Brant! Despite a Dog

Brant - Cass Park, Ithaca, New York

For the last few weeks, flocks of Brant have been passing through the Ithaca area on their way south.  My first looks at these geese were in a scope at a distance of probably 400-500 meters, not exactly the most exciting and rewarding experience.  As people have been reporting these birds throughout the region, I keep chasing them down for a chance to photograph them.  I’ve now seen Brant on a number of different occasions but usually at either great distances or in situations where I couldn’t make a photograph.  Sunday evening that finally changed!

Brant - Cass Park, Ithaca, New York

Sunday afternoon, I heard that a flock of about 20 Brant were feeding and resting on the lawn at Cass Park at the southern end of the Cayuga Lake.  I grabbed the camera, jumped in the car, and headed to the park.  The birds were easy to find but required walking around the marina basin from the parking lot.  On my way there, a man with his dog was about 150 meters ahead of me.  Despite the numerous signs designating that all dogs must be on a leash (a leash-free dog park is set up on the opposite side of the parking lot), the man had his dog running free.  As I watched them approach the flock of geese, the owner encouraged the dog to run into the flock and after the man made numerous gestures providing encouragement, the dog finally ran towards the birds and flushed them into the water.  As I approached a minute or two later, the man called his dog over and put him on a leash, obviously knowing that it was required and that he had just been caught, but showing no remorse (I obviously was there to photograph the birds as I had my big lens with me).

In any case, I sat there fuming for about 10 minutes before the geese finally took flight again and headed up the creek and out of sight.  Frustrated, I headed back to the car and put the camera away before heading home.  On the way out of the area, I happened to glance over at a soccer field and to my astonishment, there were the Brant, calmly feeding in the middle of the field.  I quickly parked and got the camera out and off I went.

Over the next 45 minutes or so, I wandered around with the Brant photographing them as they fed on the field.  Normally, I don’t like to photograph birds on such an unnatural habitat but I avoided the white lines on the field and got low so it isn’t all that noticeable.  The setting just looks like a beautiful green lawn.  The flock was a mix of juveniles and adults but the two images here are both adults.

These images were taking at ISO 2000, as the sun had dropped behind the ridge nearby.  Boy its great to have the D3 back, as these images simply wouldn’t have been possible with the D2Xs.

I’d love to know what you think about the setting?  Does the soccer field bother you?   It is where they are often found as large fields and lawns are easy feeding locations.  It’s just not as pretty as a marsh, I guess.

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  1. Nice shots. I wonder where they spend the winters…how far south? I don’t remember every seeing any around here.

    The setting (soccer field) doesn’t bother me but it may give the impression these Brant are somewhat domesticated.

  2. I love the first shot with the nice view of the ruffled feathers. I wouldn’t even have known this was a soccer field…

  3. @ Earl
    On the east coast, Brant winter along the mid Atlantic coast, mostly from Cape Cod to Virginia or North Carolina. On the West Coast, its pretty much from Southern California up to just north of the US/Canada border. I can’t comment too much on the domestication. These birds didn’t really mind my presence as I was able to just walk right up to about 20 feet from the birds. They simply just kept feeding and worked away from me, never showing signs of disturbance or like they were going to fly.

    Thanks Brandon!

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