Category Archives: Monday Musings

Happy Veteran’s Day – Thank You for Your Service

After 9 days of no power or internet, things are finally getting back to normal around here. All family members are present and accounted for and thankfully limited damage to our family’s homes thanks to Sandy.

Flag Waving Window Reflection

But the thing we should be most thankful for is the sacrifice so many living and deceased have made defending our right to be free!


Getting Close

I received an email after my recent post about seeing and photographing a new bird species in my yard. That species was was a House Wren. There is nothing like the exhilaration associated with this adding a new species to your files and life lists.

Female Northern Cardinal

The email I received asked how close I was in order to make these images? He knew of my own standard of not cropping or post processing my wildlife images. (The only images I apply post processing to are artistic in nature, like landscapes). I told the reader I was about 12′ from this branch which is the mfd (minimum focusing distance) for my Nikon 600mm f/4. The question in his followup email is the basis for this post.

Female Northern Cardinal 2

So here is the question; How do I get that close?
Here are my tips for getting close to the birds.
1) Try to have something between you and your subjects, like a fence or a shrub. It usually makes the birds more comfortable.
2) Wear dark clothes. Try to avoid anything reflective or shiny.
3) Remove straps from your camera. To a bird they look like talons hanging from a predator.
4) Once you find your spot, stand still and be patient. You may have to wait 30 minutes before birds will return to the feeder. The great thing about this tip is you get to just enjoy the birds, weather and your surroundings.
5) When the first birds return, continue to stand motionless, don’t attempt to photograph the first birds.
6) The most successful position I have found is to “hide” behind your tripod and camera and use your free eye to watch the feeder. If you move unexpectedly to photograph a subject that lands on the perch, you will most likely scare them. (Tip, while you are waiting for the action to start, make sure your nose and mouth are to either side of the eye piece to ensure you dont fog up the eye piece!)

Realize that the tips I have here are general. I have found over the years that these work consistently for me. But I must admit that I have to make some adjustments depending on the species I want to photograph. In particular, Cardinals and Blue Jays prefer I am further away from the feeders than say Tufted Titmice or House Finches. What I usually do in this regard is to start close to the feeders and then retreat to a location further away. The only way you will know is by trial and error. But that is what makes it fun!

Visiting Some Old Friends

Those of you who are regular readers of my blog know that I have adopted an Osprey perch that I visit a few times a year. I love to learn about and observe these incredible birds. Unfortunately I have only been able to visit my regular Osprey spot once this year and to my disappointment found the location I used to enter was now locked. It appears that the area is being surveyed for development. I am heading back to the location this weekend in the hopes that I can gain entrance (I’m bringing a little help this time :-))

Osprey Watching Over Nest with Chicks

If there is a silver lining in every cloud it could be this. I visited several Osprey nesting locations this spring and found this adult, I’m sure female, sitting on this nest with 3 chicks (counted). This perch has been empty the last 3 seasons. Im glad to see that the Osprey population appears to be getting stronger/larger on the East End of Long Island.

Image captured with Nikon D3x w600mm f/4 and TC-14e III on Lexar Digital Film.

Willets Nesting

I had a hunch when I woke up yesterday that I was going to find a Willet’s Nest. As I arrived at the location I would be scouting, it seemed that there were signs all around me (I know, bad pun! ;-))

Willet on Sign Post

I approached a location where I had seen Willets for several years. The location in my opinion was perfect. Salt flats, sea grass and rocks along the road to shelter the nests. The only skepticism I had was the knowledge that this location floods a lot and the chances of chicks surviving here are slim given the flooding. But I have seen Willets here for several years now during June and July so as I said at the start, I had a hunch.

Willet on Sign

As I approached the area I planned to observe, I found several Willets calling. I parked the car across the road, rolled down the window and waited with my camera on a bean bag pointing out the window. After about an hour, I saw my first chick. Just as quickly as it had jumped up on the rocks, it jumped back down before I could make a click. Unfortunately I didn’t see another one! But I was thrilled to see my first Willet chick even though I didn’t get to photograph it.

Images captured with Nikon D3x w/600mm f/4 and TC14-EIII on Lexar digital film.

Monday Musings – My First Birding is Fun! Article

This is a re-post of my first article for Birding is Fun!. I want to take a minute to thank Robert Mortensen for honoring me with an invitation to become a regular contributor to BiF. I have been a reader of their blog and the individual blogs of several of the BiF contributors for some time. I hope you all enjoy the article.

A common misconception shared by many amateur avian watchers and photographers is the need to venture deep into isolation in order to photograph interesting species. I am often asked, “How far into the wilderness did you have to go to make that photograph”. This mindset often stops would be beginners from taking the plunge and becoming part of the birding revolution. The truth of the matter is you can enjoy bird watching from many places easily accessible to everyone. In fact, most successful photographers search out such locations. If you think about this, it makes perfect sense. The logistics and physical effort of carrying heavy gear on long hikes is not practical even for the rugged wildlife photographer! My own experience with hiking to remote photographic locations usually results in landscape photography, which requires a significantly smaller and lighter kit than wildlife photography.

White Breasted Nuthatch

I’ll share a secret with you. One of the best locations I photograph birds is my own backyard. Yes, you heard me right, my own backyard. It takes a little planning to ensure you are able to control the elements like background, light and perch size but the results are usually worth the effort. In fact, you need to control these elements regardless of whether you are in the wilderness or at the end of a fishing pier. Some of my favorite places to photograph are all public areas. Beaches as well as state and national parks are fantastic places to start looking for easily accessible wildlife.

Tufted Titmouse with Seed

The two images above and the Northern Flicker below were taken in my backyard. I know what some of you are saying, that I must live on a farm. The truth of the matter is I live in a suburb of New York City, in Fairfield County, Connecticut. While I might have a little more land than most, I don’t live on a bird sanctuary. But I do work hard to create an environment on my property that encourages bird visits. I always have full bird feeders and I provide water sources for the birds to drink. While some will say that’s a great idea, it really is not any different from how bird reserves operate in the southwest. They tend to set up bird blinds around food and water sources and in some instances provides branches as perches away from where any trees are located. Even if photographing in your yard is not practical, I promise you with a little effort and imagination you can find locations within your town and state where wildlife thrives not far from your local coffee shop.

The Internet is a great place to start your research. Local bird and wildlife organizations are a great resource when looking for places to photograph. Your local Audubon Society can usually make several suggestions if you call them and ask for help.

Mature Osprey Landing on Nest

Lastly, local and national parks and wildlife refuges are scattered across many areas. Most people are shocked to find out just how many wildlife viewing locations there are in their community! Another fantastic resource is the Birding is Fun website and the websites of the many regular contributors. Many of us bird regularly and are not shy about giving away locations where you can safely and successfully view birds.

Laughing Gull Gesture

Once you select your locations, I promise you will be amazed at how many different species of wildlife you will encounter in your community. You will ask yourself how it is that you missed seeing the wildlife around you for so many years! Connecticut alone is filled with a healthy wildlife community. Many people associate Connecticut with the mansions of Greenwich but the opportunity to learn from and about its wildlife is enormous. Connecticut is home to hundreds of bird species. Over 400 bird species have been identified in Connecticut.

Northern Flicker

So if you are reading this post and you have been thinking about becoming a birder or avian photographer but have been afraid to start because you think you need to travel to exotic locations, I am here to tell you that viewing wildlife doesn’t need to occur only in the wild. Don’t be afraid, start in your yard!

A Beautiful Fathers Day

I’m truly blessed to have one of the best Dads anyone could ask for. But I’m more blessed with the 3 best children anyone could imagine. After spending the day with family and friends, I took some time to enjoy the sunshine and do some birding. I don’t have time to write much so you will just have to enjoy the images :-).

Brown Headed Cowbird at Feeder
Red Winged Blackbird
House Finch
American Goldfinch

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

Monday Musings – I Miss Italy!

Last summer we took a family vacation to Italy. The sights but more importantly the smells still resonate through my senses. These women were making orecchiette for the local restaurants and they were doing so with lightning speed. Just by looking at them I can taste the pasta with a little broccoli-rabe and garlic and oil ;-).

Orecchiette Makers
Pasta Maker

To me one of the best things about traveling is trying to photograph what locals take for granted. What exactly do I mean by that? I love to find interesting elements of everyday life that someone from the area walks past everyday and never really notices or admires. Below are 3 pictures that I feel capture that sentiment.

Church in Bari
Alley in Bari

Bari recently experienced several earthquakes that did some damage to the buildings that make up its rich heritage. I hope to be able to go back soon and revisit many of the sights I saw last summer.

Images captured with Nikon D700, 24-120 VR-I on Lexar Digital Film.

Tricolored Heron at Sunrise

Tricolored Heron at Sunrise

Im not sure why I like this image so much, but I do. Maybe its how the light falls on the birds feathers on the right, or the sparkle in its eye. Maybe its the majesty implied by the way he sits in this tree. Either way, it is one of my favorite images from my recent trip.

Image captured with Nikon D3x w600mm f/4 on Lexar digital film.

Monday Musings – American Coot

I love Florida. My wife has a hard time understanding my love affair with the Sunshine State but I just can’t stop enjoying the wildlife and nature opportunities Florida offers.

American Coot Reflection

Thanks to many of you who answered my request for your favorite birding locations on the east coast of Florida, I had a wonderful 2 days of birding. One of my favorite locations was Wakodahatchee Wetlands. I will post a site report on this location shortly.

American Coot

Wakodahatchee Wetlands certainly has made it to one of my favorite Florida birding locations. One of the species that was abundant at the wetlands was the American Coot.

American Coot Calling

This member of the rail family is often confused with a duck. Like many of the species at the wetlands, the Coots that I observed, were habituated to the goings on of the vast boardwalk which made them fairly easy to photograph and observe.

American Coot with Grass

Images Captured with Nikon D3X, 600mm f/4 on Lexar Digital Film