Author Archives: Vincent Mistretta

About Vincent Mistretta

Photographer and wild nature enthusiast that enjoys sharing visual stories about our wonderful planet.

First Hairy Woodpecker

I don’t know if I have just gotten better at identifying birds, become more observant in my observations or there is a real change in the migrating patterns I am seeing this year.

Hairy Woodpecker about to hit the feeder
Hairy Woodpecker about to hit the feeder

The results however have been pretty meaningful. I have observed several new species (here, here and here) for my neck of the woods the past 4 weeks. Unfortunately most of these observations were short lived.

Hairy Woodpecker on the lookout
Hairy Woodpecker on the lookout

Much to my chagrin many of these birds have already migrated further north. I was pretty amazed when I first saw this Hairy Woodpecker. The brown spots made me think I had somehow seen a Pacific variant which has more brown. Hairy and Pileated Woodpeckers are difficult to to get on film. They are very skittish and I like to be close when I make my images, I like the subject to fill the frame, portrait style if you will. I also like to make images that show point of reference and biology.

Ruby Crowned Kinglet

If it weren’t for my friend Kathy Brown, I might never have figured out what species I was observing. Identifying this bird stumped me!

Ruby Crowned Kinglet "Over the Shoulder"
Ruby Crowned Kinglet “Over the Shoulder”

Ruby Crowned Kinglets are described by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology as a tiny bird seemingly overflowing with energy, the Ruby-crowned Kinglet forages almost frantically through lower branches of shrubs and trees. Its habit of constantly flicking its wings is a key identification clue. Smaller than a warbler or chickadee, this plain green-gray bird has a white eye ring and a white bar on the wing. Alas, the male’s brilliant ruby crown patch usually stays hidden—your best chance to see it is to find an excited male singing in spring or summer. I don’t think I could have described what I saw any better. This bird moves with the energy and manner similar to a hummingbird.

Ruby Crowned Kinglet
Ruby Crowned Kinglet

With that description I would have had an easier time identifying this species. At first I thought I was looking at something in the Vireo family. However, Kathy quickly pointed out that “There should be more contrast between head and back. Also, a blue-headed vireo would have “spectacles” around its eyes. Take a look at the beak. See how thin and pointy it is?”

Its help like this that makes birding so much fun, there is always someone like Kathy willing to help. Checkout Birders who Blog, Tweet and Chirp on Facebook. There are some rally great people associated with this community and Kathy is one of them. Thanks for your help Kathy!

Image captured with Nikon D4s, 600mm f/4 w TC-e14II on Lexar digital film.

My First Sighting of a Magnolia Warbler

I had a lot of fun observing and photographing a new bird for my list. Unfortunately I could only locate the male. I would assume that a female was not far away, it is spring after all.

Magnolia Warbler, Male
Magnolia Warbler, Male

While I was observing this Magnolia Warbler I also observed a Ruby Throated Hummingbird displaying to his mate. It was an awesome thing to see. The male started flying at high speeds first up in the air in a bright red blur, then down in iridescent green. He did this display 5 times. I suspect that the pine tree where this display occurred could be the nesting location. I will let you know what I find over the next few days.

Magnolia Warbler, Male
Magnolia Warbler, Male

When I first saw this Warbler from a distance I thought it was a Yellow Warbler. After looking at the bird more closely I realized that the markings were more consistent with a Magnolia Warbler.

Magnolia Warbler, Male
Magnolia Warbler, Male

My only disappointment was the poor background for these images. I’m not really happy with any of them. My style is for cleaner backgrounds. In this case a better background was not an option. Thats why I will be out there trying again in the near future!

Magnolia Warbler, Male
Magnolia Warbler, Male

Images captured with a Nikon D4s, 600mm f/4 with TC-eII on Lexar digital film.

Great Day of Photography and a Few Firsts

Sunday on the East Coast was a 10 when it comes to weather. After the long cold winter the beautiful weather was a welcome change, a nice gift to all the mothers on Mothers day. I am very fortunate that I was able to spend the morning with my wonderful mother who I owe the world to.

Then I was able to enjoy the afternoon walking the yard and checking out the feeders. It has been a quite spring at the feeders until last weekend when I noticed a few new species in the yard. Since it rained all last weekend I was unable to really see what new visitors we had.

The first new species I noticed and was able to successfully photograph was the Red Breasted Grosbeak.

Red Breasted Grosbeak
Red Breasted Grosbeak
Red Breasted Grosbeak
Red Breasted Grosbeak

This was actually the first Grosbeak of any kind I was able to photograph.

Red Breasted Grosbeak Red Breasted Grosbeak

It really took 2 days to get glass on these Grosbeaks, they were very shy and skittish. But once they got used to me, the whole family showed up, it seemed to me that there were 2 mating pairs at the feeders.

Red Breasted Grosbeak Red Breasted Grosbeak

Given how great the weather was, I didn’t mind standing outside for 3 hours to make these images. I have some research to do on the other new species to the yard, I think its a Blue Headed Vireo. Once I am sure I will post some images next Monday. Have a great week.

Images captured with Nikon D4s, 600mm f/4; TC-17e on Lexar Digital Film


I had much inspiration this weekend. I recently upgraded my Nikon D700 to the new flagship D4s. I also spent the whole weekend outside which was a welcome relief to the horrible winter that I hope is now in the record books.

My last bit of inspiration comes from my soon to be 98 year old grandfather that battled back from pneumonia this winter to defy all his doctors who gave us no hope of him recovering. Yes, he is still alive and kicking, like an old Cadillac, they don’t make them like that anymore.

To say that the D4s is a beast would not be doing the camera justice. I truly believe it is the best of the Nikon cameras that I have ever owned.

The first image below is of a Black Capped Chickadee.


This White Breasted Nuthatch is a favorite of mine. I have had them in my yard since I started photographing birds. They have a tendency to to be skittish so getting some good glass on them is not always easy. You can see the incredible feather detail on both of the bird images.


This image of the moon was a bit of fun. I actually think it looked majestic in the sky smack dab in the middle of the day.


I have rebuilt my digital darkroom and am also using a whole new setup which I will share with everyone at a later date. Its a completely laptop based system with top of the line, high speed external drives. Yep, you heard it, no desktop computers. The reason I bring this up is that all of the images above are right out of my new D4s, I did not do anything to them as I have not finished building my Photoshop CC workspace (which I hope to do between now and Easter).

Hope you enjoy the images and sorry for the long absence from posting. I hope to have some regular post for you now that Spring is here and I can get out with my gear again! My next goal is to rebuild my blog and possibly the website to allow for higher quality, larger images.

Nikon 80-400, One Great Lens

I have been looking forward to this product update ever since it was rumored that Nikon was working on it.

(Image courtesy of Nikon USA)

I finally had the opportunity this weekend to take the lens out and see what it can do. I am very impressed by how this lens feels in my hands. Attached to my D3x it feels great and carries well on the Vulture Strap A2 that I have also been testing.

BZBC_00300 as Smart Object-1 copy

I visited the Bristow Sanctuary in my town to see what fall images and possibly birds I could photograph.

BRISTOW_00016 as Smart Object-1 copy

As you can see from these images the lens is very sharp. Focus is extremely quick and the quality of the images out of the camera are sensational. I especially love the tree and leave reflections in the image above.

BTDW_00198 as Smart Object-2 copy

I also like the detail captured in the tree and Downy Woodpecker above.
Overall this lens is highly recommended and might displace some of the other lens in my back given the weight savings. This lens will also make a great big game lens for times I need to carry both a 600mmf/4 and the 80-400. The space and weight savings over a 200-400 are significant. All and all I am very happy with this purchase.

Molting Black Capped Chickadee

This is what the Black Capped Chickadees usually look like in my backyard. They are a fairly common species for me so I am a little curious as to why I never noticed them molting before.

BZBC_00271 as Smart Object-1 copy

Below is an image made this past weekend. It was overcast so the birds colors do not pop the same way as in the image above. I can tell you from first hand information that a little sunshine wasn’t going to help this little fella 🙂 He looked down right ratty. The only other thing I could think of is this was a juvenile but given how big he is, I ruled that out. Anyone have an opinion?

BZBC_00288 as Smart Object-1 copy

After checking several sources it appears that mid-August molts are common for Black Capped Chickadees.

BZBC_00293 as Smart Object-1 copy

Its funny how you can find something new even in something you thought was common and you have seen 1000 times before.

Images captured on Nikon D3x w/600mm f/4 and Tc-14e on Lexar Digital FIlm.

Willet Chicks!!

Willet Itch
Willet Itch

I have been visiting this Willet nesting area for years. As some readers will remember I have had some close encounters with Willet chicks but I have never been fast enough to get glass on them….until now.

Willet Foraging
Willet Foraging

One of the reasons I like this photographic location is that it enables me to use my car as a blind. There are 2 key reasons why I find this desirable. First, I dont stress the parents or the chicks by walking around their home. Second, my movement does not flush the chicks from hiding, making them more vulnerable to predators.

Willet Chick
Willet Chick
Willet Chick going to hide
Willet Chick going to hide
Willet Chick on the move
Willet Chick on the move

By my estimate these chicks (there were 2) are approximately 4 weeks old. I was really glad to finally be able to photograph these chicks. I have to admit they are fast and my persistence was worth the wait.

Images captured with Nikon D3x, 600mm f/4 w/TCe-1.4 on Lexar digital film.

Laughing Gulls

Laughing Gulls are a rare subject in avian photography. No matter where you go, they seem to be ok with a photographers presence. I think if someone with a big black shiny tube that had 3 long black poles sticking out of it, walked or crawled toward me at a slow pace, I would hightail-it out of there as fast as I could. Especially if I could fly :-).


Yet these interesting birds seem to love to put on a show for us. They also do some really funny things if you sit and observe them long enough. Thats the important message here, if you sit and observe long enough. Avian photography is all about putting in your time. Things don’t just happen because you are there. You have to wait for them to happen. Hopefully, you put yourself in a position to take advantage of when they happen! Often knowing when something is going to happen is the result of good research (understanding your subjects biology) and observing the subject so you know when certain behavior has a great chance of occurring.

20101003_LAGU_139 copy

I think the patience aspect of bird viewing and photography is one of the reasons I like it so much. My life is full of schedules, timetables and the need for instant gratification. When it comes to nature, mother nature decides what you see, when you see it and how you see it. Thats why every scene, event or creature we view is different and special. A lesson we should learn for our every day lives as well. All too often we take for granted what we have right in front of us, only to be devastated when it is no longer there.

BGLG_00053 as Smart Object-1 copy

Images captured with Nikon D3x, 600mm f/4, TC-14eII on Lexar Digital Film