Winter Feeder Birds

American Tree Sparrow in snow.  Ithaca, New York

American Tree Sparrow in snow. Ithaca, New York

As winter was starting to draw to a close, I wanted to get out and make some images of birds in the snow. So, one afternoon before we were supposed to have a huge snowfall overnight, I set up a pair of perches near my feeders and set up my blind nearby. The next morning I spent a couple frigid hours sitting in the blind photographing a handful of species as they came in for seed.

Black-capped Chickadee in snow.  Ithaca, New York.

Black-capped Chickadee in snow. Ithaca, New York.

I have a lot to learn about photographing at setups and learned a ton that day, but despite my inexperience, I still walked away with some images I was pleased with. I was able to photograph a couple species for the first time, particularly American Tree Sparrows which were plentiful that day. I also added some decent images of Dark-eyed Junco, White-throated Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Black-capped Chickadee, and Tufted Titmouse to my files. I’ll post a few of the images today and a few later this week.

American Tree Sparrow in snow. Ithaca, New York

American Tree Sparrow in snow. Ithaca, New York

I plan to do a lot more of this type of photography this spring and summer. As I said, I’ve got a lot to learn but hopefully by the end of the summer I’ll be making some spectacular images.

Off to New York City!

It has been quiet around here all summer and I apologize that my brief hiatus turned into a much longer break.  However, I have had an extremely busy and productive summer with a lot to show, though not much new photography.  I’d like to take a quick moment to announce that this morning my wife and I are headed down to New York City for the next 10 days or so.  As you may know, my wife is an archaeologist ,and she will be working on excavating the ship that has recently been found at the site of the World Trade Center.  It’s an extremely exciting opportunity and it should make for a fun time in the city.

There is a chance that I will be able to get on site and create a series of panoramas of the ship and the excavation but we aren’t sure yet.  Details are still being worked out so I am just headed down prepared to either shoot or work from the hotel.  Whatever happens, We will be in the city for at least the next week or so.  I’ll post some more details about the project sometime this coming week once I know more myself.

If you are in the City and want to meet up for coffee or a drink, shoot me an email or leave a comment here.  Hope everyone has a great week!

In Search of an Ovenbird

Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapillus) - Genung Preserve, Freeville, NY

Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapillus) - Genung Preserve, Freeville, NY

Singing Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapillus) - Genung Preserve, Freeville, NY

Singing Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapillus) – Genung Preserve, Freeville, NY

Having grown up in central Florida and lived in Texas for the last few years, I am used to seeing warblers during migration, not singing on territory like they do here.  This means I have quite a steep learning curve trying to learn the songs of local birds. I am making rapid progress, but there is an incredible amount to learn!

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Featured Photo: Northern Parula

Northen Parula (Parula americana) - Foster Pond, Finger Lakes National Forest, New York

Northen Parula (Parula americana) - Foster Pond, Finger Lakes National Forest, New York

On Friday morning at the Finger Lakes National Forest, one of the better birds of the morning was a Northern Parula.  We had at least two individuals but, as typical with Parulas, they were high in the canopy.  At one point, I set up on a blooming apple tree to sit and see if anything would come into feed, as I had seen a several Yellow Warblers do just that.  A few minutes after setting up, this Northern Parula visited briefly for about 30 seconds.  I came away with a couple good frames, the best of which you see here.

Warblers: Environmental Portraits

Yellow Warbler (Dendroica petechia) - Foster Pond, Finger Lakes National Forest, New York

Yellow Warbler (Dendroica petechia) - Foster Pond, Finger Lakes National Forest, New York

Yesterday morning, I spent a couple hours with another local photographer Raghu Ramanujan at Foster Pond in the Finger Lakes National Forest.  It was a spectacularly beautiful morning and the woods were alive with warblers feeding and singing.  Despite the huge amount of activity, we struggled to create photographs because we couldn’t really get close to many of the birds.

Rather than get frustrated with myself, I decided to switch gears a bit and focus on creating images of the warblers in their habitat rather than close up portraits.  While I love the challenge of getting close to warblers and other small songbirds, creating environmental portraits can be even more of a challenge and extremely rewarding when one works.

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Migration: Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) - Summerhill State Forest, New York

Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) - Summerhill State Forest, New York

Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) - Summerhill State Forest, New York

Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) - Summerhill State Forest, New York

Like yesterday’s Song Sparrows, many Dark-eyed Juncos hang around the area over the winter and are commonly seen at feeders.  They also set up territories and begin singing early in the spring.  They breed in forests dominated by conifers but are also seen in mixed woods.  I have had them singing in my back yard in the past few weeks, but I was able to photograph this male singing in Summerhill State Forest last week.  I have enjoyed photographing these sparrows both this spring and last fall because we don’t get them in central Florida.

Migration: Song Sparrows

Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) - Summerhill State Forest

Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) - Summerhill State Forest

Talking about Song Sparrows as a migrant might not be totally fair as some birds stay over the winter and some migrate south.  However, regardless of whether they are returning migrants or just over wintering birds, Song Sparrows are one of the first birds of spring to start singing.  Here in Central New York they are everywhere and their song is ubiquitous.  It seems that nearly every time I put my binoculars on a sparrow, it turns out to be a Song Sparrow.

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Migration: Swamp Sparrows

Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana) - Summerhill State Forest, New York

Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana) - Summerhill State Forest, New York

Sorry it was so quiet around here last week.  I have had a busy week but now have some time to share a few new images.  Songbird migration has finally gotten underway.  For several weeks there have been huge flocks of Red-winged Blackbirds and American Robins around, but now many sparrows have also returned and are now on territory and singing.  Last week, I was able to find and photograph four different species of sparrows in just two days.  Over the next few days I’ll be sharing with you a few images of these birds while we wait for the warblers to start showing in the next few weeks.

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Interactive Habitat: Winter Spruce Bog

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Summer Hill Spruce Bog #1

A spruce bog is a habitat that I am totally unfamiliar with so as of now, I don’t have a whole lot of information.  It is a really amazing habitat and hosts a huge diversity of wildlife as they typically are somewhat small and create a lot of edge effect, where two habitats come together.  In late fall and winter, bird life is relatively quiet.  However, just this morning I saw Ruffed Grouse, American Crow, Blue Jays, Black-capped Chickadees, and more.  Early in the year I had huge flocks of Song and Swamp Sparrows and other fall migrants including several Ash-throated Flycatchers.  Mallards and Wood Ducks as well as Canada Geese call this marsh home as well.  Spring and summer host numerous breeding warblers and other songbirds and I will bring you more on that in the spring.

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Woodpeckers Everywhere

Red-bellied Woodpecker - Everglades National Park, Florida

I was going stir crazy sitting in front of the computer all day, so this evening I headed out for a walk in the woods.  I decided to explore a patch of forest known as Monkey Run as I had never been there before, and an immature Red-headed Woodpecker had been seen there a couple times in the last few days.

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