I recently had the opportunity to photograph migrating birds along the Mexico – Texas border. It was a total luxury to be able to shake the covid quarantine blues and get out in nature again which I missed dearly.
It seems fitting to post this on Memorial Day not only because the white color of the perch and the red and blue on the Painted Bunting remind me of the Stars and Stripes but because of my profound thankfulness of not only the men and women of the armed forces but the men and women of the medical community whose heroic efforts in fighting and controling covid 19 made this trip possible.
Sitting quiet in a blind for 4 hours where the temperature was over 100 degrees made consistent focusing a challenge! But with these birds as your reward it was totally worth it.
One of the most interesting behaviors to watch was the Painted Buntings bathing ritual. They would come into the pond and bathe twice before leaving with their mate.
Time…….the word has so many different meanings and uses. The one commonality we all share is that we never have enough.
A lot of people have asked why I stopped blogging so suddenly. The short answer is I ran out of Time. For the last few years I have been dealing with a personal tragedy and I realized I needed Time to heal. In typical Vinnie fashion I took 100% of the excess energy and Time I had after being daddy and a great Sheppard of my investors money and put it toward finding myself. As the healing process moved forward I realized a part of me suffered and that part was my love of photography. I missed it and I needed it. I use photography to exercise the right side of my brain. I also love the serenity of being in remote locations at sunrise or sunset, a place usually devoid of others at that time. Sunrise to me is as if God is renewing everyone’s spirit and soul, at least that’s how I feel after each and everyone. It’s a symphony of life that knows no boundaries or limitations.
While I wasn’t sure if this day would ever come….blogging again or even updating My Website….I realized I missed getting behind the camera and sharing visual stories. There is something special about an image. Its a slice in time, something specific to think or meditate about. In part the Time required to capture that story was also Time I needed to find myself. One helped the other. Like so many things in life the two had a symbiotic relationship. So I dusted off my bucket list and with the excitement and apprehension of a child headed for the first day of kindergarten I took my camera out and made many clicks. The place I chose to start my new journey? Magee Marsh in Ohio. I couldn’t think of a better subject, “migration” given my personal situation was a migration of sorts.
So now I’m bringing my camera with me everywhere again. I just returned from Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks which I will share with you all soon. And I have a trip to Yellowstone planned for January (I never had the fortune to visit Yellowstone and now I’ll be there twice in six months)!
In order for anything to grow and flourish it needs Time. Your family, job, relationships, photography…..all need Time. Make sure you are devoting all the Time you can to the things you love. My hope is the investment of Time to something I love so much will help guide me through my own personal migration.
I have been thinking about updating my blog and website for some time. The main reason was to take advantage of newer technologies that the old blog and website could not utilize. For example I wanted to be able to post larger images which the old blog could not handle. I also wanted to update the look and feel for the website as well, officially separating my blog from my image galleries. I am very happy with the outcome and I thank Jack Brauer for his help and guidance with getting this project completed.
I thought for my first post I would start with a trip I took this past summer to the Turks & Caicos Islands. It was not a birding trip but needless to say my camera gear made its way down via my briefcase.
Never before this trip had I observed a Gray Kingbird. As a member of the flycatcher family, this bird is an astute hunter of insects although I was not fast enough to catch him with one in his beak. He also is very fast and really didn’t like me setting up near him.
Images captured with Nikon D4s, 80-400 VR2 on Lexar digital film.
The Northern Cardinals in this area have been in great form this season. The males have been very dark in color and in relatively good shape (no beak chips) :-).
Interestingly I did some research on why the Cardinals at my feeders might be in better shape this year and found an interesting piece of research from the Oxford Journal of Behavioral Ecology that might be interesting to some of you. In essence their research shows that the redder the male Cardinal the more fertile he is and most likely better nourished and surprisingly happier with his mate (they refer to this as mate quality, you just can’t make this stuff up).
Regardless of the reasons, the Northern Cardinal is a beautiful bird always welcome in my backyard.
Images captured with Nikon D4s, 600mm f/4 on Lexar digital film.
This weekend was CT Trail Days. Since the weather was spectacular I thought I would visit a local nature center to celebrate :-).
I have to admit that I do not particularly like any of these images, it was just nice to get out, hike for a few hours and make some images. The location I visited was the New Canaan Nature Center.
Away from the Red Bellied Woodpecker, the other backgrounds are too busy for my liking….and style. I like natural settings, I just like cleaner backgrounds.
Ideally I think this location wood be best photographed with a tripod while sitting in one spot. I think my movement had the effect of scurrying the wildlife. That is a little odd for a public location, you would think the wildlife was more acclimated to people. However, that won’t stop me from returning.
Images captured with Nikon D4s and 80-400 VR III on Lexar digital film.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Images captured with a Nikon D4s, 600mm f/4 with TC-eII on Lexar digital film.
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.
This was actually the first Grosbeak of any kind I was able to photograph.
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
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.