in the viewfinder, focus, and press the shutter.

So I stood there for more than an half-an-hour with my eye to the viewfinder and my finger on the shutter waiting for the eagle to take off or do something more than just sit there and profile.  The only thing I dislike about my tripod is that it isn't quite tall enough to stand comfortably.  So, when you are stooped over the camera for a few minutes, it becomes very tiresome.  When minutes turn into a half-hour, it can make you feel like throwing in the towel.  But, I have seldom had the opportunity to film an eagle at this close a range, so I hung in there.  I'll post some of the photos over the next few days.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Downy Woodpecker

Here is another photo that has been altered, although you probably wouldn't know it unless I told you.  If you look carefully, however, you will discover that both trees are the same tree.  I liked the woodpecker's pose in this image, but I didn't like the effect of the tree bisecting the frame in half.  One way to solve the problem would have been to crop the photo in half, using the tree as the frame on the left-hand side of the image.  But, I had another idea - and that was to duplicate the tree.  In my mind, it made it much more interesting than if I had done the other.

While I have this photo as an example, let me also mention that if you take images of animals - or even people - try to incorporate an eye glint.  It can totally make or break a picture.  Without it, a subject can look dead while, with it, even a dead subject can look alive.  Or something like that.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Another Idlyllic View

Here is another lovely spot that I never tire of looking at.  The nice thing about spending so much time at this same spot is that I can wait until the ideal conditions appear to take a snap.  That is slang in England for snapshot I guess.  I know this from reading an English photo magazine.  Sometimes when I read the terms they use, I can't even understand what they are saying!  But anyhoo...

This boathouse is where the pair that are now nesting on the telephone pole first started to set up housekeeping.  They tried for two years in a row.  But the owner wasn't having it and did everything he could to frustrate their plans.  And I can't blame him.  Once they establish a nest, it is almost impossible to get rid of them.  Initially, he put up what I think may have been an electric fence around the perimeter of the upper portion of the roof.  That is now gone, but there is another mechanism currently that looks like spider legs sprouting from a central sprocket.  I imagine it can turn freely and must be there to discourage nest building.  You can barely see it if you look between the two nearest osprey right along the ridge of the roof.

One of these three osprey is the male from the telephone pole nest.  I have no idea what he was up to, but he flew over there and got what I would guess is the male from that pair upset and chasing him around for a while.  Then he left.

Wouldn't you just love to have a place like this where you could sit and look out over the river and watch the antics of the different animals?  In the four years or more that I have filmed down there, I have never seen anyone using it.  Now, granted, I'm never there in the afternoon so, maybe they do use it. But I have been there on a lot of Saturdays and would think I would see someone once in a while.