March has turned out to be a very good month and we still have several days left! Thanks to our quick trip to Vegas, my Average Year status is now at 239 (link here) – that includes two local finds yesterday thanks to standing out in a large tree lined meadow waiting for the distinct peent of horny male American Woodcocks (link here – more sad memories). Call me 12, but I still laugh every single time I say or type out that name hehehe. The other +1 was more of a twist as it “found” me. I was just standing there noting it was getting surprisingly chilly as the sun was preparing for bed, when I noticed a fast moving bird heading across the meadow directly at me. Ever witness people just standing there taking it all in as a car or other potentially dangerous object speeds in their direction? This bird just kept coming, I just kept standing there, bird continues to close the gap, I continue to gawk, bird appears to be on a mission, I continue to ponder the history of flight, bird undeterred, I wonder if Ron is standing next to me (birds hate him), bird proceeds to whiz past my right ear and land on a nearby branch, I nearly crap my pants. What the hell was THAT! I turned to give it a stern talking to when I noticed it was a Fox Sparrow. Took a few snaps to get the +1 for the year and politely informed it a Top Gun flyby wasn’t necessary, a friendly wave would have been sufficient. I don’t speak bird, but I think it called me a ground hugging troglodyte and pointed to its wings – sigh.
That puts me a mere 61 birds away from the 300 goal for the year. Hoping to take a huge chunk out of that next week as we are heading down to Dauphin Island (and along the Panhandle) for some migration action. During that time we’ll be bringing you several posts from Brad including an adventure to a place Intrigued has never been before. Actually, Brad also influenced today’s featured post.
Linda and I are still out exploring and once again we are up to our eyeballs in Snow! Probably shouldn’t be too surprised as it is winter and I do currently call the broke state of “Ill” my home state. There is only one thing to do in this situation – grab The Beast and start filling the tin.
Oh, you thought I meant the cold wet stuff. Well, that might be true if we weren’t on the road. Before you start making the wrong assumption, I still do not have access to my digital darkroom tools so the new Snowy Egret shots are stuck on portable drives (yes, multiple backups of the backups of the backups of the originals – I.T. people learn to assume that tech crap is gonna break , the game is predicting WHEN!). Not sure when we will get full access to my processing tools.
Hit the jump to see a few more shots of our featured cottonball.
Definitely sticking with the game plan for this month, staying ahead of the game and getting the posts out early. It definitely helps when you already have the images worked up in the digital darkroom. To be honest, short of getting the birds in the tin, the major effort in this whole blogging thingy is working up the images to make it worth my reader’s visit time. Of course, this doesn’t always happen, case in point the horrific Cave Swallow pictures I forced upon you a few posts back. I try my best so you can at least tell it is a bird – not to mention Ron is starting to push me with the quality stuff he is putting up over on his blog (link here). You probably didn’t know this, but I credit him for getting me into photography while I was in high school and the reason I can navigate around a camera (although I did introduce him to back-button focus). Today’s featured bird is a bit of an atonement for a slight I made in a recent post.
Within the Cinnamon Teal post (link here), I unintentionally dismissed one of the most regal birds there is (at least in North America). It wasn’t the species that dimmed my excitement, just that I was revved up to add a new +1 to the list. I am lucky enough to have a large number of Snowy Egret shots from just about everywhere we’ve traveled along with tins full from Emiquon and other local water hotspots. When I saw this set of Snowies in the post queue, I immediately decided this was the perfect time to bring them out.
Hit the jump to see some more picture of this immaculate bird.
Big day today, finally completed a project I’ve been working on for several months. This is actually a double benefit since not only can I set my sights on a new endeavor, there’s one more post topic in the hopper. Now only need to process the 20o pictures and get them ready for the blog .. don’t panic, probably won’t subject you to all of them … or maaaayybbee hehehe. Until then, figured I’d try to wrap up the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve visit. Other photo shoots are starting to back up in the queue and need to get at least a few of them out of the way to make room for the new year. You may recall there was a post earlier in the month on the Great Egret (link here). We were lucky enough to have multiple encounters with various Egrets and at one point they decided to put on a show!
I really like this shot for a number of reasons. Clearly the birds themselves were captured in similarly unique poses which shows off how pretty these birds are. The large one is the Great Egret and based on what I can tell of the bill from this angle, the smaller one is a Little Egret – possibly Snowy but the neck seems a little long for that. They reminded me of Guardian Angels with their pure white wings raised up like that. After a little bit you tend to get curious and your eyes start to wander. Following the Little Egret you notice some Grebes passing by – wonder if the Egret was trying to scare them away from their feeding area. They were coasting by without alarm so doubt the Grebes cared much. Still searching you start looking at what has the Great Egret’s attention. That leads to the American Coot somewhat hidden in the dark colors. Turns out that Coot also has its wings out basically taunting them – I have already documented how those Coots like to mock their pond mates (link here). Some of you may have already seen this shot a little earlier – accidentally put it up on Birding Across America site (link here) before remembering it had not debuted here yet – oops.
Not wanting to be left out, another Egret decided to join the festivities. Can really see the span of those huge white wings on the Great Egret from this angle.
Hit the jump to learn why these Egrets were so annoyed!
Just got back from another exciting two days of dog shows up in Spring Grove. Normally that means hours of sitting around waiting for each of my dogs to make their two minute runs. I lucked out this weekend – sure, it had the standard waiting around for hours waiting for each of the dogs to make their two minute runs, but this time I was able to spend some quality time at the Chain ‘O Lakes State Park. This is actually the park Linda bribes me with every time they have a show up there. There’s been a lot of good bird sightings up there (link here and here) and in general a very nice park (complete with snakes). Saturday I got to get my 10.5 mile training run in on their very nice trails although I underestimated how hilly those babies were which pushed me pretty good (give Linda credit for waiting around for me to finish that long run). Today I had the opportunity to go back and spend a few hours walking a few of the trails with the Beast. Not a lot of birds in the water but did catch a few tree birds in between sprinting away from the mosquito hordes. Surprised there wasn’t much in the water but the trails were pretty noisy with people which might have spooked them before I got there. No harm (other than the 50 bites all over my body) it is always good to be out with the Beast especially if I in place of sitting around in a cold building with people strategizing on whether to go behind or in front of the dog to get to the next obstacle.
Although I didn’t find any birds enjoying the backwaters, I figured it would be fitting to bring out another NEW bird from the shoot that did have a lot of water sightings – that’s right, our old friend the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve produced, yet again, another birding list check mark. What wonderful bird are we featuring today?
It is a difficult to distinguish from this particular shot but the yellow between the eyes and the black bill gives some pretty good clues. The critical part isn’t visible from this particular shot because it chose to stand in the water while looking for breakfast. I’ll ruin the suspense and tell you it has very yellow feet which you will see in a shot further down the post. It is still not a lock because there seems to be some confusion in the various books on Snowy Egret vs the Little Egret. The Stokes book clearly calls out the Snowy Egret having the yellow coloring between the beak and the eye where the Little Egret has more of greenish hue. This seemed like a lock until reading further in the Little Egret description and learning that breeding times it can change to a red, orange or yellow hue. Hmmm … wait wait .. it looks like when this happens the feet turn red or orange. So based on that, I am definitely going with the Snow Egret unless someone has more knowledge on this particular species and can provide a more definitive answer to the contrary. Until then I’m happily putting the check mark in the list!
I spent a lot of time with this particular bird trying to find the best way to compensate for the somewhat harsh light. Not wanting to blow the shot completely I actually tried a lot of different settings to help bring out the detail in the white that didn’t blur in the wind or bird movements. These white birds cause havoc in good light, much less late morning direct light. A big thanks to Adobe for some nifty tools in the digital darkroom that lets me tweak the shots in an attempt to make the good shots a little better. Of course, it doesn’t hurt these birds are extremely photographer friendly being such still hunters.