Greetings friends and welcome back to The Blog — where I post my wildlife photo-shoot excursion notes. I again headed to the Ridgefield NWR in SW Washington State on the day before New Year’s Eve day. I anticipated a better day for photography but ended up with another dark, cloudy one.
This is my first time out with my new Better Beamer and rectangular bean bag. I found out quickly that I didn’t plan ahead well enough and was short about 1/4 of the needed beans for the bean bag. A bean bag not completely filled with beans is of little use, especially in a car window. I will be filling it up to the max when I get home!
One of my fears related to the Better Beamer (BB) was that the car window frame might get in the way of the Beamer beings it sticks out forward quite a ways. But I found this not to be a problem as it is no higher than the camera/flash combination alone. The instructions said to set the flash zoom to 50mm and otherwise shoot normally. (Without the BB, I always set my flash to a zoom level of 105mm). I might experiment more with this. I was quite pleased with its performance and noticed some improvement in the number of burst frames I could shoot before the flash would not recycle in time. It’s a good product.
I got my gear prepared and took off around the 4.2 mile auto tour route while light conditions were not very good, even out in the open. I came across this Great Blue Heron standing still off to the left of the road. This was a good first test with the Better Beamer although too close to get more than his head in the frame. The black background is a characteristic of using flash when it is the main source of light and there is nothing close to the bird for a background. This isn’t the best situation and certainly not natural but I’m posting the shot as an experimental shot.
As I move on I begin to hear the booms of gunfire as hunters off to the right from post #2 are shooting at anything that flies over them. I notice not far from their hide the hunters have placed this contraption out near the water that has two spinning pieces of metal which is supposed to look like duck wings flapping, I guess, to attract ducks. I don’t want to make this a forum on the pros and cons of hunting but I wish I could tell the ducks I see not to fly in the direction of these guys.
I drive on to between post #6 & 7 and pass a vehicle that is parked to the left of the road by the large open field. I looked carefully as I drove by but did not spot what I thought he might be looking for–a coyote or a deer. A couple hundred feet past the parked vehicle I see this hawk in the tree to my left.
This shot was also taken with the Beamer. As I’m taking shots of the hawk, I have an eye on the vehicle I passed a few minutes earlier, in my rear view mirror. He has begun moving slowly toward my position and I see he is stalking a coyote that is now on the road between his rig and mine. I back up a short distance and stay to the left, hoping the coyote may walk past my rig at some point. But the animal, recognizing it is boxed in, moves off the road to my right and goes fairly deep into the brush making a photo impossible. I waited a few minutes to see if the coyote would pop out of the woods but I decided to move on.
As I continue on through the woods and out heading toward post #11, I see a beautiful immature Bald Eagle in a tree far off to my right. I take some shots but as I suspected, the crop required is too much for the shot.
As I approach and pass post #11, turning the corner, I notice that one of my favorite perches is now GONE! The snag/stump off to the left where I’ve seen -and photographed- so many birds is not there. This is one of my personal favorites taken at this perch just about a month ago.
Now, it looks like this.
Apparently the snag rotted away and fell over. Ridgefield photographers have lost one of the best photographic opportunities for large birds on the refuge.
Driving on past post #12, toward the three tree area, I look for the Harlan’s Hawk that has been rumored to be there. I don’t see him in any of the three trees but looking across the marsh to my right I see a large ‘black’ bird perched in a small tree about a hundred yards out. Checking with binoculars, I see that it is the bird I am looking for. I wait a little while to see if the bird will fly back to the three trees while I’m there. No luck–this bird hates motor vehicles!
So I drive on past post #13, which takes me to the other side of the small tree where the hawk is perched. I’ve still got a view of the bird but still from way too far for a decent shot. Of course, now that I have vacated the three tree area, the bird flies back to it as I watch in dismay. I can see another vehicle is approaching the three tree area. Just like clock work, the bird is flushed from the three trees back to the the small tree in the middle of the marsh. I attempt some flight shots as he flies back and come up only with this heavily cropped, and not so good, image.
In my next two loops around the refuge I am still not able to get a decent shot of this Harlan’s Hawk.
I don’t recall the exact locations of these next two shots but here is a Red-tailed Hawk and a Song Sparrow.
Song Sparrows were abundant today and one of the few really cooperative subjects!
As I travel through the woods on my next loop I spot two or three small birds flittering around in a grassy area just outside the driver’s side window. They are Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets. Again, I’m using flash with the Beamer as the already dark day is made even darker in the shade of the trees. There was a potential of getting some awesome poses here but the speed of the birds’ movement was too much for the 1/250 second shutter speed allowed by the flash. Of about a dozen frames, this is the only one sharp enough to post.
Another Song Sparrow on my way out of the woods!
On my third and last time around the loop, while stopped at the three tree area near Rest Lake, waiting for a glimpse of the Harlan’s Hawk, I see this swan making a landing on the lake. I love the feet positioning.
Also while I’m awaiting the Harlan’s Hawk, off to my right in the water are several Pintails paddling around calmly. Here’s one of them.
While waiting for “Mr. Harlan,” I see in the nearest of the three trees a small bird perched high but relatively unobstructed. Looking through binoculars I see that it is a Northern Flicker. Not fully colored yet I am assuming it is a juvenile. Here is a heavily cropped image of the youngster.
In some of the frames the bird had spread its wings and revealed a beautiful, almost metalic, rust color that is only barely visible in the above shot.
And finally, anotherSong Sparrow to complete the day at Ridgefield.
That about does it for this day’s shoot. I’m honored that you took the time to read and view my blogpost. I realize there are a gazillion other bird blogs out there so it is especially nice to have you include mine as one of your blog stops. I hope to see you again next time!